Why Winter Break is the perfect time for self-care
One of my favorite parts of working in the dance industry? Winter break! OK, I know that I sound like a kid who says their favorite school subject is recess, but it’s true! Having a week or two in the middle of the dance season to catch my breath makes a real difference for me, personally and professionally. Whether the first half of the season is filled with triumphs or challenges, by mid-December we have all earned a well-deserved respite and a bit of relaxation.
One of the core tenants of The Holistic Dance Teacher Approach is to hold space for our own well-being as dance teachers, choreographers, and studio owners or program directors. So often, we put all of our time and energy into our work: tending to our students, our companies, our businesses. But, as the saying goes, we can’t pour from an empty cup. If we fail to take care of ourselves, we simply won’t be able take care of the people and things that need our attention – and in the dance industry, there are a A LOT of people and things that need us!
Winter break offers us a chance to invest in some meaningful self-care – the kind that truly helps improve our well-being. In the middle of the dance season, Winter Break provides a brief but critical chance to think about our own needs, desires, goals, and dreams. Using that time to invest in meaningful self-care can help us refresh ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. We can let go of frustrations and issues that are wearing us down, and inspire us to start over in the new calendar year. Moreover, it can help us prepare for the business of the spring dance season by rejuvenating our passion for teaching and reigniting our creative spark.
My favorite winter break self-care strategies for dance industry professionals:
1.) Unplug (Yes, all of it!)
Ugh, this is a challenging one for me. I don’t think I’m terribly addicted to social media in my personal life, but professionally, I use it for everything. It helps me feel like I am a part of, and contributing to, a vital and vibrant community. I share my blog posts, teaching resources, and videos, connect with other dance educators in Facebook groups, find inspiration on Pinterest, and keep in touch with former students and colleagues on Instagram. However, we all know that social media has it’s downfalls. It’s easy to get caught up in our number of likes and views, in comparison and judgement. We know how damaging this can be to our sanity and our sense of self-worth. So, I challenge you to unplug from social media during your winter break. Allow yourself some time away from constant hustle of the feed and give yourself permission to disconnect and focus on YOU for a while.
2.) Embrace Solitude
As dance teachers, we spend a lot of time in front of a crowd. This can be fulfilling and energizing for the more extroverted among us, but my guess is that it leaves many feeling drained, especially by this point in the year. It can be difficult to find time to yourself during the busy holiday season, but I challenge you to embrace solitude wherever you can during your winter break. Find some time to read a good book, write in a journal, take a long walk, soak in the tub … or even just hide out in the bathroom for 5 minutes (no judgement here!). Even a single hour of alone time can give you time to pause, reflect, and recharge your batteries, but working several periods of solitude into your schedule throughout the break can be even more effective. As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” and time alone can be the perfect way to fill yourself up before the demands of a new dance season begin again.
3.) Encourage Inspiration
I don’t believe that inspiration can be summoned by any kind of magic spell, but I do think there are ways to encourage it to make an appearance. For me, inspiration most often comes when I am walking outdoors, especially in nature. There is something about the combination of fresh air and the steady pace of a long walk that opens me up to new ideas. A break from the routine of regular classes is a great time to discover ways to tap into your creative energy and summon the inspiration you’ll need for new lesson plans, class activities, choreography, evaluation methods, and more. If a walk doesn’t do it for you (especially with temperatures this time of year!), try writing in a journal, practicing yoga or mediation, reading poetry, or engaging in an activity you enjoy, like cooking or crafting. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box … I find building with my son’s legos a great way to unwind and channel inspiration!
4.) Release the Past, and Plan Ahead
It is definitely important to use your break time to rest, relax, and forget about dance life for a while. We need that time to clear our heads so we can return to the studio refreshed. However, using a small part of your break time to both make peace with the semester that past, and plan ahead for the future, can help reduce stress in the coming weeks and months. Reflect on the past year, but then let it go. Forgive yourself for any perceived mistakes, shortcomings, or failures from the last few months (or longer, as needed!). Then, make plans for the future. Take an afternoon to re-examine your curriculum, devise lesson plans, and get a head start on choreography for recitals and spring performances. A little jump start can go a long way in helping you feel more organized and excited for the semester, which undoubtedly will have a positive impact for your students. If you need some inspiration, check out my Resources page, which features great teaching tools like a lesson planning guide, a student journaling guide, observation worksheets for when students are sick or injured, and more!
5.) Remember Why You Do What You Do
In the day-to-day, the #danceteacherlife can be frustrating and frankly, it can even feel a little thankless at times. The hours are tough, it takes a physical toll, and students (and parents) have their challenging days. It’s important to take time to reflect on why we do what we do: we love dance, and we believe in the value of dance education. We know that the benefits of dance go far beyond grace and physical fitness; we’ve seen that students become more empowered, engaged individuals though the study of dance. We know that quality dance education helps students to become well-rounded individuals, by helping them explore their creativity, think critically, communicate meaningful, and develop empathy. We know that dance, as a community practice and an art form, benefits society in myriad ways. What you do, as a dance teacher, is critically important – you have a tremendous impact in the lives of your students. So take some time this break to do whatever helps you recapture your own love of dance – take a class, go out dancing with friends, see a performance, read a memoir from a favorite dancer – and go back into the studio inspired and ready to share that love with your students.
More wellness resources for dance industry professionals
The Holistic Collection of Creative Rest Activities for Dancers: Making time for creative rest activities in our dance classes, rehearsals, or personal practice is an important way that we can keep our minds, bodies, and spirits refreshed and ready for whatever the dance industry throws at us next. The 15 dance activities in this collection use a combination of improvisation, meditation, and somatic movement experiences to help you easily embrace creative rest in your own life, and share it with your dancers. You will love the physical, emotional, mental, and creative restoration that you’ll find through adding these creative rest activities to your lesson plans, warm-up routine, or workout schedule.
Wellness Collection Blog Posts:
- Winter Break Self-Care Practices for Dance Industry Professionals
- Summertime Self-Care Strategies for Dance Industry Professionals
- Saying No is a Sign of Wisdom, Not Weakness
- Respond with More Grace than Necessary – Especially to Yourself
- In a World Filled with Chaos, Choose Calm
- Choose a Rhythm that Enhances Your Life, Not a Routine that Stifles It
- Be A Light, So That Others Can Shine, Too
- A life lived for purpose yields more joy than a life lived for pleasure
- The World Needs More You
- Love in Action
- The Only Way To Do It…
- It’s All About the Transitions
- Your Self-Worth Is Not Determined by How Much Stuff You Do
- Don’t be afraid of stillness
- Never Let Your Blessings Start to Feel Like Burdens
- Hold On To Your Wins
- Celebrate Your Evolution!
Visit my Resources page for tools that support a holistic teaching and creative practice. Keep in touch by signing up for my quarterly newsletter, or join me on Facebook at The Holistic Dance Teacher.