Our bodies are designed to face challenges. We evolved to escape from predators and to overcome physical demands. Our sedate comfort-driven lives often lead people to seek out excitement. So, that’s why people become engaged in some risky behaviors like bungee jumping, skydiving, texting while driving or taking drugs.
These activities raise our adrenaline levels. There is an element of fearless-ness and sometimes the mistaken belief that you can get away with this behavior and that the negative possibilities won’t happen to you.
Some people can tend to become addicted to the stimulation that risky behaviors provide. But as with any addiction, this can be a form of running away from confronting our own inner realities and feelings.
Teenagers tend to take even more risks
Teens can be led to take risks as they want to appear brave in front of their peers. As part of the development of their identities, they tend to explore and experiment more than adults normally do. Because their prefrontal cortex has not fully developed, teens can over-rely on their impulsivity-driven amygdala.
But if teens end up taking risks that can seriously endanger themselves and others, parents need to intervene.
So how can we challenge ourselves, but with lower risk?
We can give our bodies some of the physical challenges it is designed for. We can lift heavy weights. Do pushups. Expose ourselves to the cold by not wearing as thick a coat and/or by taking a cold shower. Even stand in the snow for a few minutes. But do it carefully. Taking some deep breaths beforehand can help. We don’t overdo it and give ourselves frostbite (or heart attacks by suddenly going on a long run when we have barely left our computer in years). Challenging yourself – even a little – can help make you feel invigorated and more in control of your life. That’s why the ice bucket challenge and the 75 hard challenges have become so popular.
We tend to cushion ourselves so much that we don’t feel anything. But instead we can wear less padded shoes when we are running. Some research has shown that this is actually better for our physiology.
On a more mental or psychological or social level, we can challenge ourselves by going up to new people at a party.
Sometimes we can tend to only challenge ourselves in one area of our lives. We can still be dominated by fears and anxiety in other areas. For example, we may be fine with challenging ourselves physically but be terrified of public speaking. We need to challenge ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Think about who you are and who you can become.
Are you letting fear run your life? To become well rounded individuals we have to look at all areas of our lives. Going beyond our comfort zones can be good for us.
So there’s no need to become engaged in some risky behaviors
But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be challenging yourself to grow and improve in all areas of your life. Talk to one of our counselors if you are afraid or unsure of how to do that safely and effectively.