Ah, the comfort zone. It’s where we like to be, but there are times when it’s not where we should be. In order to grow as individuals, we have to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone and get out there and be afraid sometimes.
While fear is technically a four letter word, it’s not a four letter word in the sense that other words that begin with the letter F are defined as four letter words. Do you see the point I’m trying to make? If not, what I’m saying that fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to doing things we want to do that will help us grow as people and don’t hold the possibility of death, such as skydiving. Skydiving is definitely out of my comfort zone.
For those of us on the spectrum, being in a crowd gives us the heebie-jeebies and scares us to the point of a panic attack or even a meltdown, but it doesn’t have to. Last night I had one such experience and since I’m here to write this post, I can say with 100% certainty that I survived the experience and stayed in my comfort zone.
I’ve mentioned quite a few times on the blog that I moved from the hustle and bustle of Southern California to the Ozarks in August of 2017, in large part to cut down on the sensory overload I was experiencing with my Asperger’s. Now instead of bright lights, people moving everywhere, traffic and my senses being bombarded from all sides 24/7, I live between two lakes, amongst trees in a log cabin near Branson, MO.
For those who don’t know what Branson is all about, think of a mostly country and western version of Broadway with some other types of shows thrown in for good measure. At last count, including touring acts that will stop by for just one or two nights, there are approximately 150-165 shows in Branson this year, with the majority of them running March-October.
Then in November these same shows change it up and run Christmas shows through the end of the year before taking a couple months out of the spotlight as they prepare to do it all over again.
Last night I was invited to the Terry Awards, Branson’s version of the Tony Awards.
It sounded like a lot of fun and something I was looking forward to, then I got the real info. The theatre seated 750 people and was expected to be full. Since I was going as a member of the media, taking my autism service dog, Tye, with me wasn’t really an option, so I was on my own and knew I would be way out of my comfort zone,
I’ve had situations like these come up in the past and the first few didn’t go well. As time went on, however, I learned to (kind of) overcome my fear and learn how to best handle this type of situation. While events like last night are still uncomfortable for me and often make me want to run, I’ve found a few things that help me get through them and stay (mostly) in my comfort zone.
The first is to remember that as bad as you may think it’s going to be, the world will NOT stop spinning and you will not die from your fear. This one is hard to believe at first, but trust me, you will survive and remain intact.
Find out as much as you can about the event or place you’re going so you know what to expect. In the case of last night, it was a pre-party at a Mexican restaurant and then the awards show. I knew that if the restaurant got too crowded, I could always step outside to catch my breath and remove myself from the crowd until I felt like I could go back in and be back in my comfort zone.
We were lucky enough to have tickets near the back of the theatre on the aisle so I could step out into the lobby or again outside if I felt a panic attack coming on. When I’m able to pick my seats for events, I do like to sit near the back and on the aisle. This is partially because I generally have Tye with me, but also because I can slip out mostly undetected if the need arises.
It’s OK to hang off to the side and not mingle and schmooze. Just because you’re somewhere you don’t feel comfortable doesn’t mean you have to jump into the middle of things. Staying off to the side is OK. Hiding in the corner and looking like a creeper, not so much. But finding a spot where you feel comfortable and where you think you can be without a lot of people coming up to you is the ideal location and a terrific place for your comfort zone to be.
Build appropriate downtime into your schedule both before and after the event that will pull you out of your comfort zone. Doing so will give your body and your mind what it needs to both prepare and to decompress and process the stressful event. For example, I made sure that I had nothing planned for the two hours before the event yesterday so that I could relax. I spent a half hour laying down, knowing I wouldn’t actually sleep, but just resting.
This morning I let myself sleep another ninety minutes later than I normally would have so that I would be well rested and ready to face the day. So far it’s worked. I’ve been productive, gotten most of my work finished and had a great time last night. I even got to meet someone I never thought I would meet.
Growing up, my family used to gather around the TV and watch Hee Haw. Who should I run into last night at the awards? It was Miss Lulu from the show and one who performed in Branson for many years, She even got up on stage to sing during the show, which was very cool.
Now I want to hear from you.
Do you have trouble getting out of your comfort zone? If so, what have you tried that hasn’t worked and if you have been successful, what have you done to successfully stay comfortable in what normally wouldn’t be your comfort zone? We want to know!
Photo Courtesy Pixabay