Out of the Comfort Zone

In the first of our fortnightly ‘Talk and Blog’ sessions on Thursday, we discussed what it means to step out of the comfort zone. One of the key instructions in stress control management is ‘Face your Fears’ (as taught in the course put together by Dr Jim White). It is, of course, scary, but once you overcome that thing or those things that fear has held you back from, it is liberating.

Facing fears, or stepping out of that comfort zone can cover a multitude of things – from lifelong phobias, to symptomatic insecurity. Sufferers of depression, anxiety and agoraphobia will know very well that sometimes just getting dressed and doing something as simple as going for a walk – however short – can be so very daunting. Especially as we get entrenched in the rut of not facing other people. Our reclusiveness becomes in itself a ‘comfort zone’ – and the longer we are there, the harder it is to step out and face the world again.

Once we do take that step, it reopens old opportunities and opens up new ones; it also changes up the level of challenge. In our group discussion, all of us have got involved in creative projects, some with performance involved – something which will scare a lot of people who¬†don’t face mental health issues, let alone those who do. Two of us have participated in the ‘Feeling Funny’ course run by the Comedy Trust – a project aimed at getting men, usually not best known for their ability to talk about emotions, to talk, encourage others – and have a good laugh. I know for both of us it was very much out of the comfort zone. The course ended with a performance – 5-10 minutes from each of us in front of an invited (and very friendly) audience. Fair to say it was terrifying just before, but just after, euphoric.

Others have got involved in poetry and drama. For many of us poetry and drama were things that were rammed down our throats whether we were interested or not when we were at school. Nine times out of ten, that process of education put many of us off. To discover the pleasure of creating and performing poems, or ‘pop-up theatre’ or music, is also liberating when it all comes together. Another two started dance classes – both said they would never have dreamed they would do it.

Facilitating groups as a peer supporter too is another very satisfying one. The feeling of having gone to a support group, thinking you’re alone in your illness, facing possibly the hardest fear of all – stepping out of reclusion – and then going on to speak to a group, to encourage, nurture and assist well-being and recovery. All these things provide ‘wow’ moments!

This blogger overcame a fear of flying by just doing it. I was dreading it having been scared of heights all my life. By confronting it, I not only found it bearable, I loved it! Another of us went on a zipwire. There are so many things – things that we used to do and have neglected, or things we wished we’d done, or have done and wish we could again…

Another thing that came up in our discussion is something that we probably think about even less until we are in that situation. When we are bereaved, when we have lost a partner or family member, there is so much to do before you can get down to private grief. Facing well-wishers, sorting out ‘arrangements’, clearing property – it is heart breaking. And so, very easy to put it off. Of course, facing that particular fear doesn’t end with euphoria. But in that situation, maybe it clears the way for us to remember and celebrate the life of the person we lost.

Taking that first, that most difficult step, and going out there and to quote a slogan (almost) ‘just doing it’ is life-changing.

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