We do push ourselves, which we need to do to live and accomplish our tasks and reach our goals. Others will push us – in good ways and bad – and we need our places to get away from it all.
There are those bigger places we can get to once in a while – like nature. Places we need to get to daily, such as home after a difficult day at work. Even places we escape to during the day for those momentary breaks.
Oftentimes, our comfort zone is a place; other times it is a thought; a relationship can also be comforting. Really, it can be anything – our hobbies, our pets, exercise, creative interests, our fantasies, sometimes even work.
It is good to have a variety of places to go. The quality of your comfort zones is important, too. We can make bad choices. Alcohol, gambling, drugs (yes, cigarettes, too) may be comforting at the time of use, but the downsides – side effects, withdrawals, addictions – quickly take this comfort away.
Other “comfort zones” can be toxic in their own right. Being comfortable in our anger, returning to abusive relationships when we have grown used to them. These are big and difficult topics, however, best saved for another time.
Food and sleep are comforting. Food soothes our hunger pains; sleep, when good, gives us the ultimate break. Yet those can become problematic if we use them to soothe other stressors. Too much of a good thing, in this instance, may become a bad thing. Balance is important in how we seek comfort.
Similarly, it is important to pay attention to the amount of time we spend in our comfort zones. Are we relaxing for a needed break or escaping from something we do not want to face? Sometimes an escape is needed, yet this becomes detrimental when we escape for too long and stop recognizing the reality of a situation.
It is good to remember the purpose of our comfort zone – a place to relax, not a place to try to live. Even for those in retirement, a potentially massive comfort zone, I would suggest that keeping active and taking some risk is important.
Comfort zones let us remove ourselves from the stress of the day; but they are also launch pads from where we will feel safe enough to take risks. Risk always brings with it the possibility of failure – something none of us wants. Yet, calculated risk-taking is a little easier when we know we have something to fall back on – whether it is for a short break while we are in the midst of a risky adventure or somewhere to escape back to if our venture does not go the way we hoped.
It is worthwhile to review the comfort zones you use. How well are they working? Are they giving you the break you need? Are you spending too much time there? Not enough time? Are they giving you the ability to take some chances in your life?
Feel free to take the risk and share a comfort zone you have found valuable!
Reggie E, MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.