Did your mum, or someone who cared for you growing up ever remind you to take an umbrella or an extra layer of clothing “just in case”? This advice seems prudent, even today, but I’ve noticed I can sometimes be too cautious, especially about movement.
In some circumstances, I have a tendency to be a bit wary, “just in case”.
To hold on to stair rails as I go up or down, “just in case”.
To take a quick look at my feet before walking on snow, rocks, or uneven ground, “just in case”.
To avoid lifting something a bit heavy, “just in case”.
To use the arms of a chair to push myself up, “just in case”.
Or even to go to the bathroom when I don’t have to, “just in case”.
Perhaps you’ve also experienced this “just in case” habit.
To be clear–there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being safe and doing what we can to prevent slips, falls or injuries.
Something I’ve noticed though is that this unconscious “just in case” habit can be a bit insidious, progressing to the point where we begin to avoid certain movements and activities because of fear or anxiety.
When we avoid movements and activities we’re afraid of, we become even more fearful, and we lose our ability to fully appreciate the joy in movement. Over time, our strength, balance and coordination declines. If we allow this avoidance behavior to continue, even a simple action like stepping off a curb can eventually become a challenging and dangerous event.
This decline is not a result of “getting old” and is not inevitable.
The body and nervous system are plastic, not static, and we’re all capable of improving our physical strength, power, vibrancy, balance and coordination throughout life if we choose to put focus and effort into developing these skills.
I’m definitely up for that!
As a result of my own “just in case” observations, I’ve become more aware of times when I’m experiencing anxiety related to a movement. Here’s a quick check-in I do when I’m aware I’m having a “just in case” moment. You might find it supportive for you too:
- Ask, “Is it appropriate to be cautious in this situation, or is this just a habit I created unconsciously?” Be as honest with yourself as possible.
- If your caution is genuinely appropriate, carry on!
- If the feeling of caution and the accompanying behavior are habitual but inappropriate, make a choice to change the behavior.
- This change may occur in a moment, or over time. You might just decide to stop using handrails altogether. In some cases, change is going to happen over a period of time.
- Make a specific plan for the actions you need to take to train the new behavior. For example, what do you need to do to be able to get up and down from a chair unaided? When are you going to train and how often?
Have fun discovering your “just in case” moments!