One of the reasons why changes that dismantle old habits can sometimes feel too challenging, is because it often takes us out of our comfort zone causing us to feel extreme discomfort. Biologically speaking, our brains and nervous systems are not designed to deal with such types of stress.
We have something called the sympathetic nervous system, it’s the body’s rapid involuntary response to what we view as threats or stressful situations. It sends a flash flood of hormones to boost our body’s alertness causing pupils to dilate, heart rate to accelerate, blood pressure to rise and sends blood to the muscles. This is the body’s natural survival response, which translates to a feeling of immense fear in the body causing us to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode in order to protect ourselves from threats.
While it is clear that such a response would be critical for survival for our ancestors, who lived in a world full of real physical threats. The dangers and stresses we experience in the modern world are more psychological in nature. They are commonly related to work, school, finances, relationship problems, big life changes or being too busy. In other words, situations you can’t just fight or run from. This ‘fight or flight’ response is just not nearly as adaptive in today’s times. Yet, we’re wired to feel that same nerve wracking response, blocking and hindering us from making any real, meaningful change in our lives.
How can we overcome this involuntary response?
Being aware of this involuntary response is the first step, awareness alone can help us better understand why we feel physical fear in our bodies, that lump in the throat, knot in the stomach, sweaty palms and shortness of breath. This fear response then triggers our brains to spiral out of control with negative thoughts. By simply identifying and understanding this biological response can help take away the power it has over us.
The second step is to embrace and surrender to this response. After all, its intention is only here to help us. I find breathing exercises to be extremely helpful here, especially in those stressful, high-arousal moments. Conscious breathing can help calm the physical body, putting space between us, the situation and the involuntary response. This can also help with triggering of the brain from spiraling out of control. I also highly recommend a regular meditation practice. This habit will help you keep calm, positive, centered and connected to your inner peaceful being.
Is this involuntary response responsible for our negative thought patterns?
Whenever we are triggered by stress or fear, our sympathetic nervous system will quickly respond, causing us to feel it in our bodies first. Our hearts will start to pound, bodies will begin to sweat, we may even feel some lightheadedness. It’s definitely not a pleasant feeling and can feel very crippling at times. The good new is, this beyond our control, involuntary response will typically last for only about 90 seconds. However, after the 90 seconds, we are fully responsible for what happens next. We are one hundred percent responsible for the thoughts we chose to have for minutes, hours or days to come.
To overcome this response, we have to realize it does not control us, we always have the power to choose what to do after the response. Understanding that fear, doubt and spiraling of negative thoughts are not our only options. We are so much more powerful and expansive than that. We have the ability to change our thought patterns to positive and empowering thoughts. In fact, whenever I feel fear in my body like that, I know it’s time to cue the positive mantras and affirmations.
We must learn to understand that change may feel uncomfortable, stressful and even scarier than dealing with prolonged stress from situations we’re so tired of. However, there’s nothing better than facing what scares the shit out of us or the thing that’s blocking us from living our best life. It can only bring us growth, learning opportunities and new possibilities. Isn’t that much better than dealing with the same patterns, hoping for a different result or being controlled by fear for the rest of our lives?
There you have it my courageous souls! Let’s conquer our fears, get out of our comfort zones and take the courage to make the meaningful change necessary to create the life we’ve always desired together. Plus, comfort zones are totally overrated as I’ve mentioned in my ‘What is the Subconscious Mind’ article, it’s only a form of fake security.
Because remember, life truly will not begin until we are at the edge of our comfort zone.