Updated: Apr 24
What is the comfort zone? And why does it feel so scary when we are pushed out of it?
The comfort zone is the state where most aspects of our life are known to us. This zone has very minor changes resulting in very low levels of stress.
Having said that, I’m sure we can all remember a time, a situation or just a thought that spiked our level of discomfort and all we could think was “no way I’m doing this!”
In this post, we’ll share five steps to help you expand your comfort zone. Not how to get out of it, which stresses us, but how to stretch it and feel in control.
Step 1. Be kind to yourself
Everyone gets uncomfortable in some way about something at some time, this is normal. The level of discomfort will trigger a flight, fight or freeze mode and that's normal too. The trick is to make that be OK, and not to let the ‘negative little voice’ inside you take control.
Normalise the situation. Acknowledge where you are right now. Accept it without judging yourself or feeling judged by others.
To help you do this, try keeping a simple 'negative little voice' log either in a notebook or on your phone. Every time you notice yourself being self-critical, just note a few words describing the situation and what the criticism was. For example, "my boss volunteered me to present our team project" and my negative little voice said, "you'll never be able to do it, you're not good at public speaking". That's your fear talking, and it happens to everyone.
Once you are aware of the critical voice and that you are in a flight, fight or freeze mode, you will be in a position to stand up to it and do something about it.
Step 2. Find your calm
Rationalise the situation. It's about telling your brain that it is not a life or death situation. You need to find your calm in order to dissipate the chemicals of stress in your body and allow the logical part of your brain to take control again.
Finding your calm is all about slowing down the fear or survival thought process. Focusing on your breathing is the simplest way to do that. Notice the inhale, focus on the air going in and feel where the tension is in your body. There are lots of proven ways to help us relax further, here are some suggestions. Try one or all these simple activities:
Sit in a comfortable position and take long slow breaths. Inhale deeper as you go and feel your muscles relax.
Go for a brisk walk. Breathe and focus on your steps. Do your best to be present in the moment in order to give your brain time to go back to normal.
Have a nap. Oh sleep, how much I love you! Sleeping even for 15 mins will help your brain to reset and start fresh when you wake up again.
Have a nice hot bath or shower. Water has a magical effect on us. It cleanses our bodies and clear our minds when we let it. Make it a ‘No negative little voice’ zone.
Once you are relaxed and have rationalised the situation we can move in to step 3 to make a plan.
Step 3. Ask for help, make a plan
Now that you are more relaxed, ask for help. By help we don't mean ask someone to tell you what to do. It's about you getting a wider understanding of the situation, maybe it's hearing other people’s successes in overcoming similar challenges. It could be through Google, YouTube, books, a friend, a coach or a combination of these options.
Once you have the input of others, develop a plan which clearly defines a list of your success criteria and all the things you need to do to achieve them in a time frame that fits with the rest of your busy life. Then practice physically and mentally by visualising until you are excited about the outcome of your plan. Make sure you think about the challenges you may get and prepare appropriate responses.
Visualise the entire event from start to finish. See the faces of the people being engaged and loving what you are doing. To make this more effective, think of a time when you felt proud, remember the feelings and bring them to this visualisation.
When you're ready to try it out, ask a friend or your coach to give you feedback on your performance.
Now all you have to do is remember the plan and take action.
Step 4. Do it with confidence
So, you're about to be awesome and expand your comfort zone. There's likely to be some butterflies, ignore them. Remember steps 1. Normalise, 2. Rationalise and 3. Visualise.
You might have to go over the steps few times before you actually do it. It’s OK, the most important thing is not to stay in the fight, flight or freeze mode.
Trust yourself, you've got this, do it with confidence!
Now that you've stretched your comfort zone all you have to do is celebrate and share your experience.
Step 5. celebrate and share your progress
Go back to your success criteria list and pat yourself on the back for achieving it. Be proud of your story and share it with others. It will make you feel good and make others feel they can do it too and expand their comfort zones.
Now that you have a new normal, ask yourself "what is the next scary thing I’m going to take on?".
We would love to hear your stories of success and what your next challenge is.
If this article sparked your motivation to experience this with yourself, get in touch with us today: BOOK A CALL