So this past weekend I woke up from what I am going to call a comfort coma that I have been in for a while. Let me explain.
A couple of years ago I found myself really burned out. For me burnout was the deep fatigue that comes from doing and living according to someone else’s ideas. My business and my program was designed around what someone recommended I do, and experts that I listened to and patterned things after. My faith was based on how I was raised, not necessarily what I searched out and experienced and believed to be true. My relationship with my body was based on the past and on cultural messages I bought into. Some of my friendships were based on ideals not reality.
It just felt like in so many ways, I was living a life of suggestion rather than intention. My response to this burnout was to let my pendulum swing the other way…Meaning I was like…I’m going to do everything the opposite way that I have been doing it because this way is NOT working.
So for example, I was eating one meal a day basically and no flour and sugar. I had been doing an intermittent fasting protocol based on someone else’s suggestion as to what the best way to eat was. And as with most things I was taking it to the extreme. 24 hour fasts most days because that’s what worked with the ultra vigilantly calendared schedule I was living. I was pushing myself to do and achieve and accomplish the way that everyone said I should. And I just got REALLY tired of it.
Living in extremes
This burnout happened to coincide with the onset of the pandemic. Which shook things up considerably in all of our lives fundamentally and logistically right? Now not only was I burned out with living a life that was suggested, but now I was facing uncertainty about things I had never even thought to think twice or worry about. I was more hyper aware of and concerned with what was happening in the country and the world and felt the deep divide in my family, and my community…and everywhere more than ever.
Everything felt like it was in question or at least should be. And on top of it, I had some personal ongoing stresses that compounded during this time and made the fatigue even deeper.
So my pendulum swing was facilitated in part by the upside-downness of everything.
I went from getting dressed to wearing sweats, from intermittent fasting to making and eating 3 meals a day at home for all of my people who were now home, from scheduling everything to flying by the seat of my pants. From the gym daily to walks outside or nothing at all. I just opposited pretty much everything.
This is so often what our brains do…when we are living or doing one extreme…we get tired of it and our pendulum swings the other way for a time…to the other extreme, before eventually and hopefully settling back in the middle.
Sometimes it’s just back and forth, back and forth from one extreme to the other. This is what happens when we aren’t aware. When we are living by default, or are in survival mode…we don’t look deeper at what is going on, we just swing back and forth.
Think about your food life. For most of us-we are on a diet or eating all the things. We are restricting and white-knuckling or we are on the F-it eating plan. We are losing weight or gaining it. There is no middle ground. Or at least no middle ground we ever step foot on.
You may be the same way with other things in your life-exercise for one. You may be all in on a new workout program, or fitness app for a few weeks or months until something happens…you miss a day…and then don’t work out again for 6 months.
Or maybe it’s writing in your gratitude journal or meditating or date night or any number of other things…you are all in, doing it consistently, and then you don’t do it at all…until your next burst of inspiration when you dive back in.
Life is cyclical or if you prefer seasonal-things naturally come and go…so I’m not trying to say you should strive for doing things the same all the time in some form or another no matter what. Of course not.
But just think about the places where you want to make progress, where you are dissatisfied with how things are going…and notice where your pendulum is. If it is on one extreme or the other…that’s where we want to think about how we get it to settle in the middle. You have to be aware that it’s happening first.
Let’s circle back to my comfort coma…prior to the onset….my pendulum was on the extreme discomfort side. Like I said…I was living according to someone else’s prescription. And following it without regard to how I felt or what I wanted. I was uncomfortable most of the time. I was making some progress and growing absolutely. I built my business, lost weight and learned alot about myself in that time…but at what cost?
Fixing my pendulum
For me it cost me connection to myself, it cost me deep rest, it cost me time with my family. And so my response was to try and recoup some of those costs. It didn’t just happen overnight. I realized my pendulum was on one extreme and little by little let it swing to the other.
I started to put my family above everything else. Now they have never been less important than my job or myself per-se but I was definitely saying no to requests from my kids for things they needed or time they wanted to spend with me, and I was participating in things and traveling for work and missing out on some stuff…by choice. So I decided I was going to choose differently. I stopped saying no to them and started saying no to work that needed to be done. I stopped participating in work-related groups and traveling.
I started to allow myself more down time. Where I wasn’t thinking about or focusing on work. Instead of listening to podcasts on business and mindset and learning, I started listening to the news and true crime and watching documentaries about cults and binging shows.
I stopped journaling and setting goals and meditating regularly. I let my stack of to-read books and novels start collecting dust and slept in longer and stayed up later. My workouts went from 4x a week to 4x a month on average and I did a lot less moving and a lot more sitting and relaxing. And more candy eating to manage the stress of uncertainty. Gosh candy really snuck in there and settled down and got real comfortable.
Like I said, none of this happened the moment I recognized my burnout. Over the past 2 years I slipped deeper and deeper into my comfort coma. And all of that comfort had a cost as well.
