Our comfort zone, it’s ever-changing. Equally, one person’s huge leap can be another person’s tiny step.
When we want or decide to leave our comfort zone, whether it’s a step or a leap, we may so desperately want to move forwards. And yet, when fear strikes, it can overrule every good intention or idea and can feel so powerful, so overwhelming, that it stops us in our tracks. We step back to the safety of our comfort zone. We may feel trapped, stuck, unhappy and frustrated there, but it feels safe, familiar, nonetheless. We might even ask ourselves “Who would I be if I did step out of that comfort zone?”.
As someone who used to suffer from severe anxiety, by definition the “fear of the unknown”, or in my case the ‘what ifs’, I repeatedly felt stopped me in my tracks. My anxiety around exams became so severe that I made a vow never to take another exam. Which, of course, meant missing out on lots of exciting opportunities. The fear was too big for me to even think about taking a step forward.
Part of anxiety is that our mind is so busy re-living the past and creating the most scary potential future scenarios, that we miss out on incredible opportunities because of things that will most likely never happen. But, in our wildest dreams they could!
For me, it played out as a very loud ‘What if’ voice, you know the one who tells you it’s far too scary to do that thing, even though you really want to do it?
And you may start, even take that first step, act on that great idea, but the closer you get to it, the more it can feel like jumping off a cliff without a safety-harness.
For me, it took a while (3o years!) to turn that vow on its head, but now every time I jump it becomes easier. And, equally, for every new jump, sometimes even just a step, a new layer of fear can show up.
The key is that before, I used to feel the fear and do it anyway. Which felt great afterwards, but for the time leading up to the event, I felt the fear – big style. And frankly, it was exhausting, emotionally and physically.
Now when I feel the fear, I actually couldn’t stop myself from jumping even if I tried. I use both my conscious mind, by recognising my fear showing up and then tap into my subconscious to free myself of the fear. So, I can step, or more often leap, out of my comfort zone feeling confident and trusting in the outcome (without planning every fine detail to make it happen). I do not use the word ‘trust’ lightly. Trust can feel like a huge challenge, even now, but when I do trust, even just a little, that’s when the magic happens.
I’ve become an expert into turning my own and my clients’ fears around. Seeing the glass as half-full instead of empty. It starts off consciously, but the more and more we do it, the more natural it becomes. Turning stress into calm and anxiety to confidence becomes programmed into our subconscious and feels so much more natural.
This has, literally, been a life-changer for me and it’s my mission to help others to realise that stress and anxiety do not have to be part of our day-to-day life. That by freeing ourselves of stress and anxiety, we open ourselves to ever-changing (which can feel amazing and a little scary at the same time) incredible and amazing opportunities.
It’s allowed me to get up in front of ever-growing groups of people to share practises and inspire others, within companies and corporation environments, like MBNA in Chester, Cassileth Plastic Surgery in Los Angeles, educational environments such as the online Tapping into Education World Summit and supportive local group settings. To take that leap of faith and by taking it, help others to do the same.
I would never in a million years have contemplated doing any of those things 20, 10 or even 5 years ago.
Here are some of the methods I use as soon as, or increasingly more often before, my fear/monkey-mind/younger me (more about that later) shows up. I could actually write about each one of these in detail (and maybe I will). For now, here’s my list. I invite you to try one or more, to help you expand your comfort zone. For me, the key thing is to make it personal to you, at a time that works for you (though don’t use that as an excuse not to start!). You may try one, not like it, but go back to it later. Or it might lead you to try something else that works better for you. It’s all a journey…
- Stop. And Breathe. OK this was actually further down the list, but I’ve just moved it to the top, simply because it’s THE most important part of helping yourself to get out of your stress reaction. It’s so simple and yet so powerful. Because when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, your heart tends to beat way too fast, which can make you feel even more anxious. So try it now, why don’t you? Consciously slow your breathing down. Imagine breathing through your stomach yoga-style, or through your heart, hearth-maths-style. Closing your eyes can help you focus on your breath. Just 30 seconds, ideally a couple of minutes. Just becoming conscious of your breath can help you tune out of fear into calm and more and more often for me, into my intuition.
- Give your fear a voice. Try journaling, which, essentially, is just writing all the fears down. Or record yourself talking about how you feel. Make it personal to you. Often just letting your fear feel heard can help you feel calmer and even turn your emotions around.
- Give your fear a name. Read my monkey-mind blog to find out more. It can make the fear seem a little less scary. You could even try the Harry Potter Professor Lupin way of imagining your fear as an extremely silly character and not at all scary.
- Formulate an action plan of small steps to take. It can often help with the ‘what ifs’. This is not an opportunity to over-plan or procrastinate (yes, I’ve been there!) If you do tend to over-plan, how about being open to the idea that if parts of the plan change, that’s ok? And if you hit an unforeseen roadblock, just go back to 2 – give each layer of fear a voice. Which can be particularly useful when combined with…
- Tapping – ok, if you know me, you might just be surprised it took me to No 5 to get to tapping! Either tap through any fears that come up by yourself, use a guided tapping meditation here’s my ‘tapping through the layers’ for you to try, or depending on the extent of the fear, get in touch and I’ll gently guide you through the process.
