Balance is a tricky skill.

Balance is a tricky skill.

If you’re like many people you balance easily. Riding a bicycle was an early thing for you. Likewise trying a skateboard or balance beam. Maybe you even are clever enough to use a unicycle or a slackline.

Not me — I’ve always been a little off kilter. I didn’t really notice it when it took me until I was 10 to ride a bike. I have trouble reading when cars are in motion — instant motion sickness. I hate being the passenger in a car unless I have something else to distract me (music).

In 2007, I started working in a 17-story building built on springs (the base of which was designed to withstand and “Rock-and-roll” in the case of a 7.0 earthquake). I realized I was motion sick. All day long.

It took a light bulb (literally) to help me reach this conclusion. Buildings that move in response to Earthquakes also tend to sway in the wind — not much, but enough so if you are sensitive to this you’ll know. Here’s an example of a window blind rod moving back and forth in response to a swaying building:


So what do you do if you suffer from an invisible malady that few people ever experience? It’s not really effective to say: “it feels a little like the feeling you get when you’ve been on a roller coaster, at a low level, and all of the time.” It’s more effective not to mention it and do find simple everyday tricks to make it better. (Yes, I know that some causes of motion sickness include diet and illness — my diet is fairly clean except for COFFEE and “slight motion sickness” has never triggered any health worries — though allergies sometimes make this wax and wane.

What makes motion sickness better?

The solution was simple: a BioBand, a $12 bracelet that hits a pressure point on the inside of your wrist. (It works — if you’re wondering, the next time you are riding in a car or a bus as a passenger, go ahead and press and hold your left index finger in the middle of your right wrist about 2–3 finger widths from the base of your right hand). Wearing one of these made working in the tall building feel completely normal.

Bioband —

Motion sickness is a chronic condition. And there are things you do to make it better. Some of them involve changing the way you think about a chronic condition.

This is not a story about how I cured my motion sickness. This is a story about increasing mindfulness. The point is that up until I realized this was an issue for me, I didn’t even know it was affecting other things in my life. I’d always been afraid of heights — it turns out that motion sickness had a lot to do with it. When I traveled I often felt sick inexplicably — again, motion sickness played a role. I knew I needed to do different things in my everyday life to cope. Here are a few of them that work for me.

2x Daily Stretching, and Active Standing

It turns out that simply stretching twice a day really helps both flexibility and the perception of motion sickness. I’m not sure if it’s in my head or if the flexibility itself helps with the balance, but it works. Adding to this is frequent use of a Standing Desk.

Stand More

I’ve been using a set-up like this at home (and now at work too ) for about 3 1/2 years.

My typical routine is to stand about 2/3 of the day — it’s not perfect and I haven’t maintained it every day at work, but I do end up standing much more than I would otherwise. One key activity that happens when I stand is that I shift my weight frequently or otherwise fidget. It’s less noticeable when standing, and I figure it’s just a byproduct of active movement — keeping me from losing my balance.

So when the folks from Fluidstance asked me to try out their Level balance board (they provided me with a Level for this review), I was intrigued and wanted to try it out to see if practicing my balance in a gentle way would improve my motion sickness and generally make me feel better.

Nope, I don’t have a control group — it’s hard to test against my own experience, but here’s what I found.

Movement is Natural and Easy

When I stepped onto the Level, I thought it was going to be like riding a skateboard — something I’ve never been able to do well — but it was more like a very subtle balance board.

I’m typing and balancing right now — and except for the occasional rock back and forth or side to side I don’t really notice — and the cool thing about that is that I don’t realize I’m doing any work until I step off the board. I’m on Day 2 at the moment, so it could just be the novelty of trying Level. But I think it’s something more interesting than that.

Making a habit starts small: something like the commitment of stretching twice a day. I’m not sure that I would want to use this board all day and every day. But I definitely can see myself using it more than once a day as a way to loosen up, stay engaged during a meeting or a call, and generally move more than I would otherwise.

Getting more balance is a process. I continue to work on that process — and find new things to try along the way.


One thought on “Balance is a tricky skill.

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  1. Nice post! I suffered from a similar issue with my work environment, only it was caused by the data room. My office was located directly across from it. In addition to freezing temperatures, I went home nauseous everyday due to the vibrations. Everyone thought I was nuts. I started wearing the wristbands, and thus concluded I had motion sickness. I moved to another office about 40 feet away and my nausea disappeared. I had no idea I was that sensitive to motion. Thanks for sharing your story and the balance ideas.

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