I have to say it is really easy to fall into routines and and just do the same thing day in and out and  never really question why it should be any different. I mean really, why change a good thing? Okay, I have to admit it; I am a creature of habit. I like things to be where I put them and I really like knowing what to expect in my day.

But is it a good thing?

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But what is a “comfort zone” really? According to this definition “The comfort zone is a psychological state in which a person feels at ease, familiar, in control, and experiences low anxiety. A person in this state uses a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk“.

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They say that growth only occurs when you step outside your comfort zone. Normally I would think of this in terms of physical abilities to run faster or become stronger by pushing your limits  where it is a harder workout than you normally do. I have to say that lately I have been doing a lot of reflection and think it must also apply in my life to “physical and mental  barriers”.

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Emotionally, there has been a huge change in my life right now. This is the first time that both my daughters are physically away at college. Its just my husband and I (and the furry kids). There is no longer a ‘buffer zone’ of having a child in the house to schedule things around or make adjustments for in our routine. It is just the two of us and its been interesting rediscovering ourselves as a couple. We have the ability and the need for in depth conversations of what we would like to do now and in the future in terms of retirement and possible/probable relocation. Often we do absolutely nothing except hang out together and read, watch TV or just go explore because we can.

Some days it is a challenge though; he is at work Monday to Friday “8-4” and I am alone with my thoughts. Its been an adjustment not being a full-time mom.  Letting go of the ‘day to day’ was, and is, a hard thing to do. Being active and exercising were always my saving grace for stress but it can be hard to push myself to do it despite knowing that. I try to remain active physically but this winter has not been accommodating for spending long periods outside exercising. I do spend some time outside every day for my mental health but most of the time it is for chores like carrying firewood or shoveling snow rather than for the pleasure of hiking or running. Still, it keeps my thoughts from becoming too overwhelming and I do find myself growing emotionally rather than giving in to sad thoughts.

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Ironically one of the things I find interesting is that I only live about 90 minutes from “the city” yet we never go and explore there. That is one of the mental/physical barriers I am pushing beyond my comfort zone. We went with my daughter to NYC so she could visit the French Consulate to apply for a student visa. We took the train down (another first for me) and walk from Grand Central on 42nd up to 74th and Lexington. Despite the crowds  I actually enjoyed people watching and seeing the store fronts. While we waited for my daughter to be done with her appointment my husband and I wander Central Park and I totally enjoyed the views and walkways. I think the biggest thing I found to be curious is that I felt totally comfortable there and really without fear. I was always afraid of the City and generally begged off going there with my daughters to go shopping or to museums. After my daughter was finished we met up and walked up to the Met (82nd) and wandered for quite a long time absorbing the exhibits and experiencing the wonders we saw.  I know know that I WILL be going back in nicer weather to explore the Park and the museums. Maybe even a Girls day with friends. I am so glad I pushed out of that zone!

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Another comfort zone I am trying to expand  is being a part of things. What I mean is I am trying to be more involved with work and have joined a committee. It is tough for me. I am an introvert. I maybe able to have conversations with my patients and their families or with my co-workers about life but it really is a challenge to voice opinions and not just sit there. I am horrible at small talk but wonderful at sharing facts about parenting in general. I can feel the anxiety as the committee day approaches. I want to be more involved, I really do. I think this may also be why I had stayed on the night shifts for so long; it is safe. There are less people around and I be more relaxed. This may also need to be challenged now that I am realizing this. I obviously need more work in this area.

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So how do YOU  actually push out of your Comfort zone?

Several suggestions that I have found in various articles on the subject suggests doing every day things just a little differently until they become easier. This may involve taking a different way to work, meeting friends or co-workers for lunch or just trying to do things more spontaneously without planning every details.  Small steps daily add up to big changes.

Other changes for growth may involve decision making. I have a hard time with this one. Some times you just need to go with your gut on what feels right. You don’t have to analyze all the options to make a smart choice. If it turns out not so smart then it means you learned something else along the way. Not all decisions are good or bad, they just are. Choose something different on the menu, you just might be pleasantly surprised.

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Learning a new skill may also be something to try. Try a new language, learn to quilt, take a cooking class. All these things will expand how you think and create new opportunities for challenging the status quo. If you are not ready or available for one outside your home give an online class a try- there are literally hundreds to choose from when you start looking. One place you can start is at Great Courses where you will find many options to start your journey.

I’d love to hear from you on how you are taking the steps to grow and change your life for the better–I may even learn a thing or two push my zones as well.

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The images here were found on Google images, my thanks to their creators.

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