Are You Willing to Embrace Discomfort? 3 Steps to a New Mindset
Written by: Saveen Sundrani, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise
In the recent decade, there has been a major shift in our mindset. We have become conditioned into what I call a “one-click mindset”. Think about it.
What happens when you want to order food? Click Order Now, poof, food at your doorstep. What happens when you want to shop? You click Ship, poof, items at your doorstep.
What happens when you want to book travel? You click Book Now, poof, travel info in your hands.
"The antidote to an uncomfortable emotion is the uncomfortable emotion itself" - Saveen
Repeatedly receiving what we want, quickly and without much effort, means high resistance towards even short periods of discomfort. Unable to tolerate uncomfortable situations and emotions, we are increasingly seeking out solutions that will almost instantaneously and with minimal mental and/or physical effort restore us back to our comfort zones.
Think about how attractive an advertisement is that states you will make 6 figures in 3 months without having to work 40-hour weeks, "click here to sign up". Or, you will lose 30 lbs in one month without giving up your favorite foods, "book your spot now". These statements follow the exact conditioning of the one-click mindset, making them incredibly alluring.
In some ways, it makes sense why we might naturally choose and enjoy this type of mindset. Embracing discomfort amidst intense feelings can seem counterintuitive as one of our brain’s jobs is to keep us away from potential danger. Therefore, any sign of threat (real or perceived), will activate our brain’s threat system, the amygdala, to alert us so that we can protect ourselves. The price we pay for postponing feeling uncomfortable emotions such as sadness, anxiety, hurt, disappointment, rejection, etc, however, is a significantly diminished capacity to heal, grow, and thrive.
Instead of training our minds to be resilient in the face of life’s hardships, we further weaken it by choosing quick escape methods. When we choose such shortcuts, we are only temporarily numbing those painful emotions. The one-click mindset keeps us running and hunting for something, anything, that will accelerate getting short term relief from actually feeling our feelings. The more we run, however, the more mentally and emotionally depleted we become.
For many people, the perfect escape is food, drugs, or alcohol, just to name a few.
And I must admit these align quite well with the one-click mindset. The drawback in operating from this mindset is manifold, however one major complication is getting trapped in a vicious cycle of other problems resulting from the negative coping skill itself.
For example, drinking to numb stress, can eventually impact multiple aspects of your life (relationships, finances, career, self-esteem, etc.). Furthermore, when we don’t allow ourselves to navigate through discomfort, we are unable to show up in the world as the best version of ourselves. We get further away from living a meaningful and purposeful life. The uncomfortable emotions are always lurking underneath, brewing, and slowly eating away at us, causing us pain in numerous areas of our life.
Dr. Dan Siegal, a respectable psychiatrist, coined the term “window of tolerance”. He explained that while we are within our window, we operate from a mindset of resilience. In this mindset, we might say to ourselves, “I will be able to cope with the stress or pressure I am experiencing”. However, if we are unable to tolerate the distress (as it often happens in trauma experiences), we become dysregulated or pushed to the edges of our window. Sometimes, we are completely out of our window of tolerance, leading to various difficult states of mind.
What we learn from this is the importance of mastering the skill of tolerating some emotional distress without jumping to a quick fix. Here, the word “tolerate” is not used in the context of tolerating situations such as abuse or neglect. It is referring to tolerating the discomfort that accompanies hard situations in life, which are inevitable for everyone. The mastery of this skill can help us guide our minds back into the window of emotional safety. But before practicing a skill, comes mindset. The shift we have to make then, is to embrace what I call the Riding the Wave Mindset.
The beautiful thing about mindset is that it is learnable. Our brains are incredible and with increased awareness and strategic training, we can actually build new connections in our brain that support our shift to healthier ways of approaching life. Riding the waves of discomfort means allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions without fixing or getting rid of them. Unlike the one-click mindset, this new mindset is all about slowing down and making an effort to heal and grow from within.
At times It might seem like you are swimming against the tide, will feel unsteady, and certainly unpredictable, but uncomfortable emotions are like waves, they pass, only if you let them. Riding the Waves mindset challenges the part of our brain that is desperately trying to take us back to the familiar, the safe. In the beginning phases of shifting our mindset, the shore may seem out of sight, but trust that it is not absent.
Although this may seem like a hard road to travel on, there are ways to make it easier. Reaching out for support is key. Asking a friend to hold space for you while you “feel”, journaling, engaging in breathing exercises, are just a few ways to make surfing through a difficult time, smoother.
Changing your mindset itself is going to require you to get uncomfortable. It is a process, not a destination. Therefore you have to be willing to invest infinite time and allow yourself to lean in and embrace the wins and challenges that will be part of the journey.
3 Steps to Embrace the Riding the Wave Mindset:
1. Increase Awareness
Simply dedicate your attention to when the one-click mindset shows up each day. Starting by being present with your current mindset is invaluable. You could take on journaling or simply start making a note of it when you notice yourself operating from a mindset that tempts you to reach for quick fixes.
2. Body Shift
Embracing discomfort requires you to be present with your body's sensations. Notice how your body "feels" as you allow yourself to ride the waves. Breathing exercises, guided meditations, utilizing your senses, or simply placing your hand on your chest and saying "it's okay to feel" are just a few ways to soothe your brain's threat system.
3. Cognitive Shift
Retraining your brain is also a big piece of the puzzle. Neuroscience shows us that what we focus on, we notice more of. Make an effort to change your self-talk, explore scenarios in which you can practice using this new mindset, acknowledge and praise yourself for riding the waves no matter how small, and focus on the long-term benefits of this new mindset.
Now, if you find yourself reverting back to old ways, do not be discouraged. Instead of engaging in self-criticism, invest your energy on focusing on how far you’ve come. Take a second to notice the changes you are starting to see in your life as you learn to surf the waves. Each step you have taken in the right direction is a testament of your strength and commitment to personal growth.
While individual mindset shifts are important, we also need to make collective ones. Can we imagine a world in which we embrace hard things, difficult conversations, and novel perspectives? We must grapple with how we might be knowingly or unknowingly rewarding the one-click mindset and punishing the riding the waves mindset.
Allowing others to feel, openly without judgment and holding space for them is an important component of this new and healthy mindset. So, can we learn to be cheerleaders for people who are working through their feelings, instead of trying to offer quick fixes simply because it is causing us to become uncomfortable ourselves? Can we disapprove of shaming and guilt by tripping someone trying to lean in and truly experience their emotions? Cheering each other on as we ride these waves of discomfort, is what will bring us all to shore.
Saveen Sundrani, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Saveen Sundrani holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work, specializing in Trauma-Focused Counseling and is the founder of You Matter Coaching. Using both her personal journey with mental health and her extensive 20 + years of experience in the field of Mental Health as inspiration, Saveen develops online programs to help individuals achieve mental wellness. Saveen is also passionate about strategically helping other social workers and mental health professionals access their full brain potential through science and self-love so that they can prevent burnout, actualize long-lasting change in individuals and families they work with, while thriving in their personal lives. Saveen’s fundamental belief is that, when you believe you are worthy, you are automatically inclined to take better care of your physical and mental wellbeing. While making a difference in people’s lives is Saveen’s life purpose, creating innovative and modern ways to fulfill this purpose is what sets her soul on fire