Why self-care matters – especially in the summer
Hello, Sweet Summer! Hopefully, you are getting ready to enjoy at least something of a break – or at least a change of pace for the summer months! If you are in the “done club” and ready to enjoy the season, I invite you to take some time to consider ways that you can take care of your most precious asset, your own health and wellness.
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!
The summer is a great time to invest in some meaningful self-care – the kind that truly helps improve our well-being. After a hectic dance season, the slightly slower summer months afford us a little time and space to think about our own needs, desires, goals, and dreams. Using that time to invest in meaningful self-care can help us recover physically, mentally, and emotionally from the past dance season. We can let go of issues or circumstances that left us hurt or frustrated, and make peace with any perceived mistakes we made or things we think we failed at. Moreover, it can help us prepare for the coming dance season by rejuvenating our passion for teaching and reigniting our creative spark.
My favorite summer self-care strategies for dance industry professionals:
1.) Take a break. A real break.
I know, it feels impossible, especially for studio owners who own a business, choreographers who show work at summer festivals, or dance teachers who rely on a consistent teaching schedule to make a living. There is always so much to do: lessons to plan, choreography to lay out, schedules to organize, emails to reply to, social media accounts to maintain, clients to keep happy. Not to mention the fact that it can be tough to turn off our creative brains at any time of year! But the best gift you can give yourself is the gift of time – time to relax, enjoy life beyond the studio, connect with family or friends, or even just to be alone. Breaks are critical in preventing burnout, maintaining physical and mental health, and restoring creativity. Even if you can’t afford to take the week alone on a tropical island that you have been dreaming of, you can try:
- Taking an afternoon off every week.
- Planning a weekend staycation with your family.
- Getting a change of scenery by going to visit an out of town friend for day or two.
- Giving yourself a one-night “retreat” at a hotel with a nice pool in town.
- Camping out in your backyard.
- Closing the studio on Saturdays for the summer.
- Taking a weekly hike somewhere peaceful.
- Unplugging from email and social media for a few days.
2.) Create something just for you.
After a busy season of creating choreography for recital, concerts, and competitions, you may be thinking: “The last think I’d like to do is make another dance right now, thank you very much!” And if you are thinking that, I honestly don’t blame you. But there is a big difference between creating something just for you, and making a dance for other people (like your students), with other people’s goals in mind (like winning a competition, or making parents happy at a recital). This summer, try creating something just for you, without worrying about what other people think of it. Maybe it is a piece of choreography that’s been rattling around in your brain for a while, or the first chapter of a novel, or painting. It is a great way to reignite your creativity and get inspired for next season!
- Try these summer-themed #ChoreographyAdventures to ignite your creativity: 9 Choreography Adventures Inspired by Summer
- Let The Holistic Dance Teacher Choreography Bundle help you find new sources of inspiration, improve your choreographic skills, and organize your creative ideas!
3.) Invest in your education.
Dance is a constantly evolving field. New research is always being released in the areas of pedagogy, child development, injury prevention, and dance and neuroscience. This research can inform the way you teach, leading to healthier, happier, and more adaptable dancers. To stay up to date, it is vital for even the most seasoned of teachers to continue their own education. Summer can be the perfect time to take an online class, attend a workshop or conference, or finally read through some of those dance books piling up on your nightstand! Taking some time to invest in your education can help you feel even more confident and capable when the new dance season starts!
- Check out my Recommended Reading Blog Series: Books on Choreography & Creative Practice, Books on Dance Pedagogy and Teaching Methods, and Jazz Dance Books
4.) Reconnect with your love of dance – and be inspired!
By the end of the school term, I always find myself on the verge of burnout. I love what I do, but the relentlessness of the schedule, especially at the end of the year, can really wear me down! Summer, then, is a great time to reconnect with my most basic love of dance and find inspiration to take into the next season. Remind yourself why you got into this business in the first place: because you love, and find great joy in, the art of dance!Some of my favorite ideas include:
- Take a dance class, or if none exist near you, try to organize a weekly meet-up of other dance teachers or alum from your studio and take turns leading class for one another.
- Go to a professional dance show, or be inspired by online videos. Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive is one of my favorite archival dance sites, full of incredible dance videos from some of the world’s greatest choreographers and dance companies!
- Catch up on all the articles you flagged in your email or saved on social media as you put off reading them during the hectic the school year.
5.) Allow yourself some physical recovery time.
Teaching dance is an intensely physical job. We can be on our feet for hours at a time, often demonstrating the same movement over and over again. We usually do not afford ourselves the luxury of a proper warm-up or cool-down, even though we preach the benefits of both to our students. It can all take a physical toll on our bodies. Over the summer, invest in your physical recovery:
- Make time in your schedule for bodywork, such as Pilates, yoga or Gyrotonic.
- Start a regular stretching practice. Engage in gentle cross-training, like swimming or walking.
- Treat yourself to a massage or reflexology. You may be able to trade services with a local practitioner if this seems out of your budget.
- Try the movement practices in The Holistic Collection of Dance Activities for Creative Rest. These gentle activities will help you find physical, mental, emotional, and creative rejuvenation.
6.) Make a self-reflection routine.
One of the most creative and satisfying times in my life was the 2 year in graduate school during which I kept a regular journal. I truly believe that taking the time to reflect, write, and find stillness each day made me a better dance teacher and choreographer. Unfortunately, life as a mom of young kids no longer allows for long mornings spent reflecting and doodling while savoring a cup of still-hot coffee. Instead, I am working on new ways to make self-reflection a part of my daily life in simple, manageable ways. I keep a small notebook in my purse so that I can jot down ideas and thoughts as they come to me. I take a few moments before and after I teach to set an intention for the class and think about what worked and what didn’t. I turn the radio off in the car from time to time, allowing myself some quiet time to think. These simple moments allow me to grow as a teacher and artist without adding extra work to my life!
- Check out The Holistic Guide to Goal-Setting for Dance Teachers and The Holistic Guide to Journaling for Choreographers, tools to make self-reflection a regular part of your routine this summer, and beyond!
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.