Monday 15 May 2017

Why Your Comfort Zone Is Doing Nothing For Your Mental Health

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Opportunities always occur outside your comfort zone. 

We're all creatures of habit. Humans develop routines, and we stick to them. We like to feel safe, so we do things we know well. I don't know about you, but if you played back videos of my day, it would be bloody difficult to notice any difference from one day to the next. I think that's pretty much how must of us work isn't it? 

If you think about it, it is how we are brought up. We are conditioned to act and think this way. Most people go to some kind of playgroup or pre-school as a toddler. If you don't your first experiences of rigid routines would have been at school. So basically from the age of five, we've all been subjected to strict routines and rules which are drilled into us that we must follow and stick to no matter what.

Routines are important, don't get me wrong. If we had no routines and rules to follow there would be complete anarchy. Not to mention, we would all be so unproductive. In contrast, though, have you ever thought about what your comfort zone is doing for you? 

We stick to routines because it's what we know, it's in our comfort zone. But how do you develop as a human if you only ever stick to what you know? How do you gain new experience, skills and knowledge? 

Recently I've been going out of my comfort zone and taking on new opportunities. When I was younger going to the doctors on my own, answering the phone or sending an email was a step out of my comfort zone. Now, none of these even phase me. Okay maybe speaking on the phone makes me a little bit nervous still but the anxiety is nowhere near as bad as it used to be.

I've lost count of how many times I've been to the doctors on my own. Sending emails and contacting brands is part of my job and my volunteering roles. I absolutely LOVE it! Since taking on more things that are out of my comfort zone, I've noticed so many benefits to my mental health.

For one, I'm happier. I used to be plagued with feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness. I thought that I couldn't do anything and everything I tried I would only fail at. Every success I did have was down to a fluke. Although I would be lying if I say that I don't still doubt myself sometimes. I think it's just part of human nature though. We're allowed to question our abilities and get nervous over things that scare us, think of all the scary stuff we would do if we didn't? But it's important that these boundaries aren't restricting us too much as individuals.

Secondly, by stepping out of my comfort zone, I'm a lot more confident. If you told me a few years back that I would have spoken on the phone for half an hour to the bank, talked to three complete strangers to close a bank account and talked to two more to open a bank account, all in the same day, I would have laughed you out of the room. But guess what? It did happen! 

I was so proud of myself that day. I know it may not seem a lot to most people, to me it was a significant step in the right direction. Nothing went wrong, and I felt so good about myself. I never felt more confident before. Suddenly I realised that I could do anything I wanted, I just had to believe in myself. Which I know sounds dead corny, but it's true. Most of the time you are the only obstacle between success and failure. I guess in this kind of situation I was forced to tackle the situation head on because I had no choice. If I didn't do anything, they would have closed my account & taken my money. Overthinking keeps us in our comfort zones, well for me at least that's the case.

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Which leads me on nicely to my last point. Stepping out of my comfort zone has reduced my anxiety. I used to fear everything and anything; quite literally. However, now by stepping into the unknown more, feeling the butterflies in my stomach and coming out the end realising all that prior worry and stress was for no reason whatsoever, I came to the conclusion that actually the world isn't as scary as it seems. Although my anxiety is still high around certain situations, in general, it's reduced significantly since I started going outside my comfort zone. Like I said in my let's talk about confidence post, this does come with age. But it also comes with other factors including dropping those comfort zone barriers. 

It's by no means a quick, easy or simple. Stepping out of your comfort zone is challenging at the best of times. Constant worry, dread and fear of what will happen? What will go wrong looming over you like a dark stormy rain cloud? It begs the question though how many times have you gone outside your comfort zone and everything has gone horribly wrong? Okay maybe you didn't get that job, you went to an interview for, or maybe you stumbled on your words in that presentation, but really is that the end of the world?

There's a positive to be found in every situation you just need to know where to look. You didn't get that job you wanted, you are devastated. How on earth are you going to find any positives in that? Well, you have now got more experience of job interviews. You can reflect on what went right and what didn't go so well, and improve on those weaknesses in the future. Next time you have a job interview, you will be less nervous and have more experience on your shoulders.

I'm starting to turn into a cheesy wellbeing guru, which I am definitely not. But seriously, step out your comfort zone, give it a go. Even if it doesn't turn out great, there will be a positive to the situation, you just need to know where to look. 

What was the last thing you did outside your comfort zone? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading, as always X

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