Settling into a comfortable psychological state can give you time to rest and recharge when you’ve been overexerting yourself or feeling overwhelmed. It can be a good space to take a beat and readjust to life and yourself. However, there is a reason why people say that you have to break out of your comfort zone to make the most out of your life.
In this post, Select Psychology explains what a comfort zone is, what’s outside of it, and how to tell if it’s time to leave yours. We’ll also take a look at how to leave this place safely and confidently as it may be holding you back.
What’s A Comfort Zone?
A comfort zone is a psychological state in which the person feels at ease, secure, and familiar. In your comfort zone, you will feel in control of your environment while experiencing relatively low levels of stress and anxiety. It’s a comfortable space in which you don’t need to do anything new, difficult or scary.
What Is Outside Your Comfort Zone?
The idea of stepping outside of your comfort zone refers to doing things that you’re not comfortable doing or trying something new that you might fail or simply not enjoy. Outside of your comfort zone are challenges and new experiences. These may not always bring you happiness and satisfaction, but they will result in growth. In other words, outside of your comfort zone is growth.
Beyond the comfort zone lies the learning, stretch, or growth zone, where we can try new things and develop. When we master these new behaviours our comfort zone expands. However, some individuals may experience panic and retreat back to their comfort zone without really learning anything. The trick is to push yourself with new challenges and learning and into the learning (growth) zone creating progress in growth without overwhelming yourself to the point of panic and retreat.
Here is a picture of the Comfort Zone Model showing the Learning Zone (Growth Zone) and the Panic Zone.
Source: Adapted from Van Gelderen, M, (2023)
Is It Time To Leave Your Comfort Zone?
If you suffer from anxiety or chronic stress, spending some time feeling secure and at ease is very important. This safe space can offer you many benefits for a period of time. However, once you feel like this safety is inhibiting your growth, or you simply don’t want to get out of bed to meet those new people your friends have been raving about, it might be time to step out. Listlessness and complacency are very good telltale signs that it is time to break out of your comfort zone.
How To Leave Your Comfort Zone
When you are ready to leave your comfort zone, it isn’t necessary to dive into new experiences and say yes to everything that comes your way. Slow and steady progress is just as valuable and likely safer. After all, you don’t want to shock your psyche and turn even more inwards.
These steps to leaving your comfort zone can be taken one by one if you are feeling nervous, or you can try a few simultaneously. Try to hit a balance between comfort and growth, as that is the ideal psychological space to be in.
1) Learn something new
Whether it be a new recipe or trying out that pottery class you’ve had your eye on, learning something new and adding to your skillset is an excellent way to grow.
2) Change up your daily routine
Most of us have a daily routine that we follow more or less religiously. From the time you wake up to your eating schedule, this routine offers plenty of opportunities for change. You can make small adjustments, like waking up earlier to spend more time making breakfast or adding a walk to your afternoon.
3) Get creative
Creativity involves possibility and risk, as you do not know what the outcome will be from the beginning. Whether it is trying out a painting, or crocheting a pair of socks, exercising creativity allows you to try something new and unknown, with the possibility of failure. You needn’t take this failure seriously, as creativity is all about trying and failing but creating something new in the process.
4) Get physical
Whether it is trying out a new yoga class, creating a fitness regime, or changing your diet, focusing on your physical self is very useful for getting out of your comfort zone. Physical exercise is known to be beneficial for your mental health, and trying a new diet (not a weight loss diet) can be challenging and interesting, leading to growth.
5) Expand your professional skill set
Improving your professional skillset can build on your self-confidence, increase your employability, and promote creativity. Whether it is learning a new programme that your company may benefit from or taking a class in negotiation, adding to your knowledge and skills can only do you good. This growth also leads to personal satisfaction while possibly opening up new opportunities for your future.
6) Support your progress with talking therapy
Whatever you choose to do to push yourself you may find this hard due to psychological or emotional difficulties that you need to understand better so you can work through them to make you more able to progress. Having a therapist to talk to about these issues can help you to reach greater insight into what is holding you back and give you coping skills while you are moving into new territory in your life.