What is happening in our Zones?

There are three states we typically operate in:  our comfort zone, stretch zone or panic zone.  Educator Karl Rohnke introduced this zone model by further development of the Yerkes-Dodson law from 1908, which analysed the relationship between performance and arousal.

Our Comfort Zone

This is where we are most confident.  We are familiar with the territory.  We have a sense of relaxation in who we are and usually, we take good care of ourselves.  We can also slip into boredom quite easily and sometimes, things might seem repetitive and mundane.  In this zone we’re not learning anything new.  These aren’t necessarily bad things.  Once we do go from Stretch Zone back to here, the state of boredom can help integrate new learnings into who we are.

Our Stretch Zone

This is our area of growth.  We are pushing ourselves to try something new and different.  We are learning, and we are active participants in developing our personal growth.  We are engaged with the task and the challenge that growth offers can push us to accept a task. Here we aim to do better, try better and be better.

Our Panic Zone

When we enter the Panic Zone, we are highly aroused.  We feel a sense of fight, flight, freeze or foe.  We are scared, overwhelmed and distressed.  We are unable to listen coherently and our nervous system feels dysregulated and hyperactive.  In this zone, we develop a scarcity mindset, we believe that there isn’t enough to save us from the situation.  We grasp at solutions that offer short-term comfort and not a long-term solution.  We are far beyond our comfort zone and unlikely to grow here.

Potential needs in these zones.

The Comfort Zone

This is a good default place to be.  It is where you want to be most of the time.  When in this zone, you are letting in lessons and new knowledge settle into you.  However, we need to remember to push ourselves out of here often to grow and flourish.  Get to know what makes you comfortable and allow yourself to be happy with this sense of comfort you have with your life right now.  Give yourself small goals of learning something new, trying something different, to let you step into your stretch zone, and then step back in when you’re ready.

In this zone, life is good, we are present in what is happening at the moment, we know that we are doing our best and have a sense of contentment with ourselves.

The Stretch Zone

Here, we learn, grow and expand ourselves.  We are happy to engage with new ideas and lessons.  In the Stretch Zone, we have resources at hand to help us and we can creatively think solutions.

However, it is possible to stretch yourself too far.  This leads to panic and burnout.  To keep on top of this, think of growth as a gentle stretch.  You’re working towards touching your toes, not expecting to be able to do the splits straightaway.  This zone gives you a place to welcome the vulnerability of learning and growing.  It supports you to embrace Beginner’s Mindset and recognise the changes from the stretch you have taken.  In this zone, you appreciate that the consistent small steps are what matter most.

The Panic Zone

However, you will land in the Panic Zone when you feel that you haven’t done a good enough job and you push yourself to do and be better.  You think that the Comfort Zone is not a safe space and you have to stay here to achieve more.  When you land in here, breathe.  Any breath will do, just remember to bring awareness to your breath.  Doing this, will naturally slow it down and begin to regulate.  Reach out and ask for support, in this zone, we think we’re all alone, we’re not.  And people are happy to help when you ask them.   Remember something from your Comfort Zone and take it in.



Bringing this tool into your awareness equips you with more emotional language.  The more language you have to understand and describe how you feel, the more your Emotional Intelligence develops.


Email me if you’d like a printable of this Zone of Being to print out and have as a reminder to check-in with yourself from time to time.

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