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8400 Louisiana St.
Merrillville, Indiana
46410-6353
Phone 219.757.1800
Fax 219.757.1950
www.geminus.org  info@geminus.org

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Wellness and Personal Development

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Christy Matta, M.A.

Intense emotion can narrow your thinking and leave you feeling dazed, isolated and out-of-control. Repeated or unexpected loss can result in tiredness and lethargy, while high levels of stress causes avoidance.

stick figure jumping over a gapIn order to manage painful emotions, people can find themselves limiting experience and constricting their activities and thoughts. Fear of rejection and loss lead to avoidance of situations that might result in loss or rejection. In an attempt to prevent more negative experiences and to escape potential painful emotions some begin to limit what they allow themselves to do. Rather than approach new situations that could possibly trigger any strong emotion, they avoid and evade.

If you avoid new experiences out of fear, your fear does not decrease over time. In fact, steering clear of new experiences keeps your fear in high gear. Your previous loss, rejection or pain is the primary motivator for your actions. Not all new experiences cause loss, rejection, stress and anxiety. But the only way to learn that is to get out there and try.

I met a woman recently who is young, single and wanting to meet someone. She has never been outgoing, but had previously met a man she connected to and hoped would be a life partner. It didn't work out and, unfortunately, ended quite badly. She felt bitterly rejected. Afterwards she decided that because she is someone who feels emotions strongly, she has to be careful not to risk getting close to someone.

Initially protecting herself from further pain makes sense. No one wants repeated extreme emotion and rejection. It is normal to become protective of ourselves after a loss in order to have time to recover. However, to fully experience what life has to offer, we must again take some risks with our emotions.

To find someone to share her life, this young woman will have to risk rejection and loss again. Her instincts have been to protect herself. To hide from opportunities to connect. She works, spends time with friends and lives her life, but she has not allowed herself to date and find emotional closeness since her break-up.

Stepping outside your comfort zone into fear and apprehension is one of the primary ways to reduce the anxiety about the experience. Once you expose yourself to the feared situation without negative consequences, you begin to learn that you no longer have to avoid. Below are some tips on how to begin. However, if your fear is intense or you've had a traumatic experience, you may want to discuss how to approach feared situations with a therapist, before trying on your own.

1. Ease yourself in. Determine what would make you feel apprehensive, but not panicked.

2. Assess the situation. When you look at the circumstances rationally, is it likely that what you fear will actually happen? It's important to start with a situation that will not confirm your worst fears.

3. Give yourself permission to make the decision about how long or how intensely you will step into the new situation. It's important for you to feel a sense of control.

4. You have to stay in the situation long enough or repeat it often enough for your fear and anxiety to reduce.

The ability to solve life's problems and live the life you want to live sometimes means facing your fears and anxieties. Stepping outside your comfort zone can remind you that life has positive experiences to offer, as well as the negative.