It cost me growth and progress, it cost me 10 extra pounds (the candy and lack of meaningful consistent movement + raised cortisol from stress is a recipe for that) it cost me some friendships and connections, it cost me some pain and stiffness in my joints. And it was all in the name of seeking comfort from the extreme discomfort I was in. Our brains often think the opposite of the current misery or challenge we are experiencing will be better.
So I think a combination of watching my new favorite show Alone where they strip their lives down to pure survival and spend a lot of time thinking about what is most important to them in and a long 4 hour motorcycle ride this past weekend was what awakened me from my comfort coma.
I started to think deeply about the kind of life I want to be living, the things I love to do that bring me joy and inspire me, the way I want to be spending my time. And the truth is-that life…it’s a combination of comfort AND discomfort. This very very comfortable space-my opposite life I’ve been living…it has been pretty stagnant. I haven’t been challenging myself. Haven’t been pushing myself. I have been indulging in comfort in the name of self-care…but I don’t really think it is me taking care of me in the way that I want to forever. I read a quote yesterday that captures it.
“Comfort is a drug. Once you get used to it, it becomes addicting. Give a weak person consistent stimulation, good food, cheap entertainment, and they’ll throw their ambitions right out the window. The comfort zone is where dreams go and die.”
I did a podcast a while ago on the growth zone. (episode 64 if you want to check it out) It’s the sweet spot between our comfort zone and the discomfort zone-between what we are currently capable of and what we want to become capable of. Who we are now and who we want to eventually be. I have been seated solidly and squarely in the comfort zone, my pendulum swinging there from the discomfort zone it was in before.
I am ready to find the middle again. My growth zone. Create the life I want to be living instead of just consuming what is already here.
That life includes walks outside, moving my body everyday, good quality rest, reading AND watching things, listening for fun and for learning, time with my family and my business, fasting for my health and honoring my body’s hunger, and a treat here and there, saying no and saying yes. The middle is not exclusive-it’s inclusive of all the things that matter in the balance that I feel is best.
My best life is an intentional one. Based on MY INTENTIONS. Living with purpose isn’t always comfortable. But honestly seeking only comfort really wasn’t totally comfortable either. I crave growth and evolution and creation. I also require and desire rest and fun and connection. And so I am awake…and I’m going to start working on bringing my pendulum back to the middle with all of the discomfort and comfort it will bring.
Where in your life is your pendulum on one extreme or the other? What does the middle look like for you?
Give yourself ‘intentional rest’
I am reading a book called When by Daniel H. Pink. It is so interesting. It’s about timing. “Human beings don’t all experience a day in precisely the same way. Each of us has a chronotype-a personal pattern of circadian rhythms that influences our physiology and psychology”
You’ve heard the term night owl…he says there are basically 3 types – owls, larks, and third birds-translation-late nighters, early risers, and the rest of us:). No matter which chronotype you are, all of us experience a peak, a trough, and a rebound. For the majority of us-that is the order…morning peak of productivity and focus, and trough in the afternoon where we are less alert and able to focus-often tired and low moods, followed by a rebound period where we are best at creative and less intense work.
One of the things I want to be more intentional about is rest. So much of this comfort coma was me seeking deep rest…but I have been doing alot of haphazard resting and not as much intentional quality strategic rest.
So this book is helping me with that and I want to offer you one of the tools he teaches to help us with that: How to take a perfect nap.
Step 1 is to identify your trough time…which will be the ideal time for you to take this perfect nap.
For many people it’s between 1-3pm or about 7 hours after waking. If you want to be precise…you can track your afternoon mood and energy for a week and notice your personal patterns.
Step 2 is to create a peaceful environment. Turn off your phone. Lie down somewhere comfortable. Shut the door. Use headphones or earplugs and an eye mask.
Step 3 is optional but interesting: down a little bit of coffee or other caffeine. This may sound counterintuitive but the caffeine won’t engage in your system for about 25 min…just in time for you to wake up and get back to work in your rebound phase with a little extra energy.
Step 4 is to set a timer on your phone for 25 minutes. If you nap for more than a half hour…sleep inertia takes over and your brain will get confused and have a hard time recovering. If you nap for less than 5 minutes you don’t get a lot of benefit. But between 10 and 20 minutes boosts alertness and mental function and doesn’t leave you sleepier than you were before. 25 minutes gives you the 7 ish minutes it takes most people to fall asleep and gives you an ideal nap length.
Step 5 is to repeat this consistently. Habitual nappers get more out of naps than infrequent nappers. So if you can take regular afternoon naps try it. If you can’t then prioritize it on days when you are really dipping in the afternoon or when you didn’t get enough sleep the night before.
This is something I am going to incorporate now especially since I am still getting up early with my puppy and staying up late for my teenagers and am perpetually tired in this season. Join me!
Here’s to waking up from our comfort comas to choose a life of intention in the growth zone.
If your feeling stuck in a comfort coma or need help finding your growth zone…come apply to LOVE FIRST weight loss.