Recently I watched a TV clip about a newscaster taking a try at tight rope walking. She did well, but at one point lost her balance and fell (safely, to the net below.) As I watched, I was struck by what “off balance” looks like: vulnerable… out of control… awkward… anxious.
At one point or another, all of us experience the feeling of being off balance. Major life events such as birth, death, divorce, relocation or unemployment all have the potential to rattle us, leaving us feeling like we are just about to fall. When we encounter these situations, we are likely to:
- Lose focus
- Struggle to think clearly
- Forget important events or deadlines
- Misplace items
- Accumulate clutter
- Lose track of time
- Increase self-destructive behaviors
All of these reactions are natural as we try to find a “new normal.” However, sometimes these reactive behaviors become persistent habits, leaving us stuck in “chaos mode.”
So how do we recover from a life event in a healthy manner that will serve us well in the future? Here are a few techniques from professional tight rope walkers:
1. Focus on a point in front of you.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by difficult circumstances. In order to move out of this discomfort, it helps to find a place ahead upon which to fix your gaze. Perhaps this is a goal you hope to achieve (e.g. “I’m going to focus on being on time to all my appointments”), or an image of desirable circumstances (e.g. “I want my home/bedroom/office to be a place where I can relax”) Once you have this image, take regular and specific steps in that direction.
2. Hold onto something that grounds you.
Most high wire walkers carry a very long pole which lowers the center of gravity and makes it easier to balance. Everyone needs something to steady to hold onto, such as faith, ritual, routine, exercise, or such combination thereof. Predictability and familiarity provide a counterbalance to the fluctuating circumstances of uncertain times.
3. Listen to coaches and steadying voices.
On a famous walk across the Grand Canyon, professional Nick Wallenda wore an earpiece connecting him to the voice of his coach. Throughout the walk, his coach spoke calmly to him, passing on encouragement, advice, and simple assurance that he was doing fine. We all need this voice in our ear, especially when life is topsy turvy. Find someone you trust and who cares about you, and ask him/her to meet regularly with you (by phone, in person, by Facetime, etc.) Allow this person to steady you until you’ve reached the other side.
4. Don’t rush.
There may be times when you need to slow down or even pause and regroup: maybe you need a new strategy, maybe a fresh wind is blowing and you need to wait for it to calm, or maybe you just need to collect your thoughts. No professional wire walker runs across…. he takes his time, pauses when necessary, is constantly adjusting and is patient. There is no timeline on resilience.
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Unsteady times are a part of life for most of us. While we can’t avoid them, we can survive them, and even come out stronger on the other side.
What helps you regain your balance?