Are you feeling overwhelmed? Physical, mental and emotional exhaustion got you down? Are shame and doubt your new best friends? Have you developed so much cynicism and callousness that one could interpret it as, an attitude? Does failure, helplessness and crisis haunt your waking moments and your dreams? Stay clam, what you are experiencing are the early stages of burn out and there are ways to help cope and get you through.
Let’s break it down my little black swaaaaaaaaannnn–
Stage One: Physical, Mental and Emotional Exhaustion. Your days are spent from 9 to 5 in a haze. You know you are at some place of work (or school) followed by an endless cycle of dance classes. When you get home you drop your bags, go from the door to the couch, turn on the television and muster up some drool for the rest of the evening. If you could speak, instead of the steady stream of grunts coming out of your mouth, you would articulate to your cat that you could be so much better, if only you had more time in your life for dance. Yet, the more you push yourself, it feels as though your dancing is just getting worse. Could the reality of this unrealistic schedule really be unsustainable?
Stage Two: Shame and Doubt. You’re in dance class. Your teacher asks you to demonstrate a new move or step. You want to… but this is more than insecurity, is this a panic attack? You may experience the feeling of astro-projecting out of your body and your confidence is trapped in a box. You can’t see your body moving right, even if it is. You start to wonder why you are in the class at all. A welling feeling is starting in your stomach and starting to ooze into your face. Irrational thoughts have taken over. You may wish to start screaming and crying. Please don’t. Save your sobs for a more appropriate time and place.
Stage Three: Cynicism and Callousness. You’re going to harden your heart, put up a wall between you and the pain and insecurity. You don’t give a crap about anyone but you. You’ve lost all sincerity and just told your best (
and only) friend ( left) she better get out of your way. Oops, now everyone thinks you’re a b**** and you have no friends. Your cat just crapped in your dance bag because it smells like a litter box. This in no way is going to lead to a downward spiral.
Stage Four: Failure, Helplessness and Crisis. What? You got all the way to crazy-town with nobodies help? How did you get there so fast? There is no longer talk you should go to therapy behind your back. It’s happening in front of your back. You’ve been running on fumes and your body is broken from going nonstop. You’re facing serious injury. You didn’t pace yourself. Uh oh.
How could you have stopped this?
- Don’t commit your entire social circle to dance. You need people in your life that aren’t in that world. They are your life line to reality. There is a big world outside the dance studio. There are other things besides dance that can make your life fulfilling. Friends and family that don’t want to just talk about dance are it. Make time for them, they will remind you of goodness and light, especially in the dark days.
- Don’t based your worth on what your teachers think of you. You are a good person. Remember those friends and family. They also know what you are capable of and believe in you. They know what else you have to offer and can offer you another sense of purpose. OK you’re not going to be the most amazing dancer in the world. There is only one of those anyway. Your friends and family love you no matter what your tondu’s look like.
- Do seek instruction from more than one teacher. No eggs in one persons basket. Did you notice in 2, I wrote teachers. Having all the hopes and desperate affirmation you need coming from one person. I don’t need to finish that, do I?
- If you can’t get a step or a move, walk away. Clear your head. Those neural synapses sometimes just need to reset. Getting action from the brain to the limbs is sometimes just not going to happen the first 30 times you try it. Move on. The next day you might wonder what all the fuss was about.
- Do have goals. Real goals. This week I’m going to improve my tondu’s. Attainable goals with an actual sense of accomplishment is the best way to foster and measure growth. When the small are many they are the strongest of the strong. When you look down at all those little munchkin goals you achieved, you might see you are standing like a giant.
- Pay attention to your body, listen and take care of your body when you are in danger of injury. Get a massage or take a hot shower, something to sooth aching muscles. Take breaks. Ten minutes, hour or even a day or two off is going to make the difference. If you are that tired and hurting, a break can only help. Rest those aching knees when they start to hurt, don’t just wrap them and swallow an advil. The pain is telling you something is wrong, listen to it. If the pain is that bad, go to a doctor before you need someone to carry you.
- Eat, drink and you will be merry.
This has been another Public Service Announcement from The Spinning Dancer.