This January at Move On, breaking out of your comfort zone was what we were all talking about!
We recently asked our young people and mentors to choose six topics they’d like to discuss. They exchange their thoughts on one topic with our staff each month, and then we share their thoughts and experiences here!
Our six chosen topics are;
- Coping With Stress
- Winter Night Positivity Tips
- Breaking out of your comfort zone
- Feeling confident leaving the house
- Self care
- How to boost your concentration and motivation.
Why Comfort Zones?
The ‘Comfort Zone’ refers to scenarios which feel comfortable and familiar. We all have our own unique comfort zones, whether in work, relationships, or recreational activities. We all have places, spaces, people and routines that make us feel reassured and don’t present any challenges.
I’m sure we can all identify our own comfort zones, and acknowledge a tendency to return to the familiar. However, is this always for the best?
Comfort and self-care are of course extremely important. As covered in our Winter Nights post, routines and comforts can be a great tool to help navigate challenging times. However, by stepping outside of our comfort zones, we can open ourselves up to a wealth of new experience and opportunity. The popular psychology theory of the Yerkes-Dodson Law actually posits that when in the comfort zone, our nervous systems receive less stimulation. This ultimately leads to a state of boredom and lowered performance. In order to achieve growth, we need to leave these comfort zones, opening our minds to the stimulation of new experience.
Seizing the opportunity to do this can, however, can be a daunting prospect. Our reasons for choosing not to do so vary from simply not seeing any good reason for change, to genuine fear of the consequences.
Many of our young people find it particularly difficult to break out of their comfort zone, facing significant barriers including anxiety, and lack of opportunity. Developing their independence and confidence to feel secure in new cultural and social experiences is a key part of our work. Here, they’ve shared their thoughts, experiences and best advice on how to break through the fear to reach your own personal growth zone.
Our Comfort Zones
Our young people, volunteers and staff had a long think and chat about the things that represent comfort zones to them. The list included;
- Chilled nights
- Comfort food (especially chocolate!)
- Favourite TV shows and music
- Attending recovery meetings
- Camping & caravan breaks
As we can see, the things that represent comfort to each person vary greatly. The discussions also found that comfort zones bring up a range of different feelings – both positive and negative.
Positives of staying in your comfort zone include a cosy feeling, and time to unwind. However it can also lead to feelings of being stuck in a rut – similar to the effect in the studies mentioned earlier. Our young people said that continuing to do the same things they’ve always known can leave them feeling isolated and unmotivated, as if they’re “going nowhere – nothing to aim for.”
Breaking Out – The Challenges
By the same token, our contributors were in agreement that breaking out of the zone inspires a range of emotions. They discussed feeling anxious, nervous, worried and stressed at the mere thought of trying something new – a serious obstacle to overcome.
One young person expressed that he really doesn’t like to leave his comfort zone. However, if it’s for something he might like, he knows he should give it a go. He can then make an informed decision afterwards as to whether it’s something he’d like to repeat.
This seemed to be a common theme, with another identifying that social interactions are a big factor both in his motivations and barriers. Meeting new people is uncomfortable as it makes him feel so far out of his comfort zone. He knows it’s good to push himself to get involved in groups, however, as this helps to make new friends.
We were all able to agree that it’s good to be aware of your comfort zone. As well as recognising its limits, this can also help recognise which boundaries its healthy to push, and which may be a source of stress. One way to make this decision is to take time to reflect, and even write things down to make sense of them.
Breaking Out – The Motivations
On further exploring their motivations for change, our group were able to identify several positives that can be gained through leaving your comfort zone. These included;
- Feeling happy and healthy – mentally, physically, emotionally – even spiritually.
- Overcoming toxic mindsets
- Sense of accomplishment through pushing yourself to step into the unknown
- The excitement of doing something new; of realising, and showing others that you CAN try new things
- The chance to learn a new skill – or something new about yourself
On balance, we were able to identify more great things about challenging yourself than reasons not to do it.
