Have you ever heard the expression “growth happens outside of your comfort zone”? In the years I’ve spent perusing the self-improvement areas of bookstores and internet, I’ve heard that suggestion a million times. I understand where it comes from — sometimes fear can stop us from exploring and learning and growing. Yet, this expression now fills me with dread for a whole other set of reasons.
I don’t know about you but I like my comfort zones. And after so many years of trying to push my boundaries and getting out of my comfort zone I’ve often found myself forgetting where my comfort zone was to begin with.
Have you ever pushed yourself so hard that you no longer knew how to go back to your areas of familiarity and comfort? I’m pretty sure you have. As someone who got stuck in chronic dieting, you’re likely one of those people who is very hard on themselves.
I know what you’re thinking now: “No, I’m not really that hard on myself! I know people who are really disciplined and strong and hard on themselves and I’m not one of them.” After all these years of doubts, and diets, and deprivation, and trips waaaaay outside of your comfort zone, you likely still don’t believe you’re being hard on yourself. It’s time to take a look at why that is and how to change it!
When you no longer realize that you’re being hard on yourself, that means that you’ve likely lost sight of your comfort zone. And let me ask you this: what good is it to get out of your comfort zone if you don’t even know anymore where that comfort zone is?
The first time you went on a diet, you still knew where the comfort zone was and you took a conscious decision to step out of it. But what about when you went on your second, third, or fourth round of dieting? Did you remember then where your comfort zone was, what it felt like to be confident in your body, relaxed and unworried about food and eating?
Over time dieting can become a habit, a fixed feature of your life that you no longer question. Feeling deprived and uncomfortable might feel like the norm but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can find your comfort zone again, you just have to look.
After years of chronic dieting, you might not even remember what your comfort zone feels like. But here’s 3 steps you can take right now to get in touch with your comfort zone again:
Find a place where the temperature feels comfortable, where lights and sounds are soothing, and where you can position your body so you feel every muscle is relaxed. If you can, wear clothes that feel soft, snug, and just right. Focus on your physical sensations: do you feel thirsty? Tired? Sluggish? Sore? Itchy? What can you do right now to satisfy these sensations — maybe drink something, take a nap, take a stroll, give yourself a massage? Perform whatever action you think can make your body feel relaxed and calm.
Once you feel your body is relaxed and comfy, focus on your mind. What thoughts are passing through your head? Are you worried about something specific or do you have just a generic sense of anxiety? Observe these thoughts for a minute or so. Try focusing on your breath going in and out as you watch these thoughts. As you focus on the here and now, you might notice an occasional deep sense of calm, a second of silence every once in a while.
Now that you’ve found serenity in your body and your mind you can explore your feelings. What do you feel right now? Sadness? Anger? Happiness? Nostalgia? Pride? Shame? Hatred? Love? Just observe these feelings, whatever they are. There’s nothing else for you to do with them.
Feeling comfortable in body, mind, and emotions all at once is difficult but if you feel it even just for one second, then that’s it — you’ve found it. You’ve found your comfort zone again. And now that you know what it feels like you have a starting point to get back there whenever you find yourself stepping out of it.
Finding your comfort zone means being gentle and compassionate with yourself again. This is essential. The comfort zone has little to do with mindlessly watching your favorite TV show or scarfing down cookies without tasting them. I like to think of my comfort zone as the place where everything is effortlessly balanced. I don’t always find myself in my comfort zone but I know what it feels like now. Even just knowing what it feels like is comforting — because I know I can find my way back there whenever I get lost.
Have you tried the 3 steps? What did it feel like? I told you what my comfort zone feels like so why not share yours in the comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org? 😉
I was thinking yesterday about my journey from undiagnosed eating disorder, to Post Traumatic Stress…08 January 2018