This time of year can be very busy for ballet dancers. Nutcracker is only months away, audition season is coming up, and school is in full swing. As a result, stress levels may reach a high. However, if you go into the coming months with some knowledge of how to handle the impending craziness you’ll be a lot more likely to enjoy yourself and stay stress-free. Here are some tips on keeping calm both in and outside of the studio.
Meditation: A very popular way to cope with stress, meditation helps to retrain your brain to cope with stress as well as reduce overall stress levels. Try taking a few minutes every day to simply focus on your breathing, let your thoughts wander, or simply clear all thoughts from your mind. Need a little extra help? Try downloading a meditation app that can help lead you through a guided meditation.
Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins, which improve your mood. It can also have a meditative effect, allowing you to focus on your activity instead of other preoccupations. Even if you’re dancing all day, try to incorporate some extra exercise into your day, such as cardio, yoga, or just a simple walk around the block.
Time Management and Sleep: Try using a calendar, planner, or phone app to manage your appointments and plans. If you know where you have to be and when, you’re less likely to miss appointments. Procrastination often results in unnecessary stress, so avoid it altogether! Use a to-do list to keep yourself on top of chores, homework, and other obligations. Also try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. You’re more likely to feel stressed and anxious if you’re tired. With plenty of sleep, you’ll have the energy to tackle the day’s events and will be in a better overall mood.
Surroundings: Studies have shown that having excess clutter in the house can trigger anxiety and stress, so keep your living areas neat and clean. The colors you choose to decorate with can also have a psychological effect. The most calming color is blue, which tends to reduce heart rate and blood pressure. Other muted and soft tones work as well.
Social Life: Having a strong support group of friends, family, and teachers can come in handy when you need someone to reach out to in times of stress. Don’t be afraid to reach out to this support group when you’re stressed. You’ll probably feel much better once you’ve gotten your worries off your chest.
Perspective: Even when life gets hectic, try to maintain a positive perspective. If you keep focused on the bright side of every situation, you’re more likely to be able to cope with whatever life throws at you. Psychologist Martin Seligman hit the nail on the head when he said, “Life inflicts the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist as on the pessimist, but the optimist weathers them better.”
Electronics: Take a break from the electronics every once in a while. When using electronics, there is no way to completely separate yourself from external stress, news, and outside communication. In addition, turn off electronics fifteen minutes before going to bed. Staring at a cell phone right before bed can delay the production of melatonin production, a hormone necessary to fall asleep.
Diet and Nutrition: What you put in your body has a direct effect on how you feel both physically and psychologically. By eating a healthy diet you will have more energy, your body will feel better, and your mood will be better. If you’re feeling stressed, try eating blueberries, salmon, or almonds, all of which are natural stress reducers. In addition, avoid drinking an excessive amount of coffee. Consuming too much caffeine can make you nervous, anxious, and can eventually lead to a crash.
Natural Remedies: There are many supplements that can reduce stress and promote relaxation, such as passionflower (increases relaxing gamma-aminobutyric in the body), vitamin B (fights fatigue and helps relaxation), valerian tea, and magnesium, among others. If supplements aren’t your cup of tea, try getting a massage to relax your muscles, reduce pain, and increase your circulation. Aromatherapy is another common form of treatment for stress, with lavender, cypress, and rosemary being the most effective scents.
(Remember, always consult with your physician before starting a new fitness regimen or taking new supplements.)
Here’s to a relaxing, fun, and stress-free year!
Contributor Caroline MacDonald, an intern at Barre, is a Portland, Oregon native who moved to Pittsburgh this year to dance in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Graduate Program. As a lifelong vegetarian, she has a great interest in living a healthy lifestyle through exercise and good nutrition. Caroline loves to cook and runs her own vegetarian food blog, Caroline’s Kitchen.