Practicing constructive discomfort to build resilience, reduce worry and get things done


Nobody enjoys doing things that make them feel uncomfortable. If you know you have something planned that makes you feel discomforted, you might worry about it ahead of time. And even if you don’t, you might still worry about things because you think it will help stop situations occurring that you might have felt uncomfortable in. You might even actively avoid situations so that you don’t feel those unpleasant feelings. However, none of these things change the situation. In fact, unnecessary worry and avoidance behaviours can potentially increase the levels of discomfort felt.

Discomfort is a part of life and doing things despite the discomfort will help you to become more resilient, reduce worry and achieve your goals.

There are so many things that you have done in your life already that made you feel uncomfortable but were worth it in the end.

For a moment, just ask yourself what are the things you've done in your life that you found uncomfortable, but you did them anyway? How did it make you feel afterwards? Did you feel a sense of achievement, proud, exhilarated, or something else?

And now think about the things you feel proud of in your life. Did those things come in to fruition with ease or was there some discomfort involved? Quite often, the things we feel proud of doing aren’t easy, they challenge us, and make us feel uncomfortable at times but the what we get from the experience outweighs the discomfort. In fact, we benefit from the discomfort. So you can see that discomfort isn’t all bad. 

Let me give a couple of examples where discomfort exists but there are benefits to be had and a positive experience overall. The first is someone running a marathon. I’m guessing it is not a comfortable experience. I’ve never run one before, I’m still closer to the couch on my couch to 5k programme although I’m making progress (with discomfort). A runner might feel tired, nauseous, tense, have cramp or a stitch, desperate to stop, have muscles aches, painful blisters and more. However at that finish line, the sense of achievement and success that they have makes it all worthwhile. Another example is childbirth. This is also something I have no experience of but I know from friends who have had children that labour can take a long time, feel uncomfortable, cause fatigue, tiredness, as well as pain but as soon as that little bundle of joy comes out, all is forgotten (and in some cases planning for their next one).

From these examples, you can recognise that discomfort is temporary. It won’t kill you, although it will feel understandably uncomfortable. But it will make you stronger!

So let’s make discomfort constructive. By intentionally doing things that create discomfort makes the discomfort constructive. Make discomfort your goal. Seek it out in fact, in order to learn how to deal with it more effectively. It’s constructive now because it’s helping you and making you stronger. Practicing constructive discomfort allows you to be able to deal with discomfort that comes up in your life in other areas. Each day, do something you don’t want to do because it might make you feel some level of discomfort. It doesn’t have to be something big and complex - it can be anything. I would also recommend keeping track of your encounters with discomfort and how you faired. Notice how you improve in these situations as you continue to practice discomfort, paying particular attention to your thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

You will find that you become more familiar with discomfort and you will be less likely to worry about things you have to do, as well as allow you to do the things that in the past you have avoided doing. You will feel empowered by practicing constructive discomfort, allowing you to do all that is necessary for you to reach your goals.

Related post:
Limiting beliefs that keep you worrying
Are your thoughts setting you up to fail?
How the flying trapeze helped me move out of my comfort zone