the benefits of discomfort

Over the last few years, I've decided on a word or a phrase that becomes a theme for the coming year. In the past, I've had themes such as "reclaim," when I felt like I was losing touch with my body and wanted to exercise more and take charge charge of my life again.

Another year, it was "treat yourself (to health)," in which I happily justified any expense as long as it was for the sake of health (I spent a lot of money on kombucha and juice that year, but I also established a lot of healthy habits, so I'd say it was a success).

This year's guiding word

I decided this year's word is "stretch."

I want to stretch myself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

And in fact, I will need to stretch myself in order to achieve my big goals this year. I don't intend to overextend myself or push myself until I break. I want to find greater flexibility in all areas of my life, so I can challenge myself in ways that fulfill and revitalize me.

When I think of "stretch," I also think of the refreshing kind after a long nap. That's the feeling I'm hoping to capture as I work toward my goals daily.

Discomfort

It goes without saying that challenging yourself goes hand in hand with discomfort. And so far these first two weeks of the year I have experienced this discomfort--in the best ways possible.

Every morning for the last 14 days, I've resisted the siren call of the the snooze button, bundled up in fleece-lined leggings and gloves and pulled on my Yak Trax to run on snow and ice, in the dark, with a very reluctant dog. And I've sat down to write every day, even though the resistance to write is still far and above greater than it is for the running.

I have physically and socially and emotionally stretched myself.

Sitting with it

This last weekend was my first session of yoga teacher training. I went into Friday with nothing but nerves and left with a mental toolbox I can start to draw from and even some new friends.

One of my major "aha" moments throughout the weekend was that yoga--just like running, like writing, like anything worth doing--is the practice of sitting with discomfort, and eventually finding peace with it.

I think there's a misconception about yoga, that it's all hippie-love, blissed out on your mat, but both in and out of the studio, it's much grittier in practice. I've been thinking about this a lot with my running recently, but it hadn't occurred to me to be quite the same way for yoga until now.

Pushing through

Last night, the theme for my Vinyasa class was pushing through when a situation feels uncomfortable.

It was an incredibly appropriate subject for the hour, considering that's exactly where my brain has been this week.

Along with the usual Warrior 2 poses and downward dogs, we had a moment where shifted forward on our knees with our heads back like in "Flash Dance" and later we held our foot up to our ear, which the yoga teacher called "phone-asana" (a joke I found hilarious because I love stupid puns).

We had a lot of intense strength poses and while my muscles screamed, I thought,

"What can I do to be my best self in this moment?"

And I raised my legs a little higher and squared my hips a little more forward.

Similarly, I realized the quote for this week in my training journal for running is also fitting:

"Sometimes you have to push yourself, and it can be uncomfortable. You will want to quit. But if you can find your edge and embrace the discomfort even for a little bit, you'll find a new level of fitness, skill, and knowledge. And there's no better feeling than growth."--Roisin McGettigan-Dumas

Because that's the thing.

Sure, discomfort is not a place where we often like to find ourselves.

But there's no possibility for growth without change. And I want nothing more than to grow. I think we all do. I'm in a place of intense metamorphosis right now, but it seems like all of these instances of difficulty I've been facing recently have been much more positive than negative.

I would say in general, I'm someone who thrives off of order and a sense of quietly earned wellbeing.

But I'm also starting to realize that digging into a sense of greater ambition sometimes has a positive outcome because it allows us to push ourselves to our limits--and then past them significantly further than we might have thought possible.

I find a lot of merit in my small daily routines, but now I'm looking to see where I can stretch myself further every day and what that might mean for me.

The thing about finding your edge is that it seems like a long way down on either side. But if you manage to balance on top--trust your intuition, make yourself vulnerable, and find a sense of courage in that vulnerability--there are honestly few greater feelings.

I am wholeheartedly trying to meet this year with a sense of courage and trust in myself.

So far, it's working.

My question to you is, what is one thing do you find yourself shying away from in discomfort? And what's one way you might shift your mindset to embrace it?

Iris Rankin

Soulful questioner, exuberant organizer, here to find the balance between discipline and delicious relaxation. Iris Rankin is the founder of Project Intention, a values-based community focused on living day-to-day with purpose, planning, and heart. Iris encourages women to adopt the self care practices that make them feel divine, the planning tools to hone in on their essential wants and needs, and the emotional resilience to express their most authentic selves.



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