comfort zone

The Uncomfortable Comfort Zone

Written by Jenna

Commonly, when we are in ED, we create strict self-imposed rules for living and form habits that have a negative impact on our physical and mental health.

Sometimes we do this because abiding by rules, following routine and repeating habits is comforting to us. Doing these things provides us with a sense of security. We can rely on our routine, we can rely on our self-imposed rules and repeated habits, however unhelpful they are.

Having a meticulously planned day means that the chaos in our heads is subdued because we are following our rules and keeping everything outside of our head in order. Anything that throws us off plan just fuels the chaos in our head again. So we often rely on staying in our comfort zone, to ensure random events and anything off plan don’t challenge us. We underestimate our ability to cope because that is the nature of ED. It makes us think we need it to cope and then we become dependent on it like an addiction.

We protect ourselves from threats to our comfort zones. Things like knowing what, when and where we will eat also keeps us within our comfort zone. Turning down invitations from friends and family to go for brunch or share dinner, keeps us in our comfort zone. Staying in our homes or even confided to our bedrooms and never wanting to risk leaving our comfort zone.

Its familiar, it is self-imposed so therefore to us, it’s a ‘comfort’ zone no matter how painful it is to remain in it. No matter how uncomfortable it really is, it is a zone we created so we want to stay within its perimeters. When we know the boundaries and protective factors we think it provides us with, we are willing to stay feeling uncomfortable within our personal comfort zone.

Outside of our comfort zone there are too many potential perceived risks to stop us maintaining our ED. And if we let go of our ED, then how else do we reckon we would cope with life? What other unhelpful coping skills would we use in the place of ED?

Remaining in our comfort zone where we don’t have to take part in life, means we have plenty of free time to ruminate on the past, worry and catastrophize about the future. Because that’s what ED wants us to do and our comfort zone is where ED thrives. Ed is nourished and so blossoms within our comfort zone, but we don’t because it smothers us in there. Spontaneity and freedom to take part in life, are all hovering around in the areas outside of our zone. But unless we try go outside that zone a little bit every time, we won’t get to them.

Most of us first learn coping skills as a child, when finding their way in the world. But not all coping skills are helpful, especially not the ones that children develop and especially when they are under stress or when afraid. We often carry these unhelpful coping skills into adult life. How well do the coping skills we developed as a child, serve us in adulthood? Often not very well at all.

Behaviours such as avoiding and escaping situations are two examples of unhelpful coping skills. Not going to brunch to share food and connect with friends, that’s avoiding. Leaving brunch a few minutes into it, with a made up excuse, that’s escaping. Both of these ‘skills’ only help to fuel our ED and keep us in our zone. They both maintain the cycle of low mood and anxiety and they are two of the main ingredients ED relies on to survive.

Living in our heads is not living at all. So maybe we need to look at taking a little step outside of our zone, where there is abundant fun and love and compassion and energy and other people and colour and air and vibrancy. Yes there are negative and hurtful elements and threats but if we don’t try leave then we can never measure how strong we are and build our resilience. How do we know bad things will happen and why do we assume we won’t cope next time. Maybe we need to ask ourselves questions like ‘what is the worst that could happen and if it did happen, why do I assume I wouldn’t be able to cope?’. We don’t have to do it alone. We don’t have to do it all at once. We don’t even have to do it even that often. But we can only live life while we are alive. So, live a little…

Jenna