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Range Anxiety, Testing the Limits of Your Comfort Zone

I drive a Leaf. Yep, one of those little electric cars. No, it's not a hybrid. Yes, I have to plug it in at night. Yes, I even drive it to work, which is an hour away. And yes, it does go faster than a golf cart. One of the only things I managed to negotiate with my new office two years ago was to put in a charging outlet at my office. It only cost them about $400, but I'd easily spend more than that in gas money after a few months of driving back and forth.

When electric cars became popular, psychologists noticed a condition they've coined "Range Anxiety". This describes the anxiety related to the energy/battery life left in the car while one is driving their electric car. The anxiety drivers feel also correlates with how far the driver is from a charging station. It's a real thing, people. At first, I constantly checked the number of miles left and wouldn't let the miles get below 30 without heading back home. I've slowly built up my comfort level by venturing farther from home and a charging station.

Sometimes we have range anxiety in our lives. We get a little outside our comfort zone and we start to panic. We feel anxious when we're in new territory. This can keep us complacent and hesitant to make any sort of change. We're afraid to take leaps because we're worried we won't be able to get very far or we worry we'll be stranded on the side of the road if we venture out. My car situation has actually made me feel more okay about taking leaps and trying new things. I've written before about doing things that scare you and how this makes you grow bounds and leaps. Last week I went to a yoga studio I'd never been to before. I was nervous, and even though it wasn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things, doing little things like this will help grow this muscle of bravery. Before you know it, you'll be venturing out far away from a plug-in station and taking chances! I've also learned to ask, "So what?" when my inner fraidy cat confronts me with a fear-based imagined scenario. For example, with the car, I'll start letting my mind fret about me running out of battery life and being stranded on the side of the road. Then I think, "So what"? I'd just call AAA and get a ride or I'd call someone at my office and have them come to pick me up. It really isn't a life or death situation. With the new yoga studio, my brain started thinking, "What if I get lost and I'm late to class?" So what? No biggie. What if everyone is advanced in their yoga practice and I fall on my face? So what? It'll make me better. What if I registered at the wrong time? So what? It'll work it out.

What's your range anxiety about? Are you avoiding anything outside your radius of comfort? Are you the least likely person to take risks? What makes your stomach or throat clench up in fear? I'm encouraging you to identify what constitutes your range of comfort and then identify what lies just beyond that range (picture a map with a circle on it). Everything inside the circle is your current comfort zone. Anything outside of that and you're anxious and worked up. Write out several areas of your life and identify the things that you've considered doing, but they're just a wee bit out of your comfort zone, for example:

1) Social: meeting that new neighbor, joining the new women's group at church, talking to the cool mom at daycare, not caving to social pressure to drink at husband's work Christmas party this week

2) Work/career: Asking for more time off, asking for a raise, telling a co-worker how she's not pulling her weight, asking to meet someone for coffee who has a job you'd love to have or who has a career connection you're curious about as it relates to your own career

3) Health: Join that aerobics class, try yoga, publically proclaim that I'm giving up sugar for December, ask a neighbor if she'd like to be my walking buddy

4) Financial: make an appt with a financial planner, commit to a budget or commit to paying off those student loans in the next 3 years

5) Mental: Get off Facebook, schedule an appt with a counselor/therapist, decide to break up with my toxic friend, start meditating for 5 minutes a day

The final piece is accountability. If you're self-disciplined, this might be as simple as reading over your list weekly and deciding on three things you can do each week. Baby steps are fine! If you're the type to jot down some things and not look at the list again, you have to get a friend involved and ask them to hold you accountable.

What's outside your comfort zone?

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