Mental Health Recovery: Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

February 6, 2012 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

For a very long time, I struggled with severe and crippling anxiety. At one point, around the age of fifteen, I could not leave my home. Literally. Anything outside of my home, my four-walled room, was terrifying. School--impossible. For as much as I tried to emulate my siblings, to smile and laugh, to have friends and go to classes, to come home and talk to my parents-I simply could not.

My heart would race when stepping outside of the door; my legs would wobble, unsteady, unsure (The Silencing of Agoraphobia).I completed my education primarily in my bedroom and when accepted into college, took online classes, skipping the on-campus orientation, missing necessary information out of fear.

I wrote for the college paper but could not attend editorial meetings. I told the editor I was sick. A lot. Offered a paid position to write, at the age of eighteen, was a dream--I turned it down. Accepting this position would require sitting down with people, talking, expressing my ideas. I declined. Heavy-hearted, feeling pathetic, wondering why I could not move past my fear.

Mental Illness Makes us Feel Different

Emphasize, heavily, the word different. Excluded. Like the black sheep. Shunned. These feelings are often prominent right after the diagnosis. Suddenly, we may feel like we don't fit in anywhere. Before we were diagnosed we probably had friends, even if they thought us a little strange, we certainly did not have a diagnosis applied to our names. Our lives. Most of the time, these friends, the good ones, stick with us. But sometimes they don't. Largely because of this, we become masters of isolation. It makes sense: When a person feels suddenly different, sick, they might naturally isolate themselves. They probably will.

Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Is like stepping outside a box. When your new psychiatrist sits you down and tells you you are sick, but you will get better, your life is flipped upside down. You probably feel completely disconnected from the person, the life (even if it was marred in sickness), you lived before.

Suddenly, you have bottles of pills. Suddenly, you are using all of your energy to become well, stable, and new to the world. You are recovering.

Work not to isolate yourself. Take little steps:

  • Try to reconnect with people
  • If it helps, utilize therapy to help you understand that you are not defined by your illness, you are just working to become well.
  • When you feel low, pick up the phone, as much as you might not want to (and sometimes I would rather throw the goddamn phone) and talk to someone. Listen to them. They struggle as well.
  • Cliche though it us, remind yourself that this too shall pass. And it will. Recovery is a time of transition.
  • Work your body when your mind falters. Get outside. Escape the four walls that can come to define your life.

It's the little things, things like that, that help us recover. Help us to step outside of our comfort zone and heal. Sometimes, I surprise myself: taking the little steps has allowed me to do more than I conceived I ever could.

And above all, hang on for the ride, it isn't always so rocky.

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APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, February 6). Mental Health Recovery: Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

February, 8 2012 at 6:41 pm

I know exactly how you feel. I have been diagnosed with PTSD and since I was a child my bed room was my safe haven. I still struggle with life outside of those walls. I have made some progress, but I still get incredible anxiety and shut down. I am only at the beginning of therapy so hopefully I will be able to learn some new tools to help me ease into chaning things for the better. Thanks for the post!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
February, 10 2012 at 6:47 am

Hi, Janis:
Anxiety can certainly shut down your entire life. It's a bad cycle: the longer we isolate ourselves the harder it is to actually get out. Therapy really helped on my end and I'm sure it will with you as well. Like anything else, particularly mental illness, it takes time.
Thanks for the comment!

Carol Johnson
February, 7 2012 at 1:19 pm

Natalie, Wow, another great article....until you took the Lord's name in vain.....

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
February, 8 2012 at 5:26 am

I try to keep it in context:)

February, 7 2012 at 5:49 am

Thank you for this article, I myself sometimes have crippling anxiety, something that appeared later in my years. It's frustrating not to feel ok with the things I have to/should do and want to do because of severe anxiety. I was never this way until about 6 or 7 yrs ago.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
February, 7 2012 at 7:29 am

Hi, Elizabeth:
Anxiety problems come at any time in our lives and for no reason. The good news is, they don't always stick around! Usually, they get much better. In my experience, you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone---do the things that make you the most nervous. Exposing yourself to things that give you anxiety, helps it go away. It's strange but it works!
Thanks for the comment,

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