Your comfort zone at home is in your favorite chair complete with remote control and snack. At work, your comfort zone is the been there and done that of projects. The comfort part of your various life zones is the product of routine predictability and familiarity. It’s where you do not feel anxious or unsure about your performance. That’s fine but we all know life is not static and no one grows from doing the same things over and over. Not to mention, for some people, leaving their comfort zone is more like getting shoved. Either way, a little discomfort can yield more positive than negative results.

In terms of learning and productivity there is an “optimal anxiety level”*. This is the amount of discomfort/anxiety that correlates to your best output. Too much anxiety produces stress that is counter-productive and too little provides no incentive. You may look for small, simple ways to break out of your comfort zone like trying a new sport or recipe. But big changes like losing your job or realizing your marriage is ending can shatter the parameters of your comfort zone.

Whether you choose to undertake a monumental shift in your life or one has been thrust on you, your level of anxiety and stress will be in flux. The goal is to find your sweet spot-the optimal level at which you can learn something new, be more productive and land on your feet. I know, easier said than done. This is a time to lean on friends or get therapy to recognize and manage stress related to these big life changes and to help you push through.

As a divorce mediator, I see first hand that there is no comfort zone for couples experiencing separation or divorce. Practically every familiar component of day-to-day life is in transition. And while uncomfortable, there are options and opportunities for each to take control over matters not previously in their wheelhouse. Wife may take charge of her budget and finances for the first time. Husband may connect more deeply with his children because he is now on the front lines of taking care of their needs. Or, of course, the other way around.

Whatever the new challenge, it’s hard and scary out of the gate but like most things once broken down into smaller parts and with some help, they become manageable. New skills and abilities develop and with it a capacity to see broader horizons. As a mediator and attorney specializing in divorce, I do all I can to support my clients through a difficult transition. It may take time but once the dust settles most people find a new comfort zone.

*In the early 1900s, two psychologists, Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson, designed and conducted an experiment using electric shocks to induce mice into choosing between two-pathways. They discovered that a slightly heightened level of anxiety caused by the shocks maximized the performance of the mice to choose more quickly.

Image credit: Andreas Eldh, Used with Creative Commons license.

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