Feeling Uncomfortably Comfortable: A Reflection on The Comfort Zone

Six months ago, my anxiety was through the roof and I desperately sought therapy for help. It was the first time I tried face to face therapy and it was a plunge out of my comfort zone. Fast forward to this past month and I told my therapist that I think I am no longer in need of their services, for I feel like my work-related anxiety has diminished by a substantial amount and I feel like I am on a better path. And so here I am. Work has gotten better. My anxiety is far less on average than it was six months ago. Stress still comes and goes as expected, such is life I guess, but there has been noticeable improvements. Acceptance and self-love have been the guiding forces channeling me towards this new existence. But now I am left with something new, a quiet tension.

Even in the midst of my mental victories and my therapeutic improvement, I feel lost. It’s oddly quiet in my life right now. Maybe this won’t last, but still, I feel stagnant and this makes me uncomfortable. Perhaps I also feel like I am experiencing the calm before some terrible storm. I am not used to this and this breeds a new degree of uneasiness in my life. I am left feeling uncomfortably comfortable. I feel like I am going in circles. I traded being in the middle of a lightning storm of perpetual worry to a hamster spinning in a wheel in a cage. Like what is next for me? I strived to get to a better place mentally and to have less anxiety about work, but now that I am here it just feels….empty.

I happened upon a video on YouTube today about the importance of staying out of your comfort zone. Maybe that is what it is. Maybe I have gotten too comfortable. I never thought I would have this problem but maybe I am seeing that comfortability breeds stagnation and unfulfillment ultimately. I thought this is what I wanted. I mean I do want this. I don’t want to go back to the levels of anxiety I endured up until very recently. I don’t want to go back to the days of having my work follow me home and me obsessing over little mistakes or potential future catastrophes. But still, I feel hollow inside. I feel like something is missing. I feel a longing for more. Maybe comfortable is not for me.

I reflect on when I picked up and decided to travel for work a couple of years ago. I found myself in a similar place, longing for something different, anything different, even if it meant really putting myself out there and taking a risk. It was scary and stressful at first. It was a huge leap out of my comfort zone and I initially wondered if I had made a wise choice. And for all of the stress I endured with travel nursing, I still found the process so unabashedly fulfilling in so many wonderful ways. I felt free. I felt alive. I felt weightless. I felt strong. I felt powerful and independent. Getting outside of my comfort zone helped develop me in new ways and shifted my perspective about what I could do and what I am capable of to a large extent. I felt like this is the time I truly grew into the adult I am today. I would never trade that experience away for anything. Looking back, I see the value of discomfort, of risk, of pushing boundaries and challenging myself.

A year ago, I decided to quit surgical nursing which pretty much zaps my opportunity for travel nursing in the future. I decided that the level of stress I endured in the hospital was enough. I was burnt out of clinical nursing and I wanted less stress in my life. A year later here I am, working from home with substantially less stress for the most part, but I don’t feel nearly complete. Seeing that video today about getting out of your comfort zone really resonated with me. Something just clicked in that moment and I realized that I have reached a slump in my own personal progress with life and what I want to become. I am left with the now what?

So now what? Well, that is what I am going to reflect on the next few days. These feelings are worth exploring and taking my time with in my near future. I want to develop better habits and achieve better balance in my life. I want to dare to try new things, uncomfortable things, things that make me question myself, things that push me forward into new and interesting places and headspaces. The thing about getting out of your comfort zone is that it causes your comfort zone to swell and pretty soon many things you thought uncomfortable or unattainable are commonplace.

I want to push through to a better future. I want to see that breakthrough when I realize that I had the strength and determination all along. I have to look inward into what I truly want out of life at this time. I think ultimately what I crave is change. I crave new experiences that inspire me. This is what I want to build my life on.  So with that in mind, I am going to come up with new goals for my life and new ways to stimulate myself, challenge myself, and grow through these uncomfortable experiences. Normally I would approach these realizations of stagnation with derision and self-ridicule. No more of that. It’s okay that I fell into a slump. This comfortability is a sign that I have made huge strides in my mental health and now I can pick myself back up in love and compassion and move forward into the life that I want to lead.

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