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  • Writer's pictureLeanne Goff

What happens when you "stretch" outside your Comfort Zone


Many people that I have spoken to over the last number of weeks have expressed to me that having time out and time off has given them the opportunity to self-reflect and personally grow and develop. So, with that in mind, I bring you this month’s blog; “What happens when you “stretch” your comfort zone?”.

Have you ever heard the saying;

Nothing good has ever happened to anyone who has stayed in their comfort zone too long

Or

you must step outside your comfort zone to really live your life to the full

Well what exactly is the comfort zone? A comfort zone is a place of familiarity, where you feel emotionally safe and at ease and where your anxiety is minimised. This can be different for everyone. For some, this could be sitting in front of the fire watching Netflix while for others this could be running 10km. In the comfort zone you have no stress, you know what you are doing, you are happy within your limitations, you are in control, nothing is strange and nothing requires effort. It is important to respect and nurture your comfort zone despite negative publicity. Yes, it is OK to step outside your comfort zone and by all means I would encourage that you do but it is not OK to permanently live outside of it as that could result in increased stress, anxiety, burn out and maybe even harm. The comfort zone is where we heal, rest and recover and therefore some time spent here is a must.

What happens outside the comfort zone? Going beyond the comfort zone brings you to a learning zone. Being here can require effort and may slightly increase our stress or anxiety, however, in a good way and for a good cause. It is here that we develop and expand our skill set, learn new things and maybe even have a breakthrough! Spending too long here can result in the panic potentially leading to the danger zone.

Some people may find they have too much time in their comfort zone, never progressing to the learning zone, while others may have experienced prolonged periods in the learning zone, resulting in heightened anxiety and stress. Someone who is constantly on the move from one task to another and eager to learn new skills, is in danger of moving into the danger zone whereby you experience so much stress that it is no longer beneficial.

Prolonged periods here can end up with someone in the sh*t zone where even mundane tasks, like sitting on the sofa, seem near impossible due to crippling anxiety. However, all is not lost here and with understanding, patience, compassion and time you can recover. It is important to find your comfort zone again while dipping in and out of the learning zone.

Similarly, working out your muscles in the gym or walking/running takes place in the learning zone but you must let them rest too which takes place back in the comfort zone.

What is the best zone for me? It is important to find a balance. Be in a place where you feel at ease which is in the comfort zone, while maintaining control of your anxiety, so that it's not controlling you. Challenge and develop yourself by regular visits to the learning zone but return back to the comfort zone. With this, you will begin to notice that what was unfamiliar becomes familiar, what caused us anxiety, no longer causes us anxiety and what we previously weren't able for, we now are and this is known as the stretch zone, where you leave the comfort zone temporarily and experience optimal anxiety, that of the comfort zone, therefore, expanding the limits of our comfort zone by bringing with you this new-found knowledge or experience.

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