Breaking Out – Top Tips
So how do we overcome our apprehensions? As usual, our team had brilliant advice to share;
- Speak to a trusted person who will encourage you, and give you the extra push to try new things. This could be a teacher, friend or family member.
- Adopt a positive mindset.
- Stay open to ideas, and if you don’t like the path you’re on – find another one. For example, if you’re struggling to engage with school – would college be an option?
- Most importantly, don’t give up. Keep fighting against that first thought that tempts you back into the comfort zone.
One of our mentees also had some interesting insight around the use of Virtual Reality to help with practising social interactions. He identifies himself as a socially anxious person, but loves online gaming. He often chats to friends online while playing, which doesn’t carry nearly the same level of pressure for him. By playing using a virtual reality headset, he can chat to people and make friends virtually. Using the skills he’s learned from this has now made him much less anxious around real-life meetings in public. Given the digital age we’re now living in, making virtual connections to establish contact and safety before meeting in person is an increasingly viable and useful option.
Breaking Out – Our Stories
The biggest thing that came out of this month’s chat was how amazing our young people are at finding courage to push their boundaries.
They told us some incredible stories about ways they’ve stepped out of their comfort zones lately. Some of these experiences came through working with us, some independently. We couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve achieved.
For example, one of our mentees shared how apprehensive he’d been when starting out on his journey with us;
“Before I decided to do mentoring, it was outside of my comfort zone, but now it is in my comfort zone. So I would say to others to just try it! Having a mentor is fun!”
Once he receives his free bus travel card through the Scottish Government’s new Young Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme, he plans to take public transport by himself. He’s also going to try a new meeting place withhis mentor. Previously, they’ve always met at the same coffee shop, as this was the only way he felt comfortable. This is the kind of small change, yet huge step we love to celebrate at Move On.
Another mentee has also developed the confidence to order their own food in a cafe or restaurant through meeting with their mentor. This was previously too daunting a prospect. The match have been out together to several different restaurants, and are even ordering new foods that our mentee has never tried before!
Similarly, one of our young people was recently able to go on a trip to New York with his school. He and his classmates were sent off to order breakfast on their own, which was really scary, but they managed it as they stuck together. The same mentee has a deep love of musical theatre, and even feels confident enough to perform on a stage! This would be such a scary thing for many people, so this truly demonstrates how different each of our comfort zones are. He finds that;
“Being on stage sounds like a scary thing as you have people watching you, but when you’re a different character it helps, because that’s not me.”
The young person who shared his experience around the use of VR plans to challenge himself to put his new learned skills into action later this month. He’ll be attending a Trans & Non-Binary Social Group, accompanied by his Move On Development Worker.
Finally, another mentee recently enrolled in a jewellery training course. She learned a variety of technical jewellery skills using advanced methods such as soldering techniques. After the course finished, they even held an exhibition where the jewellery she’d created was featured! The idea of attending the exhibition, and particularly of having her work on display made her uncomfortable, however, she pushed through and went anyway. What she found was a sense of accomplishment in her work being exhibited. She was also able to connect with other trainees when she shared her experience and found they’d been just as nervous as she was! She ultimately even spoke about her work to the new trainees who were about to begin the course, helping to encourage them and ease any doubts they had.
Every one of these stories is a testament to our young people taking their independence into their own hands, doing an incredible job of breaking out of their own comfort zones.
If you have any questions or thoughts about comfort zones that you’d like to share, or about Move On generally, you can contact us here – or follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated with all of our services. Feel free to share your own experiences with comfort zones. The image featured at the start of this post is a handy diagram to get you thinking about where your zones lie!
And if you happen to be looking for a new way to break out of your own comfort zone – why not consider volunteering with us? We have a range of opportunities in the Glasgow and Edinburgh areas – we’d love to have you on board.
Otherwise we’ll be back in March with the next topic in our series, tips on leaving the house – the chat is already well underway!