“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow” – Melody Beattie
Passion, defined as ‘a strong and barely controllable emotion’ is what drives us as performers. We are so passionate and driven to achieve our greatest dreams that we often overload ourselves, pushing to the limits and frequently taking on more than we can handle. It is difficult between classes, rehearsals and meetings, as well as other daily tasks that we commit to like our stretch routine and extra training sessions, to factor in time for self care and rest. It is important that we try our best to do this and make time for ourselves in order to avoid burnout. Emotional symptoms of burnout include feeling trapped or defeated, increased self doubt, procrastinating, feeling overwhelmed and feeling more tired and drained. Burnout is an effect of chronic stress and physical side effects include headaches, intestinal issues and stomach aches. In this month’s issue, I will provide you with some helpful tips to help you to look after yourself properly and make sure that you can prevent burnout and reduce the effects if you happen to experience it.
I would like to begin with journaling. This is something I have done since starting my training at Performers College last year when I was given a journal as a part of my welcome pack. I decided to write about my day every night before bed, including the good, the bad and the incredible. This has been so beneficial for me and has really helped me on my mental health journey as a dancer. You can purchase journals all across the internet or a plain notebook will also suffice. It is a good way to release emotions and let go of what is troubling us, as well as having a documentation of your achievements in which you can revisit when you need reminding how amazing you are. It can sometimes be difficult to think about what to journal about so here are some prompts. You can discuss what makes you unique or what was the highlight of your day. What made you smile today and what can you thank your mind and body for. Do you have any limiting beliefs and how can you alter these to become more positive affirmations? That leads me onto my next subject; affirmations and gratitude.
I must admit when first introduced to the idea of affirmations and repeating quotes to yourself and the universe I was not entirely convinced however, I have personally found it very motivating. By repeating affirmations and presenting what you really desire into the atmosphere you can rewire the negative self-talk and allow your mind to truly love yourself again. Everything begins with the mind and mental health is something we still seem to struggle to discuss within the arts. I love affirmations now and the journal that I use, which is the ‘6 minute diary’ I purchased from Amazon, requires me to write an affirmation for the day every morning when completing the morning section. I often think about what I want to achieve and what I need to start believing again when deciding what to write. Affirmations can be as simple as ‘I love my body’, ‘I am at peace with myself’, ‘I am successful performer’, I am a strong dancer’, ‘ I trust that my path is unfolding to my highest good’ and my personal favourite, ‘I am enough’. This has been the one quote and affirmation that has resonated with me the most during my journey. Affirmations help to keep you centered and focused on your goals. They can assist you when overcoming self sabotage and those days when you ponder over if a life in the creative arts is what you truly envision for yourself. Keep going, you’re doing better than you think.
Connecting with nature is another popular way to practice self care. Simply taking a walk and listening to the beautiful sounds we are surrounded with can bring a sense of calm and serenity. Getting the vitamin D into your body from being indoors and increasing your serotonin levels can boost your mood and wellbeing when you feel on edge.On your rest and self care days, you do not need to do intense exercise, simply stretching, walking or practicing yoga and mindfulness is enough. I must admit, I am one of those “Look at the pretty sky” people at every moment where there is a stunning sunrise or sunset. Engulfed by the complexity of life we forget the beauty we are surrounded with and take everything for granted. I love it when I have woken up at 6AM ready for an 11 hour day at college and I arrive at the building and before I leave my car, the sky is filled with orange, pink and purple tones. I like to take a moment to forget how tired I am or how sore my body is and simply just appreciate the view. This might sound ridiculous to you but you never know if you don’t try.
Another quick tip is to take care of your body as well as your mind. Take a hot shower to relax your muscles, use a foam roller or lacrosse ball to increase blood flow and release tension or get out your hot water bottle to provide yourself with some comfort. My long YuYu hot water bottle has been my best friend recently. It helps me to relax when I feel my body has reached its limits and I physically cannot give anymore.
My final tip is to put more time into your hobbies outside of performing. If you are planning to or are already in professional training, I’m sorry but performing is no longer a hobby, its your career so finding something else is crucial to help keep you steady. This is something I learnt when I started CAPA at the beginning of my dance journey. When I have time to myself I love to read my self help books or colour. I love getting out my freshly sharpened pencils and colouring in my favourite Disney characters in one of my many colouring books. I also love writing these blogs as I alway loved writing at school and it is a sense of escape. Another one of my hobbies is the gym. The majority may not understand this, however I know a few will, but gym is my therapy. Again it relates to the release of serotonin which boosts your mood and personally, I feel a great sense of escapism when I am working out and getting a sweat on without having to worry about the height of my leg or how many pirouettes I can do that day. I do also enjoy watching a musical once in a while now that I live in London. This helps me to feel inspired and it helps me to tap into all of the gratitude I feel that I am actually living in the heart of the musical theatre industry and living my dream.
My task for you this week is to take time for yourself, even if it is just 30 mins. Take that hot shower, read that book, watch that musical or tv show on Netflix and get up early to watch that sunrise. You are the most important person in your narrative, so make sure you write it how you want it to be written.
“You are stepping into the most successful season of your life, claim it”