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Learning to Juggle

Do you ever feel stuck?

Maybe you’re caught up in an unhealthy relationship and you aren’t sure how to end it. Or you’re in a job you’re unhappy with, but a career change would be a huge risk. Perhaps you’ve been afflicted with a disease or diagnosis that you didn’t ask for, but you must learn to navigate. Or you have a difficult decision to make with no clear answer. Maybe it’s just everything! Life can feel overwhelming and cause inertia in our lives – unable to move or change.

If this is where you are, know you are not alone! Everyone feels stuck at some point in their life.

So, what do you do when you feel stuck?

I have always loved figuring things out and learning new skills. When I was a child, Santa Claus noticed and gave me a set of juggling balls with an instructional booklet. When I graduated college years later, I took a temporary summer job. I subleased a little room in Atlanta and for the first time in my life was truly on my own. I happened to find those juggling balls at my parents’ house and brought them with me to my new apartment. I just kind of naturally started to pick them up and play with them.

I'd watch YouTube videos and practice. It brought me joy. It helped me feel accomplished when I would keep all three in the air for longer than 5 seconds. And it helped me feel relaxed after a crazy day. A win-win-win if there ever was one! I realized I would gravitate towards juggling whenever I was the most frustrated, whether it be with job hunting or trying to make decisions about what to do when the summer ended—and this was not a coincidence.

Years later, I still regularly try and learn new skills. I find I am a better version of myself and can work through situations with more clarity and logic when I parallel these more difficult problems with figuring out something less important. And there is science behind all of this!

Basically, when you learn a new skill, the myelin, or white matter, in your brain is strengthened, which increases the speed and strength of nerve impulses. As a bonus, learning new skills stimulates the neurons, which form more pathways allowing electrical impulses to travel much faster. This is like the biological side of the emotional win-win-win I mentioned before!

Learning to juggle, solve a Rubik’s Cube, cook, do handicrafts, do a choreographed dance —or any other new skill you can think of—will make your brain process data so much more quickly and efficiently. Finding something that interests you, grabs your attention, brings you joy, and keeps you engaged—no matter how frivolous it may seem on the surface—does wonders for your brain. You are then so much more capable of tackling the bigger, tougher stuff life throws at you.

Juggling was so silly to start with, but it did help me think through what I should do and find the energy to get myself “un-stuck.” Feeling stuck happens to everyone. For me, it was my career as a young woman. As frustrated as I felt, I know so many who would choose my situation over what makes them feel stuck. My situation wasn’t life or death. A lot of you reading this are living through much, much more difficult life circumstances. They make you feel more than stuck—they make you feel hopeless.

The cure for hopelessness is not juggling or a puzzle. But a way to move past the initial feeling of not knowing where to start can be helped along by, well, starting somewhere. And that somewhere does not have to directly impact what is making you feel stuck.

Give it a try!

The next time you feel stuck, you can get un-stuck, too! What have you always wanted to take time to learn but put it off for lack of time? Or what did you once enjoy, but gave it up because it seemed like a waste of time in the grand scheme of life? Things like gardening, embroidering, baking, woodworking, martial arts, puzzles, origami, watercolor painting, ceramics, and so much more! Just pick one and go for it! See how it affects your joy, your stress, and your ability to think through the sticky situations life throws our way.

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