Avoiding discomfort is like trying to avoid growing old: It's going to happen anyway, so you might as well embrace it. Believe it or not, there are ways to embrace discomfort even if you're the type of person who hates change — like, despises it as much as going to the dentist. Without discomfort, you won't really have anything else to help push yourself to tackle your fears. Yes, your gut is telling you that something is different and it's out of your comfort zone, but you're also probably aware that you're going regret not taking the chance just because you're afraid of the outcome.
"In Zen, we embrace suffering. That doesn't mean welcome it. People assume because I am a Zen therapist and neuromarketing strategist that I walk around in a robe and just offer flowers to troubles. Not at all. I look at discomfort head on, eye to eye, and question it. If you would like to embrace discomfort so that you reduce discomfort, imagine each experience that is uncomfortable as a teacher," says zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva in an interview with Bustle over email.
Challenging yourself is one of the best ways to get comfortable with things. Whether you decide to take baby steps or a leap of faith, it's important to view every opportunity as a learning experience. If you're the type of person who loves to say the word "no" because you're afraid of feeling discomfort, here are nine ways to embrace it.
1. Practice Deep Breathing
If you're uncomfortable with the thought of change, use breathing exercises to help keep you calm and collected. "If it’s a temporary discomfort, practice deep breathing. Slowly inhale, for a count of 7, and then slowly exhale, for a count of 10. Focus on the breath, feeling it enter and move through your body, invigorating it. This can help distract you from the uncomfortable moment or situation and also increase positive feelings of peace and calm," says clinical psychologist, speaker, and founder of AZ Postpartum Wellness Coalition Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D. in an interview with Bustle over email.
2. View Discomfort As An Opportunity For Growth
Sometimes it can be hard to see discomfort as a positive thing, but it's a great way to push yourself so you can learn and grow in any tough situation. "As I write in my book, This is How We Grow , 'When life throws you in the mud, plant yourself and grow.' If you can reframe what’s happening as an opportunity for growth and development, you can turn the muddy, uncomfortable life situations into fertile soil. You can overcome the discomfort simply by choosing to focus on all your learning, gaining, overcoming, on all the strength, wisdom, success, and triumph! Each time the discomfort comes, breathe deeply and repeat, 'I choose to grow,'” says Hibbert.
3. Get Distracted
Sometimes it's OK to take a break and allow yourself to think before you make a decision, especially if you're feeling discomfort. Take a few moments and distract yourself to help gather your thoughts. "For discomfort from a goal you’re working toward, like trying to eat healthier to lose weight or get in better shape, distraction can help. Focus on something you enjoy to get your mind off the thing that’s uncomfortable. You can get through just about any discomfort by focusing on something else for a while," says Hibbert.
4. Treat Yourself As You Would A Friend
"Imagine what you'd tell someone else going through the same. Write it down and then read it out loud to yourself, and let it sink in. This is your wisdom self-guiding the hurt self," says Paiva. Be kind to yourself when you're going through an unfamiliar situation. Even though it might be frightening, you can use that emotion to help drive you in the right direction when it comes to important life decisions.
5. Keep Calm When Discomfort Occurs
Whenever you feel discomfort, remind yourself that it's OK. Keep calm in those moments so you don't overwhelm yourself with stress. The majority of the time, discomfort shouldn't be viewed as a negative but a positive for your career and personal life. "Allow it to flow. Like ripples when a jagged rock hits the surface, allow the ripples of discomfort flow. At first, it is very uncomfortable and then it does dissipate. Allow it to flow and though you will have memory, the memory will be less important in the waves that are your day to day," says Paiva.
6. Face Your Fears
In order to grow as a person, it usually means you have to conquer your fears, no matter how terrifying or uncomfortable they make you feel. According to a LinkedIn article, director & consultant Kevin Rennie said, "I know it’s easy to say, but you’ve got to turn the challenges you’re facing into opportunities. You’ve got to turn your fear around and say “I’m going to do things differently. I’m going to show you how we can bust through these challenges. I’m going to show everyone just how great we can be.”
7. Decide How You'll Respond
According to Entrepreneur, most top professionals are proactive when it comes to facing discomfort. Instead of automatically reacting to a not-so-pleasant situation, choose how you'll overcome it by figuring out how you should react in advance. This can allow you to be more positive and view things from another angle.
8. Treat It As A Sign That Your Making Progress
Allowing yourself to embrace the unknown and discomfort is a signal that you're making progress on the path you're taking, whether that pertains to exercising, your job, or romantic relationships. "You’ve heard the expression, 'no pain, no gain.' It’s true! When you push yourself to grow, you will experience discomfort," said Michael Hyatt on his website.
9. Stop Thinking That Comfort Equals Happiness
According to Outside Magazine, ultrarunner Dean Karnazes said, "Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we'd be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we're so comfortable we're miserable. There's no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I've found is that I'm never more alive than when I'm pushing and I'm in pain, and I'm struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there's a magic." Take a step back and ponder about the last time you truly pushed yourself. Don't let the fear of discomfort control the actions you want to make. Just because the situation may be out of your element doesn't mean that you should avoid it at all costs.
Allowing yourself to be uncomfortable is probably one of the best things you can do for your life. It means that you're stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Embrace discomfort by allowing it to help you grow.
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