Comfort Zone

There is a lot of celebration and encouragement for people to get out of their comfort zones. The saying goes ‘great things never come out of comfort zones’. For years I’ve read this phrase and instead of rushing to do something that makes me uncomfortable, like starting to be a yes-man or adrenaline junkie, I feel an indescribable discomfort because the phrase is vague. I overthink: What actions am I to take that won’t put my life in risk, are low cost, and contribute to my life in a meaningful way? And, if I do this, what qualifies as a ‘great thing’?

For a few months, I’ve been in a rut and struggling with a little depression. Often, when people are in ruts, the advice is to get out of your comfort zone. But this phase is already extremely uncomfortable and I find it unlikely that a great thing will come out of my sadness. Typically, I wake up feeling the same sadness as the day before, about the same issues. There is no simple way to make myself stop being sad, simply be happy, or find the answers to the questions I keep asking myself.

About twice a week, I’ll have days when I’ll spend several hours shame spiraling. I overthink the ways I’m disappointing myself in my lack of career goals and path, my creative path, money, and my health. I try to think of the multi-step process I could use to improve in each of these categories, but I realize I can’t improve them all at once. I evaluate which is most important to me now. The answer, unsurprisingly, is they are all important. There isn’t a clear way to decide where to help myself first. So, I start the spiral again at the top, with all of the emotional momentum I’ve already spent hours building up. I have no resolution, or light at the end of my tunnel, right now. Nothing especially great is happening or changing in my day-to-day life. I’m not in a comfort zone, so how do I get to the great things?

After making note of my sadness and thinking I should do something to comfort myself, the next hurdle I face is having the will-power to actually do something.  (If you’ve ever been sad about anything, you know how difficult it can be to try to pull yourself out of it, instead of having a pity party. If you can imagine, depression nearly drains your lack of motivation. It sometimes feels impossible to get much done.) I’m trying to be kinder to myself in a new way. Because my energy level for doing something, other than overthinking, can be low during this time, I’ve been trying to act small. After months of troubleshooting, I realized there are a few actions I do that allow me to see myself in a brighter light: writing, reading, and appreciating small moments. This led me to try a exercise with myself: do one things off my action list every day. If I’m in my head or having an extra sad day, I can feel a little better knowing I accomplished one thing I know is good for me. The day isn’t wasted feeling sad for myself. If I’m having a good day, I still get to check off the accomplishment box. I started trying this about a week ago, and I think I have found my comfort in it.

Finding my comfort zone is helping me. Pushing myself out of this comfort zone now will use my energy to set more expectations for myself, when I already feel like I’m failing my existing expectations. I would be dealing with the sum of these expectations in the same mindset as my sadness. Forcing myself out of comfort by piling on more expectations does not seem like a healthy solution.

Doing one small thing is helping me move forward. It is a relief to know I can write about my emotions and fears. I can read to realize I am not alone, to feel nourished or inspired, or to use escapism to be inspired by the writer’s world instead of being stuck in my own head, even for an hour. I can find a moment to feel happy, like appreciating a cup of coffee, cooking a new found recipe with B and enjoying the meal together, laughing and being silly with him, or smiling to myself during a sunny walk. These actions can be small and non-time consuming, but they are making a big difference in how I think about myself every day. I’ve started to feel more capable of doing things, happier, and even a little inspired and motivated. If I do one of these small things every day, soon I’ll could have a good week. If I have a few good weeks, I’ll have a good month. Maybe doing small things I’m comfortable with will guide me through this phrase.

Being comfortable with who I am every day is what I’m working on, right now. This will be a great thing.