I often use the comfort zone as a model when I coach or train people – I read about it in the work of Susan Jeffers many years ago and have developed my thinking about it over time.
The principle is that the more we do things or experiment with being different, outside our usual comfort zone, then the more we learn, grow and build our confidence. Our comfort zone then grows steadily with these efforts to do more, or to be, in new ways.
If, like me, you have lived in a number of countries you will have become used to being outside your comfort zone over a long period – having to learn how to deal with new systems, different ways of doing things, new geographies and so much more. Feeling uncomfortable can be part of our everyday. We reach a state when we really don’t worry about the insignificant stuff.
So what about this new world living with the COVID 19 virus?
Our normal comfort zone can feel disrupted by the impact of the virus : our own home – normally a place of rest and calm after being out at work, at school or elsewhere can become, at times, one where we feel uncomfortable because we feel shut in, too close to the people we are living with, and in need of mental or physical space.
How do we regain our comfort zone… what are the nurturing things we can do to feel good and to learn and develop in these strange and unpredictable times?
We can do things which make us feel accomplished: whatever that is – it might be writing, running an on line training session, doing some cooking, making something, talking to someone and enabling them to feel better.
Getting outside as much as we can helps: fresh air, a short walk or run or cycle. Time alone can be a novelty for some of us at the moment and stepping outside your comfort zone may be to say ‘ I am going out on my bike on my own for half an hour’ . The discomfort may come from being unsociable to our family or housemates – it will be a different sort of time outside with space to reflect and think for yourself uninterrupted by others. You can just be in your external environment, look around and notice the impact of spring on the trees and plants. To just be.
We can learn something new – or continue our learning which is already underway. I have been participating in a series of webinars and mentoring someone. We can improve our mastery of a language.
I reinforce my comfort zone and top up my positive energy each summer by getting my fill of sun and sea by the Mediterranean – that certainty of previous years has been taken away for the moment by the closing of borders, hotels and restaurants across Europe to contain the virus. Usually even the anticipation of being able to do that is something that gives me energy before I do it. We have no idea when this will become possible yet.
The same applies to a visit to London or Paris – both cities I return to for inspiration, time with friends and positive energy. So what can I do instead?
I don’t have any magic answers. I have already been lying in the sun in the garden topping up the vitamin C in my body. On-line there are some great museum and exhibitions to visit and some high quality theatre, ballet and opera available – to compensate in part for what I would do if I went to London or Paris.
Carrying around a long term feeling of discomfort is tiring and draining of our energy .. and some of us will have this feeling because of our distance from our families and friends and the impossibility of being able to go and see them. Underlying emotions make it harder to be motivated. Accepting we need time to go slowly sometimes, to get used to this uncertainty, distance from people and things we love, and the plans we may have had, reduces frustration.
I invite you to note each day what you have learnt – maybe its 10 minutes of Duolingo, maybe a webinar, or maybe something you have experienced for the first time that day. Keep a notebook or a space on your phone where you can write your thoughts, what you are feeling ( look back at my previous blog to see the feelings wheel which is a useful reference point) and the things which bring you comfort. You may not manage it every single day – that doesn’t matter – you will have a rich record of this time to look back on.
May you stay well and safe.