We all have days where walking without tripping or picking something up without dropping it just seems impossible. Some of us just have butter-finger days, others feel like a perpetual super klutz. Feeling uncoordinated is not necessarily a serious problem and there are ways to overcome it through awareness and physical adjustments.
Coordination is a complex combination of motor and sensory functions taking place simultaneously. The cycle often starts with seeing an obstacle. Dr. James Knierim of Johns Hopkins University explains that movement and coordination impulses then cycle through nerves to the cerebellum in the brain. Once it receives the sensory information of what you see, the cerebellum shoots back signals to muscles and connective tissue to help you keep your balance, adjust your posture and negotiate or avoid an obstacle. Those klutzy episodes can happen when one or a combination of those steps lag behind the others. Clumsiness itself is not necessarily a serious issue. However, clumsiness caused by numbness in the limbs, especially a sudden onset of numbness, could be as a result of diabetic nerve damage or the more serious possibility of transient ischemic attack or “mini stroke”. Check with your doctor to rule out any possible serious conditions.
Stress and anxiety can turn anyone into a total klutz. Being anxious distracts the mind from the basic steps needed for good coordination and can alter your sense of spatial awareness. Anxiety or stress can also yield shaky hands or sweaty palms that never help when trying to avoiding butter-finger moments. When feeling anxious, stressed or distracted, Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne of the University of Massachusetts suggests focusing on your actions deliberately and forcing yourself to move one step at a time, even with the most routine tasks. If necessary, take a mental time out for a moment to slow your pace down. Take a deep breath or two to reset your mental pace, then carry on with your task in a more conscious state of awareness.
Reprogram Your System
Learning new movements can help improve coordination. Deliberately forcing the brain and body through physical activity can help sharpen the signals to and from your brain that keep your movements coordinated. Activities such as changing direction frequently while running or walking, balance exercises and obstacle courses challenge coordination and improve the timing of signals between your brain and your body. The more you practice movements on wobbly surfaces or teach your body how to move around obstacles, the more comfortable your body grows with them. Potential klutzy situations will no longer be an issue because your body will be programmed to deal with them.
Moving regularly activates the wiring between your brain and body. Even using your body in milder activity sharpens your brain circuits. Try dancing at home when no one is watching. The simple act of moving your arms and legs in time to music forces coordination between your brain and your body. Take up a manual hobby like woodworking or sewing. These activities force both sides of your body to move simultaneously and improve spatial awareness. Play catch against a wall or with a partner. The ball may go flying the first couple times but the more you play, the better your hand-eye coordination develops. Start your day with 10 jumping jacks. Even if they’re not pretty, moving your arms and legs simultaneously will get your coordination circuitry firing right from the get go.
- Neuroscience Online: Chapter 5: The Cerebellum
- National Diabetes Information Clearing House: Diabetic Neuropathies: The Nerve Damage of Diabetes
- American Stroke Association: TIA (Transient Ischmeic Attack)
- Calm Clinic: How the Body Becomes Clumsy
- Psychology Today: Clumsy? Put Away the Band-Aids and Take Out the Mind-Aids
- Perform Better: Coordination & Movement Skill Development – The Key To Athletic Success
- National Academy of Sports Medicine Optimum Performance Training for the Fitness Professional; Michael A. Clark
- Better Health: 10 Tips To Improve Your Mental Fitness
- Udemy: Coordination Exercises That Help to Improve Balance and Performance
- Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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