Whenever someone brought up the term “self-care” I used to think about going to the spa, drinking a cup of tea, or taking a nap. While I love all of those things and I think those are awesome forms of self-care, I want to emphasize some of the smaller things everyone can do to make sure they are happy and healthy – especially as it pertains to dancers! Even though these may seem like minor things, they are still just as important. You may not always have time to nap or go to a spa every day, but you can still make sure you are at least doing something to keep yourself sharp. Below is a list of some activities and mindsets dancers should keep in mind in order to keep their minds and bodies healthy:
First of all, make sure you are drinking water every day. Not only should you be drinking it during practice, but outside of practice, as well. If you notice that your muscles start to cramp up or if you are getting slight headaches during or after your lesson, you may not be getting enough water. If you need to, carry around a water bottle with you as much as you can so that you remember to drink up!
Don’t Forget to Eat
Everybody is different, so I can’t tell you exactly what to eat to stay healthy, but I will tell you that you must eat something before you dance. Of course you don’t want to have a huge meal before practice time, but if you dance on a completely empty stomach, your body will not be happy. Food is fuel for your body, and you burn quite a bit of fuel when you dance, so you have to make sure you have enough to keep you going. You can even bring some snacks with you to your class or lesson so you can recharge during your down-time.
Bonus: Snacking on fruits and vegetables is a good way to get energy AND to stay hydrated, too!
As dancers we may have a tendency to want to push ourselves. This is a good mindset to have, but it becomes a problem when we push ourselves to exhaustion. Remember to take a minute and breathe when you get tired. For those of you who spend more than a couple hours a week dancing, this is especially important for you. When you feel out of breath, are you taking a few minutes to rest? When your feet start to hurt, do you take the time to sit down for a while? If your body hurts, do you acknowledge it and step away from the dance floor? If you work up a sweat, do you make sure you cool down? If you answered “no” to most of these questions, then you definitely need more breaks.
Bonus: If you haven’t taken a vacation in a while, consider it. Even just a few days away from your regular routine, might do you some good!
Extra bonus: If any part of your body becomes extremely painful while dancing, don’t ignore it! Check in with a doctor or professional.
I don’t know a dancer alive who can perform well if their bodies are cold. If you go to practice knowing that you are going to be doing some high-intensity movements, you may want to warm up a bit first. A nice warm-up can prevent injuries. You know what work best for your own body, so just make sure you are doing whatever you need to do to feel ready to dance, whether it is a few stretches, a quick walk, or a few jumping jacks. Also, if you end up taking a break during your practice time, try to keep your muscles warm. Bring along a jacket or sweater in case your studio keeps the AC high (most dance studios like keeping the temperature very cool).
Track Your Progress
If you are taking your dancing seriously or are a competitive dancer, it is a really good idea to keep track of your progress. It’s a great way to look at what you’ve accomplished so far and to review things that you want to improve. Many dancers keep a journal so they can easily review notes. Other dancers make a habit of video recording themselves and reviewing it later. If you don’t like either of those methods, taking mental notes can be good, too. You can also ask your peers and instructors to give you some personal feedback. Even if you are just a social dancer, it’s fun to take note of how far you’ve come with your dancing over time!
Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
Even though it’s good to set goals and work hard to achieve them, make sure you aren’t stretching yourself too thin. Recognize what you can realistically achieve and don’t try to do something just because everyone else is doing it. One of the worst things you can do is compare yourself to others. Everyone has a different pace and operates at different levels, so you can’t judge yourself based on what someone else has done. Set your goals based on what you know will work best for you and your dance journey. Even if you don’t reach a goal right away or perfect a step on the first try, don’t beat yourself up about it. You can always keep trying!
Remember That You Are Awesome!
Overall, dancing should be fun! Even if you are the competitive type, it’s important that you are still enjoying yourself. If you do find yourself thinking negatively or being too hard on yourself, just think about the progress you’ve already made. Some people may not really be into the idea of “positive affirmations”, but reminding yourself daily of how awesome you are can actually be a great mood booster and can motivate you even further.
Happy dancing! ^_^