10 Back-to-School Self-Care Tips for Dancers
There’s something magical about this time of the year–that in between period when summer is drawing to a close and fall is just around the corner. Hot, summer nights dissolve into colorful fall leaves and there’s a tangible sense of newness in the air. Even though I’m not in school anymore (and sadly don’t have an excuse to buy new school supplies) there will forever be something exhilarating about the promise of September. I always try to hold on to that excitement for as long as possible, but as reality sets in and my days become longer and busier, stress inevitably begins to build up. As dancers, we have so much on our plates–juggling long hours in the studio with various other commitments, whether that’s logging study hours at the library or working your side hustle to pay the bills. Out of necessity, dancers become masters at time-management and squeezing as much productivity out of 24 hours as possible. However, that can often mean that taking care of ourselves falls to the wayside. The busier we are, the less we tend to focus on our personal needs and being kind to our body, heart, and mind. Below are ten self-care tips that you can incorporate into your day-to-day life for a healthier, happier you.
1. Cool down
Don’t underestimate the importance of stretching and cooling down after a dance class or rehearsal. When I’m in a rush, I tend to rush out of the studio and always regret it the next morning when I wake up feeling tight and sore. Pointe Magazine shares some cool down exercises that are great for ballet dancers here. Trust me, your body will thank you tomorrow!
There’s nothing better than treating yourself to a massage. If it’s not in your budget to splurge on a massage, look into Groupon options in your area or invest in a hand/foot roller like this or this. In a pinch a tennis ball will also do the trick!
3. Quiet time
How often do you ever take a moment of quiet time just for yourself? Throughout the day we’re constantly focused on what’s next and stressing about endless to-do lists. Try taking 5 minutes before class or rehearsal to center your brain and just sit quietly. Put on some soothing music and just be still with your thoughts. I’m always amazed how re-energizing and focusing such a simple act like this can be.
There are many benefits to getting outside the studio and cross-training. Not only will it help build your overall fitness, it will also give you a much-needed change of environment. Try taking a Pilates or Yoga class to strengthen your core and elongate your muscles.
5. Dance it out
There is arguably nothing better than having an empty studio all to yourself. Turn down the lights, play your most recent song obsession, and just dance it out à la Grey’s Anatomy’s Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang.
6. Take a bath
There is truly nothing better than a warm, pampering bubble bath after a long day to de-stress. Bonus points for lighting some candles, throwing in epsom salts/magnesium flakes for aching muscles, or testing out a new face mask.
7. Alternative body treatments
I’ve recently gotten into exploring alternative body treatments such as acupuncture and cupping to treat my chronic back pain. It’s a little intimidating to try at first, but I have experienced incredible results and significantly reduced pain from it. These treatments can sometimes be pricey so I recommend looking into community-based options in your area that offer a sliding payment scale.
Practicing meditation has been immensely beneficial for me, and has given me a fresh perspective both in and out of the studio. If you’re a newbie to meditation, I recommend downloading an app to get started such as Calm, Headspace, or Insight Timer. All three apps offer wonderful guided meditations that vary in length so you can squeeze in some mindfulness whether you have five or thirty minutes.
9. Break out of your comfort zone
About six months ago I found myself in a dance rut, craving to move my body in a new and different way. I happened to stumble across a salsa studio on my way home one day and spontaneously decided to sign up for beginner classes. I fell in love with it immediately. Exploring a new movement style outside of my comfort zone was both rewarding and invigorating.
10. Retail therapy
Finally, there’s nothing like good ole fashioned retail therapy to get you out of a rut! Splurge a little and treat yourself to a new leotard or pair of leggings for some added pep in your step next time you’re in rehearsal.
I hope you’ll find these self-care tips useful. As dancers, it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in constantly working and neglect to focus on ourselves and our needs. I try to make time for at least one act of self-care in my schedule each week, and it makes a world of difference in my daily motivation and productivity. Pick a few of your favorites from this list and devote some time to YOU this week!