This Strictly Seattle LunchTime Talk was conducted by Tonya Lockyer on July 20th, 2017.
Some stress is normal. Intensified stress can be a helpful warning system that signals us to respond to whatever is causing the stress. Avoidance of stress can also be unhealthy.
There are many different causes of stress. Change – even positive change like graduating from college or getting married – can be stressful. We can experience unhealthy levels of stress from social anxiety, fear of conflict, perfectionism, procrastination, too many demands on our time, the current political climate . . . but we can also develop coping beliefs and practices that help us maintain balance. Here are some tools for managing stress day-to-day, during times of increased uncertainty, and before performances.
Build sanctuary into your weekly schedule. Have a regular time each week when you experience your idea of sanctuary—a favorite walk, a visit the library or gallery, a shared dinner with a trusted friend. Honor this time.
Practice meditative reflection. A simple, calming practice can be to recall a memory from your day for each of your senses. What did you touch? Taste? Smell? Hear? See? Feel? Try to remember it in detail. This can be calming before bed to quiet the mind and ground you in a positive experience of your body. Somatic techniques also help your body manage stress.
Make boundaries around social media. Take technology sabbaticals: turn-off your phone, or leave it in another room for a few hours, or a day. Or put your phone on airplane mode.
Make boundaries around email and computer time. Have off-line hours. Shondra Rhimes let’s people know she will not respond to emails sent between certain hours. I’m off-line 9:30pm to 8am and will not respond to work emails on my days off.
Surround yourself with people who support you and your creativity.
Take yourself out on artist dates. Once a week honor your creative self and take yourself out on a date, just you and your artist. This can be a time of play, studio time, an unplanned adventure, or wandering through a favorite bookstore. Find things that feed your creativity and pull you out of your regular routine. (Be supportive of yourself.)
Plan how to solve a problem. When you face a challenge think realistically and productively about what steps you can take to solve it. Then take it step by step, one action at a time. Tips for time management: Pinpoint and focus on your priorities by making a list of ‘all the things’ and asking yourself: What actions are critical and time sensitive? What actions are important but aren’t time-sensitive? Then let go of feeling obligated to immediately spend time on actions that are not critical or important. You’ll discover many of them take care of themselves. Let go of worrying about the things you can’t control.
In Times of Increased Stress
Maintain your consistent routine and engage in healthy activities. Try not to withdraw. Notice what activities induce feelings of well being for you. Breathe and stretch.
Practice acceptance. Try self-soothing strategies like taking a walk, meditating, mindfulness exercises, listening to music, or whatever you find helpful. It is now time to prioritize taking care of yourself.
Practice reflection and pay attention to your early warning signs. Allow yourself some time to reflect on your reactions, your personal history, and ways that your values and well-being feel threatened. If you can watch your own reactions to stress, you can then address them. This might be a tightening of your throat, tension in your muscles.
Seek community. Sharing experiences and ideas with others can be a way to strengthen positive community values and shared identities. (Note: times of stress are times to create and/or solidify bonds, rather than to heighten anxiety by engaging in conflict.)
Limit your intake of news and social media. If you feel distressed, for the moment, limit your consumption of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and social media sources that may be full of distressing material, or triggers.
Be thankful. Jotting down things you are grateful for can help you maintain perspective. The list will remind you of the people and things that give you strength and support.
Visualize your ideal experience. Visualization trains your neuromuscular system. See and feel yourself having an optimal day: walking into the theater, getting ready, standing in the wings, beginning, and moving thru every step of the performance.
Warm-up to get in the right ‘head-space’ and state of readiness. Readiness is relaxed, focused and alert awareness. What is the best preparation for you? Many strong performers I’ve known took naps before shows (one even in the wings.) As dancers careers develop they often explore somatic practices to release areas of unnecessary tension and connect to sustainable strength and resiliency.
Focus on what you have control over. Your job isn’t to try to read the minds of your audience. Your job is to be as present as possible so you can fulfill the performance. If you’re trying to anticipate your audience’s response, you are pulling focus away from the task at hand – dancing.
Focus on intention. Consider dedicating your performance to someone or something beyond yourself. Remember why you’re doing this. Enjoy it.
I hope this is helpful to you. Wishing you health, peace and creativity,