- Practise mindfulness or meditation. If, like me, your judging monkey-mind has put you off in the past, keep it simple; use an app, go to a class, just try to become more conscious/aware of the present moment, not the past, not the future, just now. I’ve just read “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, which I loved for its simple, easy ways and reasons to just be in the now.
- Go for a walk/run/dance/anything that gets you moving. It can release all those stress hormones that are keeping you fired up and alert. It can also be grounding and keep you in the present moment instead of in the past or the future. You may even gain some inspiration on moving forward.
- Listen to music. From binaural beats to brainwave-inducing sounds (for more information on this check out Joe Dispenza) to singing bowl or classical music, this can help you zone out of the noise, calm your mind, help you focus and even zone into your creativity or intuition. Classical piano music is the simple practise that I fell upon in my teens which helped me focus on studying. Just search “study music” on any music app and try it out.
- Send yourself some compassion. Along with anxiety, the coulda/shoulda/woulda voice can often show up. Instead of letting that voice take over, how about giving ourselves a break/cutting ourselves some slack/celebrating the wins instead of the losses?
- Phone a friend. Choose someone you know will listen to you and then cheer you on. You could even tap while you talk to help release the fear. It’s called “Tap and Talk”. You may have noticed, I’m a big fan of keeping it simple.
- Trust or Let go, let God/the Universe. A large part of feeling anxious is feeling out of control. So, with that can come the need to feel in control of every step and taking action to make things happen – to try to stop that worst-case scenario from taking place. Which can be so exhausting. So, trust can sometimes feel hard, but when you learn to trust, even just a little, it can actually feel quite liberating and – I can feel my shoulders relaxing as I write – calming, empowering even. If you feel uncomfortable about trusting, how about turning your lack of trust into being open to the idea of trusting? For example, using tapping you could try tapping along to a statement like “Even though I feel like I have to control everything to make it happen just right, I’m open to the idea that I could trust that this will all turn out for my highest good and those around me”. Sometimes it takes just a baby step to help you move forward.
- I’ve left my favourite until last. I practise all of the above and recommend them to my clients, to adapt and use according to situation/frame of mind/time to help ourselves step out of our comfort zone feeling less anxious and stressed, more calm, confident and empowered. And they are all amazingly effective. The most life-changing and long-lasting method that’s worked for me and the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with is listening to, reassuring, resourcing and empowering that younger part of us who created the fear, the anxiety to keep her or himself safe oh so long ago. Because that was the best option for us in that situation, with the resources we had at the time.
So, if it feels safe to do so, I invite you to:
- Take a breath.
- Know that you are safe right now, in this moment.
- Tune into your anxiety, your fear.
- Where do you feel it in your body?
- What colour or even shape is it?
- Listen to it/her/him. She or he will most likely be feeling pretty scared. Instead of being annoyed/frustrated with your fear, how about recognising it for being a little child, who just needs some love and understanding and was doing the best she or he could with the resources she or he had at the time?
At some point in this (or previous) lifetimes, you created that fear to protect yourself, often before age 7 or even in the womb. So, you may remember the when/where/how, you may not. But he or she is still there, helping you run the same patterns and beliefs. You CAN help her, set her and subsequently, yourself, free. Turn your fear and your way of thinking, around. Expand your comfort zone and your potential. You don’t need to keep running the same theme you did when you were younger now and into the future.
As part of the work I have chosen and am so grateful for being able to do, I’ve resourced my younger selves and those of my clients.
The 7-year-old girl who left her friends, her home, her way of life and her country. Previously, she felt helpless and alone. She now feels supported and trusts that she’ll be ok.
The 8-year-old who felt she would never be as good as her classmates in spelling tests, or accepted as herself. She now knows that she has skills others don’t and feels their equal.
The 17 year-old with all those feelings of pressure to ‘do well’, ‘be responsible’ and live up to others’ expectations of her potential. She now knows that she is good enough, just as she is.
There are many other parts of me, including the girl who felt held back as a woman, which goes back through many female generations, who can now see all the positives of and be proud of being a woman.
Now all these younger parts of me are resourced and more confident, I can feel their energy supporting me, cheering me on. So now, when I face a challenge, we hold hands and jump out of our comfort zone – together.
If you feel scared of jumping out of your comfort zone, why not try some of the points I mentioned above?
If you’re ready to help resource and empower your younger self, get in touch for a free chat. l’m here to hold that safe space for you and guide you to let go and move forward.
For now, maybe you could just imagine giving that younger you a big hug and let her know she’s safe and she survived. Sometimes that’s all a young, scared child needs.
I’d love to hear if my ideas have helped you, or if you have any other ideas that have worked for you that you’d like to share firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need some encouragement as you prepare to step out of your comfort zone, or face a challenge, know that I am right here, cheering you on every step of the way.
Interested in knowing more about how I could help you and your younger self feel less anxious and more empowered?
Get in touch to schedule a free chat about how we can work together to help you be the most amazing version of you.
Or come along to a group workshop locally in Chester.
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Sending love, light and sparkles your way. Andrea x