A theme that I am often talking to my clients about is the need for comfort when we are taking risks in life. I believe it is a balancing act of putting oneself out there into the world and then having a space to recover. That “space” can be a person, place, activity or thing . . . or a combination of all the above. Whenever we are making the conscious decision to be vulnerable, to try something new, to potentially fail, we also need those aspects of life that remind us of who we are ultimately. We are not the risks we take, although those add life experiences, impact us and may meaningfully contribute to us becoming more of who we are . . . and that’s regardless of whether we “fail” or “succeed”. We also need to remind ourselves of what we are NOT risking.
I recently tried a new thing in my professional life that was so incredibly anxiety provoking for me. I don’t consider myself to be an anxious person, but I am human and it does exist for me. (Just in case you thought therapists were immune.) I both wanted to hide from this new experience and follow-through to see if I could do it. I’m not going to lie. It was an emotionally brutal afternoon and although I had some preparation, there was no way to be completely prepared for what was thrown at me. I tell you this to also share with you this idea of comfort and what I did immediately afterward.
First, I called my husband. His voice and reassurance was helpful for me even though our conversation was brief. Then I texted a couple of friends and colleagues and received a few encouraging statements. Finally, before driving home, I decided to take a walk. Rationally, I knew that some physical movement was going to help my nervous system, but also it’s what sounded ideal in that moment. I am really someone who enjoys being outside. The weather was lovely and I strolled and window-shopped through a trinket store. I actually considered buying a small object to mark this momentous afternoon for myself, but never found exactly what felt right and I decided that was okay.
I also did some internal self-talk reminding myself of what was not at risk. My relationships with close friends, family, my pets were not at risk here. My love for the ocean, beach and general outdoors was not at risk here. I would survive this anxiety and fear with my most precious valued parts of life still intact. That is generally the case with a vast majority of the risks we take in life. Most of them are not life threatening or threatening to major components of our life.
That doesn’t mean the anxiety is any less, though, and anxiety and fear can be major game changers when they get in our way, which is why it can be so helpful to KNOW ourselves and plan ahead for the comfort. To simply take care of ourselves in multiple ways and in the most effective ways possible make those exciting risk-taking moments doable and not compounded by ineffective strategies (i.e. self-soothing by drinking, eating, compulsive shopping, etc.). So many times, we don’t stop to take care of ourselves.
So, I ask you: Do you have something that feels risky coming up? What can you do to plan ahead and take care of yourself afterward? If it’s an ongoing experience and not time limited, what can you do to infuse some comfort? Consider the following areas where we might find resources: relational, physical, emotional, environmental, sensory (e.g. scent, water, music), spiritual. Are there other categories I missed? What else comes to mind when you think of emotionally recuperating from a challenge?