I have recently completed the One Dance UK healthier dancer programme, a programme in partnership with that National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science about the ways we can look after our mental health. I wanted to write a blog post about the things that I learnt from the course as well as my own observations on how I can look after my mental health and check in on myself whilst hopefully helping some other people too. The course was about performance psychology and maintaining wellbeing for performers and athletes. This included wellness, resilience, and nurturing motivation. I thought it was an important topic to learn and talk about especially as the past week has been mental health awareness week.
There are many benefits of positive mental wellbeing for instance; faster healing time for injuries, better immune system and feeling a sense of self worth.
The course was led by Dr Irina Roncaglia (PhD CPsychol AFBPsS) so I have used her resources and teaching to inform this blog.
Some level of stress results in optimum performance, however, there are some risks to anxiety in the performing profession. You are more likely to incur an injury in a state of anxiety, anxiety can cause low self esteem and make you think negatively about yourself or give you feeling that you are never doing enough to achieve your goals. In lockdown, there are so many online classes on offer for performers, it is easy to feel guilty that perhaps you aren’t doing enough but you must remember that you don’t need to do every online class going! I tend to give myself regular breaks throughout the day as and when my body needs the rest, alternatives to doing a physical class may be watching a seminar, doing a hobby or having a snack to refuel.
Goals and creating a schedule:
Creating personal goals Is a really good activity to help manage stress, improve the quality of your progression and increase your motivation. I like to create goals for myself. I create longer term goals, a list of things I want to do/achieve in the coming months or within this year. I also set goals on a daily basis- writing out in my calendar a schedule for each day, containing classes I want to take, hobbies I want to spend time on etc.
Some advice from the One Dance programme was to act according to your schedule, not according to your emotions. If you are feeling low one day, start your plan and your mood will actually begin to lift. That being said, be willing to be more flexible when days are difficult and you have to adapt your schedule.
Make sure the plan isn’t a chore and you get some fulfilment out of completing your tasks.Try to find ways to achieve the goals you want to achieve and evaluate and praise those achievements, you have worked hard for something, so allow yourself to feel good about it when you achieve it.
Try to bring yourself back to the present moment, this is something which I personally need to do more of. It is important to forget about what has happened, what you can’t change and thinking about ‘ifs’ that may never happen. Focus on what you can control. Acknowledging that negative thoughts are there but focus on something positive. I am a perfectionist and always have been, I work so hard on projects and things that I care about and won’t settle until they are finished the way that I want them to be. As performers this is a common mindset, the wonderful nature of performing arts is that you can always improve in technique or creativity. Sometimes as performers it is difficult to understand that you are enough and not compare yourself to others. I try and regularly remind myself that everyone is individual and unique and everyone has something to bring.
Resilience is about overcoming adversity and bouncing back afterwards. A resilient person is not the person who has never faced difficult issues in their lives, it is the person who has and has grown from it and came back stronger. Resilience is a skill gained over time after dealing with perhaps rejection, failure or injury. Something I try and do is think about the positive in every situation. There is always something to be learnt from a bad experience. I like to practice a growth mindset and think of challenge as opportunity, evaluating situations, what went wrong, but more importantly how it can help me to move forward in my life. This is why risk taking is so important, we can learn from mistakes and become better versions of ourselves from them.
I learnt from the One Dance programme that there are two types of motivation; Intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within yourself, wanting to improve and better yourself. Automatic motivation is a type of intrinsic motivation where you are thinking about the positive outcome as an incentive to complete the task. Reflective motivation involves planning, and self evaluating. Extrinsic motivation comes from external pressures perhaps from teachers or society.
Usually the most difficult thing about motivating yourself, is beginning! However after you have overcome the initial hurdle it is much easier to sustain and keep up the work.
I try and remind myself that change happens over time. Something I have learnt throughout my training is that incremental change is what’s important, you don’t have to make massive leaps of progression day to day, bus as long as you work on something little and often, you will get better.