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Dealing with Discomfort

Whether you’re starting a new diet, increasing your social circle, or going back to school, you’re bound to experience at least a little discomfort along the way. This is completely natural! Discomfort is a part of change.

Deal with discomfort effectively:

1. Understand that discomfort is a misguided defense mechanism. Scientists believe that the discomfort experienced during change serves to keep us alive. Your brain is worried about life and death. Your happiness is secondary. It views any change as potentially life threatening.

Imagine that 10,000 years ago you’re hiding under a bush from a tiger and consider making a run for it. Under the bush, you’re still alive. Running out in the open could be hazardous. Most of us would freeze and stay under the bush where it’s safe.

You decide to stroll up to the beautiful woman in the next tribe for a little flirtatious fun. You might take a rock to the head from a foreign tribesman. Many social psychologists believe this to be the reason why men are uncomfortable approaching beautiful women. Your discomfort protected you 10,000 years ago. Now it’s harming you.

If your life isn’t at risk, your discomfort may be misleading you. Take discomfort as a sign to evaluate the situation. Respond in a reasonable manner.

2. Welcome discomfort. If you’re uncomfortable, there’s a chance that something meaningful will happen. Where are you most comfortable? On the couch watching television? Has anything great ever happened when you were doing the same things you always do? When you’re uncomfortable, things have a chance of changing for the better.

3. Be mindful. If you’re uncomfortable, you’re thinking about negative outcomes. But if you’ll just stay focused on how delicious your grilled-cheese sandwich tastes, you can’t be worried about the future.

A good rule of thumb: Your mind should be focused on your surroundings, your breathing, or your current activity. If your mind is focused on anything else, you’re not really living. Life can only be lived in the present.

4. Learn to meditate. Meditation is simple, but it’s not easy. There are many books and videos on the subject. Spend some time learning how to control your mind.

5. Exercise. A good workout can rid you of nervous energy. If you’re feeling stressed, go for a run, hit the gym, or pull out the tennis racket. Notice how much better you feel afterwards.

6. Toughen up. If you’re used to giving into uncomfortable feelings, you can do better. Try sticking with your discomfort for as long as you can. Notice that you’re still fine. In time, you’ll be able to handle discomfort much more effectively.

7. It’s just a few chemicals. A few stress hormones and neurotransmitters don’t have to dictate your actions. These compounds can alter your pulse, blood pressure, and feelings of anxiety. But the effects are harmless. Remember that your brain is trying to keep you alive. Anxiety is just a feeling in your body. You’ve survived much worse.

8. Focus on the result rather than the process. Thinking about your diet might make you miserable, but thinking about the results is exciting. Keep your mind on the prize when you’re feeling down.

This is true for anything you don’t feel like doing. Avoid thinking about how awful it will be to clean the garage. Think about how great you’ll feel when it’s over.

Discomfort can be embraced as a positive sign. It means that you’re changing your life. The only way to eliminate discomfort completely from your life is to never try. Discomfort can be managed and minimized, but it’s a part of being human. You can choose to make progress in spite of feeling uncomfortable.

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