It’s true what they say – life does begin at the end of your comfort zone.
The more you suffer from high anxiety, the more it will take a chunk out of your comfort zone.
Anxiety will chip away at your confidence, and every day your comfort zone will get smaller and smaller until your confidence is completely gone.
THIS IS A BIG DEAL. Why? Because the smaller your comfort zone is, the more anxiety will take over your life and the harder you’ll find it to cope.
To get back in control and stop the high anxiety from taking over, we have to stop our comfort zone from shrinking by doing the opposite and expanding it.
What is a comfort zone?
We all live within a comfort zone that we've created. Everyone's comfort zone is different.
To some people, jumping out of a plane is 'normal' - so it's within their comfort zone. To others, just the thought of doing it is enough to create panic.
Our comfort zones are the reason some of us feel anxious in certain situations and places, and why some of us don't have a care in the world.
Let's use the supermarket as a common example.
To most people, going to the supermarket is an everyday, common scenario. But if you've had a panic attack in a supermarket, or become highly anxious while you've been there, that will induce fear - so you’ll avoid going.
The fear will make you believe that a supermarket is a threat to your survival, and you'll keep avoiding it.
The more you avoid going to the supermarket, the less likely it will be that you will ever want to go again.
Your comfort zone is shrinking every time you make a decision not to go.
You'll get comfortable using avoidance as a short-term solution to your high anxiety, and so you'll avoid more things (which will continue to shrink your comfort zone further).
After a period of time, your comfort zone might get so small that you don't want to leave your house - or bedroom. Your house or bedroom becomes your 'safe place', and everything outside of it is perceived as a threat to your survival.
Now, do you see how quickly your anxiety-based comfort zone can shrink, and how quickly it can become an issue?
It starts with something like the supermarket, but before you know it, the fear has spread through your life like wildfire until you can’t leave your house and do normal everyday things.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry - there is good news!
The good news about this shrinking comfort zone is it can be expanded again.
By using time, practice and small steps, you can stop your comfort zone from shrinking, and with a bit of confidence, you can grow your comfort zone – to the point where you might even get comfortable doing the things you've never done before. (Before high anxiety became an issue.)
You might get so good at expanding your comfort zone that you're able to do things you've never done before.
Maybe that skydive is closer than you think? :)
How to expand your comfort zone
Let's start with a simple question: What have you been avoiding?
Is it the supermarket?
Is it a conversation with someone?
Is it leaving your house?
Is it your boss?
Is it paying a bill?
Whatever 'it' is, facing it holds the key to you expanding your comfort zone.
The more we use avoidance, the more the situation gets out of control. Very much like when we internalise our feelings by bottling things inside and not communicating what's on our minds - they end up becoming bigger than they are.
When we take action by making small steps, we expand our comfort zone.
The bigger our comfort zone, the more capable we are of dealing with the challenges that life will inevitably throw at us - including high anxiety.
Step into a new comfort zone
Over the next 5-7 days, we're going to expand your comfort zone a little more every day by doing these three simple things.
1. Take what it is you've been avoiding.
2. Come up with the next small step that you can take towards getting it done.
3. Take that small step, and once you accomplish it, move onto the next small step.
Keep making steps until your comfort zone has expanded to where it is you want it to be. (You'll know when your comfort zone has expanded because you won't feel as anxious about doing the thing you were avoiding.)
Your comfort zone will naturally expand as you continue to take the small steps towards achieving it.
Each goal will have a different timescale dependent on how big your comfort zone needs to expand. For example, if your goal is to go abroad and you're currently struggling to leave your home, this won't be an overnight process. But as long as you keep making those small steps to make it happen, it WILL happen.
It's just a matter of time.
The more you expose yourself to whatever it is you've been avoiding, the quicker you'll overcome it. For example, if you want to overcome a fear of driving on a motorway, you have to keep exposing yourself to the motorway as often as you can - even if you don't need to go on the motorway.
Think of it like this.
How much quicker will you learn to play the guitar if you dedicated three hours every day to it, compared to just one hour a week?
The same principle applies to anything you want to get better at - including overcoming high anxiety. The more you expose yourself to it and, the more you practice it, the better you'll get and the quicker it will happen.
At first, you might need support, so don't be afraid to ask for help (if that is an option).
Just be aware not to become dependent on the person(s) offering you help. That will defeat the object, and your comfort zone won't grow unless you have a level of independence.
If you've been avoiding a place, like a supermarket, while you're expanding your comfort zone, take your headphones with you. Listening to music or an audiobook will help.
The best way to connect with Carl and join the discussion is on his Facebook page