I’ve mentioned the Comfort\Stretch\Panic zone model before and here I’m going to use it to explain how stepping out of Lockdown could effect us in different ways. This is a great tool to use and it’s going to be really useful for understanding some of the changes that we may be experiencing now.
Let’s have a quick recap:
In the centre we have your comfort zone. This is a place where you are happy carrying out any tasks or activities required of you. As we move further out tasks and activities get more ‘stretching’. You may feel nervous or slightly scared about doing them but you are ok even though your heart rate may have gone up a bit. By the time we get to the outer ring your heart is pounding, palms are sweating and you’ve reached panic. At this point you just want to dash back to the comfort zone where everything feels safe and yank the duvet up over your head.
Being in the stretch zone is the most healthy place to be long term. Here you are growing and developing. Learning new skills and taking on challenges. It’s easy to see that being in the panic zone long term can be dangerous to your health as it’s really not going to do your heart any favours. However, it’s also not helpful being in the comfort zone for too long either as it all just gets too comfortable and journeys out into stretch become more challenging.
Being Too Comfortable
This is something that you may have been experiencing over the last year or so. If we just look at travel as our example it may be that in 2019 you were more than comfortable travelling in the UK, going to Europe may have been a stretch and travelling to Africa would have had you panicking a little. Since not being able to travel regularly we have all been staying home more and our comfort with travel may have changed. Now it could be that the thought of Africa would put you in a full blown panic, the idea of going to Europe has you feeling really jittery, going to Scotland or Wales (from England) makes you feel uncomfortable and uncertain and anything further than your local town has you feeling that edginess that comes with being in the stretch zone. This is what has happened:
You can see from these diagrams that the comfort zone and stretch zone have both shrunk. What was once comfortable has now become a challenge and the challenge has become something that will induce stress. The panic zone in the second diagram has grown larger. This is simply because you’ve not be able to ‘stretch’ in the same way as normal. You can see it clearly with exercise as well: if you used to be able to run a marathon but you don’t run for a year or more then being able to complete that distance will become difficult. If you still don’t run over the next five years then it becomes impossible and doing a 5k becomes a challenge. Give it another 5 years and you may well struggle to do any more than walk. The same principles are at play.
The Effects of Lockdown
I wanted to remind you of this model as for some the act of leaving home after months of lockdown and, for some, even longer periods of self isolation could mean that what was a simple walk to the local shop will now take them into the panic zone. We all need to be understanding of the different ways in which the pandemic and the lockdowns will have impacted us and this model gives us a way of helping people to move back to their ‘normal’.
Rather than pushing ourselves or other to do all the things they used to we now need to acknowledge that these things may have become really scary for them. The best way to help will be to aim to tiptoe across the line of the comfort zone into stretch. Just a little at first and then ‘building the muscle’ move a little further each time. By doing this it is possible to reverse the journey between diagram B and A.
The more that we do things in the stretch zone the more they become familiar and so the comfort zone grows pushing the stretch zone with it ‘Little by little’ should be our watch word going forwards. Unless absolutely necessary avoid the trip to the panic zone as that is likely to have the opposite effect of sending you running screaming back to the comfort zone, pulling the duvet over your head and refusing to leave the bedroom….thus decreasing the comfort zone further still.
If you’d like to talk this concept through further in relation to a particular area of your life or if you know someone who would benefit from understanding these principles please get in touch. I’m happy to talk it through with you over a virtual coffee. There’s also a free ‘In the Zone’ download available here.