No Time to Spend on Mindset?
Why you must prioritize your relationship with food, body image and your mind.
A big emphasis at The Whole Dancer and an essential step in TWD 7-Step Best Body Process is to focus on self-care. You might journal, meditate, do some yoga, connect with friends, stretch, veg out, take a nap, etc…it’s about taking time to support your mental health.
Dancers tell me they don’t have time for self-care activities. After all the classes, rehearsals, performances, cross-training, and PT, there’s little time for anything else.
Make the time for these “extra” activities so that all the time spent on the purely dance-focused “stuff” isn’t wasted. You’ll show up more fully in the studio and will advance more quickly both technically and artistically.
The other day, I had a conversation with a client about the investment her parents put into her dance career: working with me, dance classes, pointe shoes and leotards, plus audition fees, travel, and relocation.
She worries that if she doesn’t get a professional contract, her parents are throwing all that money away.
If they were only investing in the dance stuff, there would be a greater potential that the money would go to waste. Luckily, they are investing in support for their dancer as well. Without support, you can easily get burnt-out, feel stressed, and have an unhealthy relationship with food and your body. This can lead down a dangerous path.
With support on the lifestyle, health, and food aspects of her life, she is giving herself much greater chances to “make it” in dance and to be able to sustain that career once she’s there.
The dancers I work with have accepted dream jobs, switched companies with (relative) ease, and seen the payoff of putting time and attention on their minds and bodies with self-care activities. You can build massive confidence when you stop obsessing over food and being thinner. The dancers I work with know they have what it takes to succeed.
Don’t use up all your time on other things.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. When you feel like you have no time, it’s really important to look at where your time is going.
Dancers often spend a lot of time cross-training. In a lot of cases, your cross-training efforts would actually be more impactful if you cut back.
Use the time you get back from your cross-training routine to focus on your mindset and mental health. As a Health Coach, I also have to emphasize the importance of saving time for meal prep and planning.
Additional exercise is the last thing most dancers need to obsess over. Making the best possible food choices is essential, and a little time spent planning goes a long way.
Don’t tackle food choices before you look at your relationship with food.
Changing the way you think about food might have benefits for your body and your dancing. Some simple switches to meals might result in more energy, satisfaction, and even a positive mood.
However, if you try to just change and restrict different foods, it’s unlikely anything will shift in a long-term, positive direction. Don’t spend your precious time on a diet or prepping all the recipes on some meal plan not made for you.
Spend time on your approach to and relationship with food.
Do you view food as a support, need, and healthy desire? Are you able to allow for a balanced mix of health-conscious and indulgent meals?
If you thought “yes” when considering those questions, you’re in a fine place to make some food shifts. If you thought “no way,” then your relationship to food needs your attention before you change your food habits.
Spend time on body image.
A negative body image can make your career sad and super stressful and even ruin it. Rather than putting your focus on trying to change your body, put your focus on how you view your body.
No time to spend on mindset around your body? If you don’t find the time, you’ll easily stay in a negative place for a very long time.
Emphasize your strengths in your dancing over your body shape. Only wear the leotards, skirts, and tights that make you feel awesome. Donate or sell everything else. Stop walking into a room full of dancers and immediately comparing yourself to those around you.
When you feel like there’s a dancer getting tons of attention just because she’s skinny (or the skinniest), ask yourself, “What else is she doing well that they may be drawn to?” Try to let go of the need to get more attention from your teachers. Apply all the corrections, no matter what, and commit to your own healthy, personal growth.
Not sure where to start? Hire a Health Coach.
If you feel like you have no time to spend on mindset, hire a coach to help you.
There’s been a great deal of conversation around mental health and wellbeing in dance lately. This is wonderful; I hope it’s becoming very clear to you that the pressure of dance can be managed, and you don’t have to work through it alone.
For aspiring professional dancers: Find someone you feel comfortable confiding in. Seek out a coach or other professional who has had pre-professional and professional experience, so they understand deeply what you’re going through.
For professional dancers: Work with someone who’s been there. Someone who knows the ins and outs, the politics, the pressures.
For parents: If you don’t have much dance experience, find support for your child from someone who truly gets it.
Bottom line: You don’t have to feel alone as you navigate the dance world. Find the people who can help you create a positive mindset, balanced lifestyle, and easygoing attitude toward food.