Nails scratching a chalkboard. The screech of a knife against a dinner plate. Is this making you uncomfortable? Ideal. As a new book reveals that your body is not only primed for discomfort, but actually thrives on it, prepare to feel uneasy if you know w
The secret to success? Facing discomfort head on
Ultra-runners have larger hearts than your average Joe. Elite pianists can move their fingers in almost superhuman directions. Brazil consistently produces the best footballers in the world. And rats, when put under controlled amounts of stress, are found to have enlarged brain cells. The reason? Discomfort. Ultra-runners and pianists submit themselves to gruelling levels of training, while Brazilian children use a ball that is faster, harder and heavier than the soft leather variety kicked about by the rest of the world. The lesson? Make yourself uncomfortable often enough and your mind and body will reward you by becoming stronger and better-equipped to deal with the stress. And yet. British culture tries to coddle you. If it starts in schools – ‘damaging’ red scrawl on homework has been ditched for softer rainbow hues – it continues into higher education, too. Rather than challenging students with new ideas and language, universities clamour to protect them by creating ‘safe spaces’ on campuses. And it’s doing you no good. Countless studies show that the natural human state isn’t fragile, but tough. You thrive under pressure, you innovate in the face of failure and you think big and bold when faced with constraint – if only you can be brave enough to step into your discomfort zone. So, are you sitting uncomfortably?
times, feel like you’ll never recover. A well-known fallout of trauma is PTSD, but there’s another, far more positive side effect, and it goes by the name of post-traumatic growth (PTG).
The evidence: James Pennebaker, an academic from the University of Texas, has studied trauma and its effects for most of his life. His findings? Those who wrote down how they felt after their personal trauma reported fewer visits to the doctors, reduced anxiety and a betterfunctioning immune system than those who didn’t. In fact, studies have shown that almost two thirds of those affected by trauma experience growth – as opposed to stress – as a by-product.
The plan: Journalling is a great way to help process what you fear most. Pick apart what went wrong, one step at a time. The more you analyse the situation, the more your understanding will grow in terms of how to deal with it, should it ever happen again. Start with, ‘How did it happen?’ Follow it up with, ‘Why did it happen?’ Then finally chase it up with,
‘What can I do should it ever happen again?’ Farrah Storr is the author of The Discomfort Zone (£13.99, Piatkus)
Most of us have been brought up with a deep-rooted fear of fucking up