Tips on Coping When You're Out of Your Comfort Zone

Written By Aileen Trang

I’m not much of a traveler, but the 4 tips in the Scientific American article “How to be a better traveler” stuck with me. Sunny Sea Gold’s advice applies to any time you’re on a new journey and out of your comfort zone. In fact, I see a lot of parallels between her tips and the tips I share with people going through a cancer experience.

Whether your journey is literal or symbolic, these tips may help you change your perspective and regain a sense of control.

Tip #1: Accept that stress will happen

Getting angry or avoiding the stress of the situation may lead to more stress. Instead of fighting against it, recognize that stress is a part of the journey. Accepting that you will feel overwhelmed or emotional at times and allowing yourself to feel it when it happens can help with coping through the unpredictable journey ahead.

Tip #2: Talk to the experienced

We feel uncomfortable when in a new place. Talking to the “locals”, those people who are familiar with the area, can help you understand more about where you are. When talking about a cancer diagnosis, the “locals” may be the members of your health care team, Patient & Family Library staff, or other patients. In fact, many cancer patients recommend talking to those who have gone through the cancer journey. They have a better idea of what you have gone and will go through physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Tip #3: Channel another you

When you are anxious about what lies ahead, you may be more shielded and cautious. This can impact the decisions you make about your treatment and the relationships you have with your health care team and the people around you. What may help is to channel a past version of yourself. Think back to a situation where you were able to cope with or adjust to a difficult situation. Think of what you did and what helped you get through the experience. Can you do something similar now?

Tip #4: Practice with small steps

Taking small steps toward where you want to be is a good approach when facing something overwhelming and intimidating. Most people aren't familiar with cancer or navigating through the health care system until they have to do it. Practicing by taking small steps can help build up your confidence and abilities, which will make it easier to take bigger steps later on. Some small steps to start with may include making a list of questions for your doctor or reading a pamphlet to better understand your diagnosis.


What techniques have helped you cope in a new situation? Share with us on our Facebook page.