It's a scene often seen in movies. There's a nervous guy trying to impress a pretty girl. He gets up the courage to walk up to her, and suddenly everything goes wrong. He trips, or he knocks over things, or he accidentally drops all of his books/papers; he becomes extremely clumsy, and the subsequent embarrassment causes him to run away from his bravery.
Extreme clumsiness isn't necessarily an anxiety symptom, but it really can occur as a result of anxiety, and for some people that clumsiness can actually reinforce their anxieties and make them afraid to show bravery in their life.
Clumsiness = Anxiety?
Being clumsy is a normal part of life. The real question is whether or not your anxiety is affecting your happiness. Learn more about your anxiety and how to cure it forever with my free 7 minute anxiety test.
How the Body Becomes Clumsy
There's nothing inherently wrong with being "clumsy." Dropping things, tripping over things - these things happen. Don't worry too much about your clumsiness - worry about your anxiety, because if you could live free of anxiety, being clumsy would be one of the least important things in your life. Take my free anxiety test to find out more.
But for those that live with anxiety, being "clumsy" really does happen. There isn't anything specific to anxiety that causes clumsiness necessarily, but there are many anxiety symptoms that make clumsiness more possible. These include:
- Distracted Thinking Clumsiness is more common when a person isn't fully paying attention. When you have anxiety, it's not uncommon to find that your mind is elsewhere, even if you're somewhat paying attention to your surroundings. Your mind can only handle a limited amount of attention. If some of that attention is placed on anxiety, than it isn't placed on your immediate surroundings, and that means bumping into things, dropping things, backing up into things, etc.
- Shaky Hands Shaking is also a very normal part of anxiety. You depend on your hands to be able to hold things firmly, but when your hands shake that immediately becomes more difficult. Indeed, not only are your hands shaking, but they are sometimes slightly weaker than they would be without anxiety, which can make it even harder to hold onto things or do things confidently.
- Sweaty Hands While not necessarily cause for clumsiness, anything that you're not used to can lead to dropping things, and so sweaty hands may be the culprit. Not only can sweat make things slip through your fingers, but sweat can also make things feel different when you try to grab them, which may cause you to be a bit surprised and loosen your grip.
- Anxiety Hesitation Anxiety can also cause people to give a few extra moments of hesitation that they wouldn't do otherwise. Usually this is because they're actually worried about dropping things or how to react to things, and so they take that extra moment before they do a task. Unfortunately, that hesitation can actually have the opposite effect, causing people to react too late and make more mistakes.
- Anxiety Overthinking Similarly, overthinking in general can have some effects on anxiety. Overthinking is the act of being too much inside of your own mind. As the name implies, usually you're lost in your own thought or focused too heavily on your anxiety, your thoughts, or even the movements of your body. Nearly every movement in your body occurs automatically exactly how you want it to, when you want it to. When you overthink, some of these movements become manual, and often that leaves people much less coordinated.
It's also very important to remember that some degree of clumsiness is completely normal. Just because you drop things or knock over things doesn't mean anything is wrong with you, or that anxiety is causing it. People are clumsy all the time.
But when you have anxiety, you tend to notice this clumsiness often. In fact, you tend to feel like the effects are amplified. You get embarrassed, shamed, or worried, as though you did something wrong and that means something about you.
That's unfortunately something that anxiety does - internalizes normal mistakes and makes people believe that the mistakes mean something about them, or affect their lives in some way.
Are There Strategies to Overcome Extreme Clumsiness?
Awareness is of course the most important weapon against clumsiness, but sometimes that's easier said than done. The best thing to do is make sure that you're using strategies that make it harder for you to focus on your anxieties, so that being clumsy is less possible. For example:
- Intense Exercise/Jogging Exercise itself is actually known to be highly beneficial for anxiety, because it has the ability to create neurotransmitters that improve mood, tire muscles for reduced anxiety symptoms, and burn away stress hormone. But beyond that, exercise also clouds the brain (in a good way, of course) so that it's harder to focus on the way you feel and what you're doing, and you can go back to doing things naturally.
- Deep Breathing Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that some believe is very helpful for controlling anxiety and reducing some of the symptoms that can create extreme clumsiness. Deep breathing involves taking slow, controlled breaths with good posture, breathing in through your nose and breathing out through pursed lips, like whistling. Try breathing in for 5 seconds, holding for 3 seconds, and breathing out for 7 seconds. Repeat 10 times and see how you feel.
- Less Fear of Embarrassment Sometimes what you really need to do is focus on your fear of embarrassment, since that can often be where much of the anxieties that lead to clumsiness lie. This is usually the result of social phobia, which often requires its own treatments. One method that some people find effective is to embarrass yourself on purpose. You can do this by dressing up in a silly outfit and standing in the middle of a public park while handing out candies or asking people how they're feeling. At first you'll likely feel extremely embarrassed and fearful, but over time you'll get used to that feeling and learn not to fear it as much.
These are some basic strategies that can improve your clumsiness. Exercise may also have added benefits for coordination, in the event that you are a slightly naturally uncoordinated person.
I've also helped thousands of people control the anxiety that leads to clumsiness using my free 7 minute anxiety test. So make sure you take the test now if you haven't yet to find out more about your anxiety and how to cure it.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.