Holiday Stress – A Balancing Act for Dancers
You can balance a sword or a tray of burning candles on your head – but can you balance your life for the next few weeks? The holiday season is upon us and that means good times, good friends and good cheer, right? Yes, but if you’re a working dancer, it can be a time of overwork and extra stress too. You can be torn between taking advantage of the party performance season and the needs and wishes of your family and friends who want you around. If that wasn’t enough, the physical stress of keeping up with your classes – whether you teach or are taking them – your workouts to keep you fit, and late nights performing make this a good time to talk about the antidote… rest and recovery!
Every serious dancer should have a supplemental exercise plan to keep up stamina, balance muscle strength and help prevent injury – and I hope you do! That’s what the Saturday Strength & Stretch DBQ is all about! The schedule disruptions of holiday work and play can really throw a monkey wrench into your routine. If you’re anything like me, when that gets disrupted, not only do I feel it physically, but I also feel guilty for “falling off the wagon”. Take a few minutes to step back and look at the larger picture. If your performance schedule is heavy for a few days, give yourself permission to skip a day or do half the volume – for example, 1 set of each exercise instead of 2 or 3 and less cardio time. This is usually my approach on days that are just a time-crunch, even if it’s not because of lots of dancing. Some exercise is always better than none.
If you work a day job, getting up early and performing late are not an ideal mix. In a perfect world we’d all take an afternoon nap! Look ahead at your week – if you can see that early/late scenario coming up, get some extra sleep in the 2 or 3 days preceding it and plan on catching up afterwards. Rest, both as sleep and as a refrain from exercise, lets the body make those small repairs to keep you going. Just like your house or car, if you let those “small repairs” go unattended, you can count on a big one down the road. Rest is as much a strategy for injury prevention as your supplemental exercise.
The other healthy habit that falls through the schedule cracks this time of year is good nutrition. I know I haven’t touched my stove all week and it’s not because I don’t love to cook! If you know you’re the type to make a frantic run for the golden arches when you’re pressed for time, think ahead. Pre-made hummus , pita and baby carrots in my fridge have saved me more than once from fast food! Keep fruit in a bowl in your living room, and grab one on the way out the door. (I learned this from my Mom – thanks Mom!)
Got back to back gigs? Yes, you need to fuel up in between. All that dancing depletes the stored glycogen in your muscles and it needs to be replaced before you hit the stage again. What happens if you don’t? You may find yourself passed out in your dressing room after your 1 am show. Ask me how I know this….
My solution is to keep a ziplock bag of dried apricots and raw almonds in my gig bag – and of course always some water. The apricots (or any dried fruit) are a compact source of carbohydrates for energy and the protein in the almonds (or other nuts) helps slow down the sugar rush to keep you from spiking. Of course, diabetic dancers will need to pay special attention and follow their physician’s advice.
Balance your activity and plan ahead to keep your stresses from getting the best of you. I hope you are set up for a fantastic holiday with lots of bookings and fun shows as well as plenty of fun with your loved ones!
What stresses you out during the holidays? How do you deal with it? Tell us in the comments below…