By guest blogger, Jess Spinner (The Whole Dancer)
Getting back to dance after the summer break or time off — it’s normal to feel like you have to go full force. There’s a pressure to get back to peak performance instantly. But it takes time. It’s so important to give yourself time to support yourself mentally and come back in a sustainable way.
To ensure that you’re supporting yourself mentally, there are some things you can set in motion. If you’re ready to move forward with less stress and find a semblance of the elusive “balance,” here are some ways to get started.
Set clear goals.
The most common advice is that goals should be SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. And while that’s not a bad place to start, it can be helpful to have some goals that are a bit more abstract or fluid as well.
Before you start goal setting, begin with a vision in mind. Where do you want to see yourself in the next year, 5 years, 10 years? Work backwards from there to craft some goals. Once you have goals in mind, you can devise action steps. That allows you to have a clear action plan to see your plans for dance come to fruition.
If you have any body-related goals in mind, it’s important to put the focus on how you’d like to feel in your body. Are you interested in dancing with more energy or lightness? Goals around your body should be more abstract and fluid. It’s so important to allow for change and flexibility in goals around your body.
Establish healthy, complementary routines.
Dancers are super busy, hence the feeling that you need to hustle. Morning and evening routines as well as daily practices for self-nourishment are a beautiful way to prioritize self-support.
Your morning routine might include a shower ending with a little burst of cold water to help wake you up. A quick meditation is a great way to start the day grounded. The morning is also a great time to set the tone for healthy, balanced eating and adequate hydration. Start off with a tall glass of water, then enjoy a meal that includes protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
In the evening, make restoration and relaxation the goals. Set yourself up for a good night’s sleep by putting screens away at least an hour prior to bed. Think about what your body needs and include foam rolling, physical therapy exercises, or a warm epsom salt bath.
Journaling throughout the day can have huge benefits for dancers. It’s a way to process thoughts or emotions, come back to your goals, and place greater attention on what’s going well. Incorporating affirmations can bolster confidence in stressful situations, and planning healthy meals and snacks will support your physical and mental health.
Find mentors who see your potential.
It’s possible you’ve had some teachers who made you question everything about yourself as a dancer. It’s my hope that you’ve also had some that made you feel like you could achieve all of your goals and more. Those are the ones to turn to for mentorship and support.
A mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be a teacher, but it has to be someone who makes you feel greater confidence in your abilities and potential. When I was dancing professionally, a friend who was a year ahead of me at Butler served as my mentor at my first professional job. She assured me that the stress I was feeling was normal and supported me through that professional dancing transition. Later, a teacher served as a mentor. He guided me through the career shift as I was starting my freelance career.
Mentors come in different forms, but you’ll know them when you meet them. Lean into those people who make you feel more self-assured.
Seek out additional support when you need more help.
There are times in your dance journey when the answer might be to take a break, seek support, or move on. It’s not always easy to identify those instances, but if you’re struggling with motivation, have lost your drive, or don’t feel the same sense of joy and fulfillment, it’s worth talking to someone outside of your circle.
Depending on the circumstances, a therapist, counselor, or health coach for dancers could be the best fit. As you explore your options, reach out to prospective support professionals to gauge who is going to serve your needs, goals, or struggles best.
Combatting the hustle definitely requires some intentional action. It is possible to dance at a high level with your mental health intact. Consider making that your #1 goal.
For more from Jess Spinner, visit The Whole Dancer.
Photo: Monica Welchman