Why would you even want to bother being comfortable with discomfort? Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” by Neale Donald, yes?
Well it happens to be true! It can be tempting to go the comfortable, familiar route but I know you are up for all the goodness in life, in which case you’ll need to come to terms with the uncomfortable parts first.
Human nature determines that we like comfort. We like knowing where the next pay check is coming from and who’s going to be there, when we turn up to a party. Familiarity is an old friend. But what if your ideal fit career and new best friend, are just a stretch beyond familiarity?
Let’s start with a definition of discomfort:
dis·com·fort (Free Dictionary)
- Mental or bodily distress.
- Something that disturbs one’s comfort; an annoyance.
tr.v. dis·com·fort·ed, dis·com·fort·ing, dis·com·forts
To make uncomfortable; distress.
You might be experiencing uncomfortable thoughts or feelings in this very moment. Perhaps there is some guilt because reading this is delaying you from another task, or anxiousness at the thought of a tough conversation you’ve been avoiding or maybe it’s a tired and heavy heart?
With all the love I can muster, perhaps it’s time to consider that the “something that disturbs one’s comfort”, may in fact be you. Ouch!
It is possible to experience thoughts and feelings without becoming them and I’d like to share a few strategies I use to do just that.
1. Become familiar with your experience of discomfort.
Discomfort will show up differently for each of you, though there are some common themes. In a broad sense, I know I am getting lost in my discomfort when I am snappy with loved ones or when my thoughts get racy and are hard to slow down. I also have a habit of holding discomfort in my body and over time it shows up as a tight neck and sore back. Stop and get familiar with the signs unique to you. Once you grow in awareness of the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that trigger discomfort, it’s on to the next step.
2. Acknowledge uncomfortable feelings.
Whether you say it out loud or silently within, give your unpleasant thoughts and feelings acknowledgement. If you don’t, it’s likely they will do and song and dance for your attention at some point in the future (cue public meltdown moment).
I am able to smile often now when I catch myself wrapped up in stressful thoughts. You might like to acknowledge the unpleasantness with an “oh yes, I know what this is about” and make a conscious choice to move on to a more productive thought. Some thoughts and feelings are sticky and you’ll need extra diligence and patience with those.
3. Consider another truth about your uncomfortable feelings.
When you believe your thoughts without questioning their validity, you create stress and stuckness. Thoughts are often not the truth, they are just your interpretation of an otherwise neutral event.
I used to believe my daughter “should” always keep her room tidy. I couldn’t understand how she could happily be amongst such mess, until I actively chose to question my belief about kids and messy rooms. I asked my daughter how she felt. It turns out she is at her most creative with a bunch of paper cut outs, textas, glitter and glue from wall to wall. It’s also true that about once a month she gets stuck in and brings order to that space, without much prompting from me.
4. Thoughts and feelings constantly change.
Can you recall a time you went to bed deflated, only to be surprised at the fresh perspective a new day can bring? Thoughts and feelings are constantly shifting both in mood and frequency. What you dwell on can intensify with just a few minutes of unconscious attention, so make it positive. Intentionally shifting your mood will help, so indulge in your favourite disco moves, google funny jokes, put on some bright coloured lipstick or do whatever works for you.
5. Accept your role in becoming comfortable with discomfort.
Only you can be the watcher of your thoughts and identify the uncomfortable feelings as they arise. Only you can acknowledge that uncomfortable thoughts and feelings are a part of life, not to be covered up. You might like to remind yourself that your thoughts and feelings are not you.
Noticing thoughts and feelings through the practice of conscious awareness, requires repetition and patience. You might like to start by being curious right now.What impending task has you feeling uncomfortable right now? Do you think it is possible to find a way to allow discomfort to simply be there?
I’d love to hear about your thoughts on recognising and working around discomfort in your own life.