When You’re Thinking About Quitting Dance; unhealthy thoughts and habits

This isn’t a job, it’s hell with flourescent lighting. And non-waterproof mascara

For anyone concerned, no, the tornado In St. Louis has not blown me to Oz.

The biggest problem the weather is causing for me is how it affects my body. Call me crazy, but the switching back and forth between cold and warm is making the tendonitis in my hips flare up like crazy. Ouch.

And that dear friends, is the worst lead in ever to the article I’d like to discuss. I hope everyone has read the Health special on understanding chronic pain from the March 7th edition of Time Magazine written by Dr. Oz (THERE’S the bad word-play you’ve come to expect from me). There are also great articles on alternative treatments and living with pain by John Cloud and Claire Suddath.

not a happy camper!

This article is very important to me because I have recently become very invested in the link between mental and physical health. It is astounding how proper nutrition and sleep can change the chemicals within your brain and therefore stabilize your mood, help you focus and aid in the ability to make smart choices.

I read one article that said that getting a good night of sleep will lower your urges for unhealthy food. And people are likely to sleep better with lower amounts of stress…so it’s one big cycle of taking care of both the mental and physical. Quoting Dr. Oz,

“People with chronic pain are twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety as those without. What starts in your lower back eventually eats away at your soul. You enjoy your loved ones less, and you are less enjoyable to them. If pain affects body, mind, and spirit, then treatment must address these three pillars of the human condition”.

It makes sense to me; when my tendonitis is bothering me, dance is less fun, and I start getting into that ‘why the heck am I doing this anymore?’ feeling, I complain, and turn into groucho Marx (minus the mustache and cigar, more just groucho jess).  It’s funny how my aging anatomy can make me completely question my career choices. When my body hurts, my brain doesn’t function the same way. And it also works in reverse.

Honestly, this has been a terrible week for me. The end of my season with the ballet company is fast approaching and I’m not sure what I’m going to do once the last curtain falls. I’m starting to wonder what I’ll do beyond August too and it’s making me pretty anxious. I think it’s astounding how many physical health problems are really psychogenetic- meaning originating in the brain. If I had better peace of mind, I’d probably sleep better than I am right now, and I’d probably have an easier time with my meal planning and diabetes. I know that I have a particular weakness that whenever I get stressed about stuff, I turn it into really unhealthy habits. And it is that stress that over a year ago, made me take such improper care of myself that I had bleeding in my retinas and needed eye surgery. I really don’t want to go back to that out-of-control place within my own life. So right now, I’m trying to tackle both fronts- to do what I can to make sure that I am physically healthy and that I attempt to maintain mental clarity (this means a lot of deep breathing, yoga, and ranting phone calls to Emily- sorry!)

*Side note: I know that yoga and breathing sounds like it might be a  ‘new-age mother-earthy’ way of dealing with things but getting oxygen into your body actually improves circulation to your whole body and your brain which makes focusing easier as well as easing pain. These kind of alternative treatments address both mental and physical wellbeing, which is important considering how closely they are linked. Your body feels better= your mood is better. Your mood is better= I at least, feel more at peace with managing taking my shots and living well.

If I could say one thing that has helped me the most, it is something that I learned last year from my doctors and that is:

You can’t wait for it to be easy to take care of yourself- sometimes, especially with addictions or pain of any kind you will try to talk yourself out of doing what you KNOW to be right because it feels uncomfortable or unwanted. But if you force yourself to value your physical body and take care of yourself with proper nutrition, sleep, exercise, and the activities and people you spend your time with, it will get easier to continue with healthy habits. For me, it is easy to want to slip into old habits even though I know they’ve resulted in nothing good for me and I have to really fight to remind myself of what a spiral it can be to neglect my physical health.

I don’t know if this is making sense- or if I’m revealing too much. I guess I am saying all of this in the hopes that anyone reading will take a second to think about how they are valuing themselves with their physical body and if there are better habits that you’d like to incorporate but are having a hard time implementing.  Maybe think for a second about what is stopping you and if it’s possible to try making an extra effort to do what may be hard but is right.

If your physical body is suffering at all, think about if the pain is originating from more than a simple physical strain. For me, I know that when my hips hurt, yes, it may be the weather and it may be because I’m forcing my turn-out in class- but it’s also because I’m not sleeping well and my muscles aren’t getting the rest they need so I’m tired even when I wake up and not as proactive with stretching the right muscles or doing my yoga before I go in to work every day. And then I’m terrible in dance- and then I tend to get really mad at myself and somehow, being bad at spinning around turns into ‘I’m terrible at everything, and ugly, and boring, and stupid” and then I don’t take very good care of myself.  And then I’m bad the next day too, and isolate myself from friends and don’t get anything accomplished. Vicious viscous cycle.

Maybe I’m just writing all of this to hold myself accountable to staying on track. I just have to refocus and remind myself of what I need to do even if it isn’t easy at that moment- of how much I will gain by doing so.

Take a deep breath,

keep calm, and carry on.

follow the yellow brick road…and your prescribed health plans, and I guess your dreams to

4 thoughts on “When You’re Thinking About Quitting Dance; unhealthy thoughts and habits

  1. This post reminds me of the 4-5 months I just had to take off from dance for surgery and recovery. I had a lot of down time and nothing to do but think. I tried not to let my mind get me down and depressed and i’ve learned a lot about my body and what I need to now do to keep it up and running. It’s just too bad I had to have surgery to get my mind to feel that little bit of calmness with myself.

    Also, at least your forcing your turnout from your hips. I force mine from my knees- no bueno!

  2. Ah, the joy of being a dancer; we are usually too tired and beaten into submission to think about revolting and doing something else. The same goes for athletes, soldiers, and hamsters on a wheel. just kidding. I’m glad the surgery was a success! Be good to those knees!

  3. Pingback: Hello Stranger; A Video Interview with Momix dancer, Steven Ezra | BODIES NEVER LIE

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