The Truth About Your Comfort Zone
“Staying in your comfort zone is tempting. It can become so easy, such a habit and it’s the in-between feeling that we can get addicted to. When you’re pottering along feeling like things are ‘grand’ and like potentially there is something else you could be doing but you best not try as it is so uncomfortable.
It’s learning a new language, flexing a muscle or trying something that you’ve never done before – whatever that may be. It’s teaching your brain and your nervous system something that it’s never experienced before.
It’s trying, failing then trying again with a lot of discomfort. Then, once it becomes a habit, it’s about finding ways to move out of that comfort zone all over again.“
‘Just get out of your comfort zone’, ‘take a risk’ and ‘get it done’ are all phrases that are shared when it comes to taking a leap (or short move) into the unknown. We hear entrepreneurs, influencers and friends say ‘there’s no growth in comfort and no comfort in the growth zone’ (I’ve said it myself quite a bit). It’s true and applies in loads of situations. We do need to feel uncomfortable to move to new depths within ourselves and our lives.
When it comes to moving out of our comfort zone or taking risks, there are considerations less talked about when it comes to managing ourselves and making healthy moves in our lives.
For one, our nervous systems are (and need to be) priority. As we make any change in life, our bodies are responding and telling us stories. While it’s important to lean into uncomfortable emotions, it’s also important to prepare ourselves and understand steps needed to pace our nervous systems and understand them.
In 2022, I made some huge changes in my life. I had moved very much into my comfort zone in all areas and as such, I realised that being so comfortable meant that any change would trigger some heavy emotions. With the support of some family and friends, I managed to lean into the change but not without some realisations about how change and our comfort zones are best managed.
- We are creatures of comfort. I’ve posted this in my book and highlighted the fact that we are wired for threat. This means that we choose ways to stay safe as much as possible. When embarking on a development journey, the slightest change can feel like an inconvenience. We want the journey to be smooth and as such, we can get comfortable with an end goal while missing the process. Acknowledging this is key to manoeuvring change.
- Our bodies speak to us. When we are going about our day to day lives, there are sensations that are activated in our bodies. This can be calm, stress or other blockages triggered by a mixture of situations and dynamics with other people. Paying attention to these is what is important in decision-making, possible impulsiveness and reactivity in our lives. Polyvagal theory is a theory that allows us to recognise the way our body works with the vagus nerve and how we react to these topics (see below).
- A support network is key. You can’t do it alone. Trust me when I say this. People need people and it’s important to ask others for help and to be explicit in what you need. This doesn’t mean that everyone will be able to show up for you. It does mean however that you give them the chance and voice your own needs in any relationship or community.
- Be realistic and make a plan. When it comes to moving out of your comfort zone, gradual movement will mean that you can pace yourself and your nervous system as much as possible. For example, when starting a new hobby, rather than embarking on it daily for an hour, sew it into your routine with 3 sessions then work from there. Build layers rather than ripping a bandaid as this gives your body time to adjust.
- Educate yourself. Sometimes, we do things and are not sure why we are doing them. In other words, knowing too much can take the good out of it. When it comes to our habit forming and how our bodies and minds are responding, it is important to understand why we are or aren’t forming those habits.
What is Polyvagal theory and how does it affect our decision-making?
Polyvagal theory is our stress response. As outlined by Nicole Lepera in her book ‘How to do the work’,
‘the term polyvagal refers to the vagus nerve which connects the brain and the gut. The vagus nerve has many sensory fibres that run through the rest of the body… the location and function of these nerves help us understand why the body reacts so swiftly when we’re stressed’.
When in a state of homeostasis (a neutral state), we are more informed to make healthier moves while the vagus nerve being activated can mean that we are in a fight, flight or freeze response – a defensive system.
Being aware of our state will mean that we can understand when we are activated and how we are reacting based on this state as much as possible.
Follow for more on Polyvagal theory and the vagus nerve.
In the meantime, being mindful of the ways that we are showing up while maintaining the balance between embracing discomfort and pacing yourself is key. Remember, slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to go. There’s no need to rush but it is important to find ways to ease yourself forward in the way that works best for you.