Dance your worries away!
September 6, 2018
When you dance four to six hours a week, in addition to your eight-hour long school day, there really isn’t much time for distractions. Figuring out how to strategically slip your way into tights and a leotard on the 10 Freeway, so the driver next to you doesn’t catch a peek at you, was what was on my mind. My mother would drive me in rush-hour traffic from Pacific Palisades, where I went to school, to my classes at Burlington and Townhouse that started at 4:30 pm. It was only when things really slowed down that my mind would begin to pace, and thoughts about my peers, friends, school, and even family-at home drama would come flooding into my mind. I truly felt the most confident, poised, and organized when I was in the studio. I was unaware of how much I owed to dance for keeping me on track in many aspects of my life, including my stress and anxiety.
I was with everybody dance! for 11 years, so when I began college I instinctively signed up for two dance classes on top of my four academic classes, bringing me to the maximum amount of allowable credits I could take as a first-year student. This idea was quickly turning into a negative one. I was struggling to keep up with reading and finish regular assignments. As a first-generation student, I was not ready for the pressures of not only balancing my school work, but also battling homesickness, culture shock, and making friends. I began to dread going to dance class. I thought the time I spent in dance class could be used to catch up on my reading, hang out with friends, or SLEEP. No one had prepared me for this amount of responsibility, so my mental health definitely struggled with it too.
I decided to take a break from dancing the next semester to make room for other interests and focus on my school work. However, I did not realize that I would actually be doing a disservice to myself and my mental health. Having dance built into my schedule was like having a therapy session when the stressors of school and life in general began to overwhelm me. It wasn’t until I did not have that outlet to cope with my stress, that I realized how dependent on it I had become. Even when I was concerned about attending dance class and contemplated skipping; the times I did go, I immediately felt better. There is something about moving your body or focusing on bettering your technique and listening to the live percussionist or piano player (yes, shout out to the dance department at Goucher College!), that seriously transports you to another place. Attending class actually improved my focus, my ability to make decisions, and my overall mood.
Everyone knows that a little stress is good, as it propels you to complete tasks and stay motivated. However, when you are not taught how to properly manage your stress, you may find yourself feeling paralyzed from all the things you need to do, which can lead to more serious illnesses such as anxiety, mental fatigue, and depression. An article published by the American Psychology Association recommends physical activity as a way to manage chronic-stress, as moving your body releases “feel-good endorphins” that help your brain manage depression and anxiety symptoms (Alvord, Davidson, Kelly, McGuiness, & Tovian). Self-care is very on trend at the moment, therefore, I think we should all participate and build our schedules around that thing that makes us feel good. Dancing and moving in general definitely does that for me, so what I am taking from writing this is that I have to dance MORE, and you should too!
Evelyn Salazar // Administrative Assistant and Santee Dance Office Registrar & everybody dance! Alumni