MINDFULNESS:

WELLBEING IN DANCE & LIFE

12 August 2020

Maria Saraste

 

Each person is unique, and all people have thoughts and feelings; we are not machines. Sometimes we make mistakes, that is part of being human. Remember that you have value as a person, regardless of your achievments, when things are going great and when they are not.

 

Continue to work on your own personal development, and accept that development never follows a straight path upwards all the time. Growth happens in phases, stages. You growwhen you dare to try new things and see mistakes as a part of the learning process, something that you can learn from. Do not be afraid to lose or fail, this happens to us all. Each and everyone of us must fight on. Sometimes that may mean changing course and setting new goals.

Practise not comparing yourself with others. Focus on your own developmental growth. The others have their own developmental path. When we compare ourselves to others, we place far too much of our valuable energy on other people, instead of focussing on what we can work on within ourselves.

  • Place focus on the things that you can change, e.g technique, strength, stamina, expressiveness and energy.

  • Learn to accept that things you cannot change, e.g torso length, your hip anatomy (which among other things affects the range of your turnout).

Sometimes another dancer/person can act as inspiration, and it can be very constructive to see this person has "just" inspiration. However it is not constructive to compare yourself to them.

When we are perfectionists and are scared of ever making a mistake, then we stop developing. We are afraid to take risks, try new things and discover different ways of doing things. Take as an example new choreography that is outside of your comfort zone.

A) One way to react to this would be:

"Help, this won't work, I must get this correct immediately otherwise it will be a disaster. Everybody else seems to get the moves straightaway." These thoughts are self-critical and comparative, muscles become tense and the body becomes stiff, you dare not fully use the movements, test other ways to execute and perform the movements. It is no longer fun to be in the studio. 

B) Another way to react to the same situation would be:

"Ok, all new material for me, a challenge, the chance to learn something new and to develop. It will take some time before the choreography  "sits in" my muscle memory, in the meantime I will try, make mistakes and try again. I will make the best of todays repertoire class. Tomorrow will be a new day and in time I will get the hang of this new material.  Other dancers will have their own developmental journeys, I must remember to not compare myself with them; and give myself and others positive feedback now and again. It feels rewarding and exhilarating to be in the studio. It is not always fun, and that is ok. I know that training gives results over time."

Have reasonable, inspiring and achievable goals. It is ok to adapt your goals according to your development. Setting your goals too high can leave feeling dissatisfied. 

Remember that we all worry sometimes, have thoughts racing through our minds. Thoughts come and go in our lives, practice managing them, Note them, but try to not place such importance on them. Instead focus on the present. 

Try not to brush off these thoughts and feelings, that way you risk feeling unsuccessful, it is far more powerful to look at yourself with warmth and sympathy; instead of being overly critical - sometimes is it tough, for all of us.

Sometimes those thoughts repeat like a call from our inner self to react or solve something. If that is the case - Do It: react/solve the problem, and once that is done let it go.

Be considerate and respectful to yourself, show yourself that you are important. What do you like to do? What makes you happy? How do you feel? Which people do you get on with? What food makes you feel good, satisfied and calm? What environment do you prefer? Do what you want and not what others want you to do.

Sometimes we feel great, we're happy and feel strong, and othertimes we do not feel our best and are struggling. This applies to all of us, and is a part of being human. Remember to be nice to yourself when you are struggling, treat yourself the same way you would a good friend who is struggling. Be just as nice and thoughtful to yourself, with time it will get easier.

  • At the same time do not be afraid to seek help in cases where you're really having a tough time and are struggling; it is also a way to respect yourself, take yourself seriously.

Have other interests than dance, and meet people outside the dance community. That way both your body and brain get to take a break from dance. Often dance becomes more fun and rewarding when you are in the studio again. Also, in cases where you are injured, or miss an audition; whilst this will be a blow - you will find these situations a little easier to cope with when your life is more than just dance, life can still be meaningful.

6 Ways To Find More Calm.

  1. Take 3 large breaths, place the focus on the air filling your lungs, how the ribcage and stomach expand and contract. Attention to the present (mindfulness); look around you, listen, smell, feel the ground beneath your feet.

  2. Spend some time in nature or a park: sit or take a walk, without headphones. Use your senses to to focus your attention on the present (mindfulness).

  3. Each day has 24 hours, priortise how you will use your time, what do you need space for? Practise setting boundaries, saying no, so that you have the time to do things that make you feel good.It is not always easy to say no, but when we do this we stand up for ourselves and it strengthens us. Sometimes we need to do nothing, e.g lying on the sofa, taking a nap, drinking a cup of tea, watching a TV series.

  4. Practise giving postive feedback to yourself in dance and in life; and do the same with other people. Our brains are malleable and they are formed by our re-ocurring thoughts and expressions. Some examples to practise on yourself and others:- Good job! - now you have got the hang of that move! Great, today I overcame my fear and stood at the front instead of the back. Cool- I have stopped using my mobile late at night when I sleep! - It feels so good to eat a wellbalanced meal.

  5. What are you grateful for? It gives perspective to think about things that we feel grateful for. This does not mean that we deny the difficulties, but it make it easier when dealing with problems or accepting when things are tough. Write down 3 things that you are grateful for, 3 times a week. They can be about dance or life outside of dance.

  6. After each day in the studio, write down 3 things that went well/felt good. Throughout your dance life there will be these "eureka!" moments of development. Focus on your progress instead of being overly self-critical.

Maria Saraste lic.physiotherapist, specialist sports medicine, CBTtherapist performance arts

Works with The Royal Swedish Ballet and at Sergel Rehab clinic, Stockholm

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