Hello, Sweet Summer! With the official start of the summer season last week, it’s my hope that all of my dance teacher colleagues 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 #doneclub 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.
Here are a few of my favorite self-care strategies for dance teachers to explore this summer:
- Take a break. A real break. I know, it feels impossible, especially for those who own a business or 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. Most of us need to keep teaching in some form over the summer, whether at camps or intensives, weekly classes or guest teaching. 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, be sure to schedule some down time into the slower summer months. Take an afternoon off every week, plan a weekend staycation with your family, or at least unplug from email and social media for a few days.
- Invest in your education. Dance is a constantly evolving field. New research is constantly 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!
- 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. 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. Read a biography of a great dancer or choreographer. Catch up on the back issues of Dance or Dance Teacher Magazine that you put off reading during the craziness of the school year. Remind yourself why you got into this business in the first place: because you love, and find great joy in, the art of dance!
- 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. Hopefully, this will lead to good habits that you can carry with you into the new dance season!
- Make 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 teacher and choreographer. Unfortunately, my life as a toddler mom 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!
How do you plan to take care of yourself this summer? Let me know in the comments or join me on Facebook at The Holistic Dance Teacher. For ideas and inspiration year round, sign up for my mailing list.