By Liz Moore
Comfort zones – we all have them and they serve us very well throughout our daily lives.
They provide the safety and security our minds and bodies need for getting the little things done without too much stress day in and day out. A lot like a home, comfort zones support our nervous systems to stay in balance as we go about the daily business of living with its natural ebbs and flows of activity.
Comfort zones are crucial to our survival and keeping our health and wellness in check. It is just when we spend all of our time in them that we rob ourselves of the equally important need to stretch and strengthen ourselves beyond the familiar.
Take our bodies, for instance. To keep or improve our muscle strength, we need to put our individual muscles under the stress and reasonable strain of weight-bearing exercises so that they can be engaged and stimulated to work or grow.
Of course, with repetition, the weights we practice start to become comfortable and so it’s important to further increase the load – even by miniscule amounts. This is how the balance between comfort and challenge keeps inviting us to test ourselves, to find new limits and create new levels of comfort and challenge.
Most of us are more tentative than others, while some go all-in. Meet Veronica, the octogenarian who celebrated her 80 th birthday by jumping out of a plane with her son.
Now, we’re certainly not saying every 80-year-old should jump out of a plane. Far from it! Rather, that we can all learn something from Veronica’s zest for life and willingness to challenge herself in new ways. It’s an inspiring and extreme example that can help us look for little ways to inject just a tad more healthy challenge into our days.
“I think we’ve all got to have goals,” Veronica, from NSW, said. “Some of them, ridiculous. My friends think that I’m quite nutty, but it’s my life and I’m making the very best of what I can do.”
“There’s so much more I want to do,” Veronica said. “I want to go overseas again next year. I’ve been backwards and forwards to Europe a good many times, and I have family overseas. So my next challenge is to work up more enthusiasm for going overseas next year.”
Veronica acknowledges that there are many steps to achieving a goal such as jumping out of a plane or travelling overseas when in your 80s.
“I certainly couldn’t have done the jump without having attended the gym,” she said. “I think the commitment to the gym was definitely important, and I feel that not enough older people get the exercise that they need.
“I think pushing yourself in the gym, whether it be more weights or different activities, is so important to ongoing health, both mentally and physically. I’m so grateful for all the enthusiasm and the encouragement that the girls at the Wellness Centre by integratedliving have given us.”
Veronica said just boarding the plane would have been a struggle without the strength she’d built at her local integratedliving Wellness Centre, whose gym and classes are custom designed for seniors.
“It was a very windy day, and thank God I’d been going to the gym, because I needed all the energy I could possibly gather just to get into the plane.”
As for how Veronica approaches the more regular challenges of daily life, such as the recent extended lockdowns, including weeks where the gym was also closed, she remains full of vigour.
“I live in a retirement village, and there’s a one-kilometre track around the outside so we did that a couple of times a day,” Veronica explained. “Then I’ve got a vegetable garden that I do a lot of digging in and tending to the four different areas of my garden. So, that’s what I’ve been doing, and a few exercises at home.”
And as soon as she could get back to the gym she’s attended for four years now, that’s what Veronica did. “I’ve had my ups and downs, as we all do when we get older, but the one thing that’s been in the back of my mind the whole time was Tuesday’s gym. Now, hopefully I’m adding another day to the gym, because it’s so important in my regular life.”
The little challenges and ways we step out of our comfort zones throughout our days can make a big difference to our ability to face larger challenges when they arise, whether by choice or circumstance. Knowing we can come back to our comfort zones at any time, it is worth considering what small ways we can step out of the familiar and give our bodies and minds a chance to grow in strength and capacity. You never know what you might want to do with a little more oomph.
To learn more about integratedliving’s Wellness and Activity Centres, visit www.integratedliving.org.au, or phone 1300 782 896.
To find out more about Veronica’s story, listen to her episode on integratedliving Australia’s Live Well podcast, at https://integratedliving.org.au/live-well-podcast/podcast-sky-high-ambitions-for-80-year-old-veronica. Or find all of our feel-good stories on topics affecting older Australians on the Live Well podcast by integratedliving Australia, on Spotify and Apple podcasts.