Ever feel like you physically can't step out of your comfort zone? Do you get all the physical symptoms when you are getting ready to step out of it? Do those symptoms get so bad that you back out at the last minute? These are signs of fear and sometimes you have to face your fears.
I get it because, for me, all these questions I can answer yes to. I get the heart racing, shaky hands, the feeling that I'm going to be sick, and the negative thoughts. These all hit me at once.
Facing your fears to walk out of your comfort zone takes a pretty major shift in your mindset to accomplish it. However, it can be done with some practice.
Facing My Fears
This last year I have faced many of my fears. Things like confrontation, resigning from a position, proposing something that worked best for me, and putting myself out there. All of these are out of my comfort zone.
Most Recent Fear Experience
I have been training for a new job and have been driving for 4 hours each day. This got pretty exhausting after two weeks. I was tensing up, my mind and my body. My road rage was getting worse due to being stuck in traffic all the time. My neck and shoulders were hurting, my body just felt so uncomfortable, and I was yelling at people for not making a right turn when they should have. That was my breaking point. I needed to stay somewhere closer and take a break from all of this driving.
This is when I booked my first Airbnb. And it wasn't one where I had the place to myself. Cue the freakout moment. It was a private room in a really quiet place on a farm.
Now, I don't enjoy traveling by myself. As an introvert, social interactions with strangers are not my favorite thing. I can get pretty awkward and fast. I usually have my favorite traveling companion who does most of that. But I didn't have her this time. I was all by myself, getting ready to stay in someone else's house.
After training, I start driving to the house I was going to be staying in. I was doing fine, listening to podcasts, until I saw the house.
There was a long driveway and all I kept thinking was "oh shit... I can't do this. I have to turn back around right now and just drive home. This is too much for me. I don't want to do this."
As I continue driving up the driveway, I'm having a battle in my mind. "There's no way I'm doing this" went from "It's going to be okay. This is what's best for you and it will be easier on your mind and body." It just kept flipping back and forth, back and forth. I had to do something or I was going to let the negative win and turn back around and go home.
While I was having this flipping of mindset and thoughts, I was also having all the physical symptoms. My heart was racing, my hands were shaking on the steering wheel, and I felt a wave of sickness pass through me.
What could I do? I had to slow down my mind. I was forgetting all the things that I do to calm myself down during this situation.
I told myself to focus on the podcast I was listening to, which was DramaQueensOTH. This couldn't have been more perfect. I love this podcast and it's funny. So, I told myself to hone in on this podcast.
When I did, I started driving down the driveway slower so I could slow down and gather my thoughts.
I took a deep breath, gathering all the thoughts and all the symptoms I was feeling, and when I took a long breath out I told myself to release all of it. Just let it go, Ashley. Everything is okay.
Now, that didn't work the first time. I had to do it about 5 times. By the time I was getting out of my car my thoughts and symptoms had subsided. I was feeling much better. Still, feeling out of my comfort zone.
But the physical act of breathing and talking to myself, helped me leap over that wall that I put up and I faced my fear of being in an unknown place all by myself.
What Happened Next?
So, I get out of my car with only my water bottle and purse. I did not get my luggage out or anything, which took me a while to think why I did that.
My host was waiting for me on her beautiful porch and greets me. I took a step inside and let her show me my room. She was so kind and answered all my questions. After some time, I started to relax a bit.
When we were done talking, I went out to get my luggage. Once, I got settled I started to wonder why I didn't just take it in with me. Here's what I came up with. That was the last piece of my wall that I didn't take down. When you face your fears, it's hard to let them all loose. I was able to leap most of my wall but leaving the luggage in my car was a defense mechanism in case I felt I needed to back out again.
So, yes, I did face my fears and I took a step out of my comfort zone but I'm still working on that Plan B piece. In this case, my plan B was leaving my luggage in the car in case I felt uncomfortable again.
This Airbnb that I stayed at could not have been more wonderful.
The host was so nice, letting me share her fridge for my packed lunches. Letting me use the microwave when I needed it, and making me coffee each morning.
Her place was beautiful. So peaceful and so quiet. She had horses that I got to hang out with for a bit and she also had a path that I ran during my workout days.
In the end, I was so happy not to be driving so much during the week. I wasn't getting gas every day or every other day. My shoulders and neck weren't so tense. And on the way back home after my stay, I didn't have road rage.
All good signs that I made the right choice in jumping out of my comfort zone so I can help my body and my mind relax.
Face Your Fears
When we think about stepping out of our comfort zones, the one reason why we don't is because of fear. It could be fear of the unknown, you thinking the worst-case scenario that could happen, or even fear that someone is going to be mean or reject you.
Here's what you can do to step out of your comfort zone and face your fears:
Talk to yourself- tell yourself to slow down so you can logically think.
Take some deep breaths. This will also help you slow down.
Think of your happy place. Where are you? What do you see? What do you smell? How do you feel?
Challenge your fear and/or anxious thoughts. For example, when I was thinking I can't do this, this is too much... I challenged those thoughts. Is it true that I can't handle this? Who am I without this thought? Then, flip that thinking and say I can do this, I can handle this. Is this true? Do I absolutely know it's true? Who am I with this thought?
These are all the tips that I used once I was able to talk to myself and slow my mind down. I did all these things while slowly driving down the driveway. They worked for me and they can work for you, too. It just takes practice. Try it the next down you need to step out of your comfort zone, face your fears, or have anxious thoughts.
Licensed Brain Health Trainer
Owner of SustainaBrain