It happens to the best of us – those moments when you feel unprepared for a feis, or the schedule of school work, practice, and shows has you completely overwhelmed.
Sometimes it’s something as small as a single step in your dance that you keep messing up, over and over, and the frustration becomes too much. Other times it’s the pressure of an impending major and fear or worry of injury or imperfection.
Stress can sneak up on an Irish dancer in all kinds of ways, and it can really take a toll on our relationship with dance.
But when those moments of anxiety or frustration creep in, there ARE things you can do to help keep the stress from getting the best of you.
(And don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to take a deep breath or count to 10 – although those have been proven to help!)
When we are in moments of high stress our bodies go into what’s known as a “fight or flight” response that causes blood to rush to our limbs making us physically tense. One of the best ways to relieve stress quickly when your in a tough situation is to ball up your hands into tight fists, and then release them.
Repeat this a couple of times and it will help some of that immediate tension dissipate. (This is a great one to do during dance class if you’re suddenly feeling really upset or frustrated over a step or a critique from the teacher).
(Again this goes back to blood flow and counteracting our bodies natural response to stress.) If you’re in class or sitting side stage at a feis you can simply act like your tying your shoes or looking for a missing crystal on the floor. Stay down there for at least 5-7 seconds and when you sit back up, take breathe and enjoy the calmer sensation.
Whether it’s going for a quick walk (even just to the bathroom) or running through a couple jump drills, movement will also help get the tension out of your body so your brain can relax.
It sounds funny, I know (see you’re smiling already), but laughter really is a fantastic stress reliever. So whether you have to excuse yourself to go watch a silly cat video, or keep an arsenal of funny GIF’s on your phone – take a moment to get yourself guffawing and things will seem a lot more manageable.
When emotions are REALLY running high or you’ve been working on the same frustrating step for an hour, know when to let it go. It’s okay sometimes to take a personal day, or leave a step and come back to it later. You will be MUCH more productive when stress is not clouding your mind.
Make a quick mental list of why you love what you’re doing, or the goals/reasons that your doing it for. It’s a sort of “counting your blessings” technique that tends to make worry disappear.
Oh and a little bonus tip – Not only do these tricks help with stressful dance situations, they can be helpful during holiday mayhem, school chaos, auditions, and beyond.
Photo credit: Image is courtesy of and belongs to author.
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