November is a notoriously tough month for dancers.
Everything is in high gear: School is crazy busy post-midterms but pre-final exams, your social calendar is jam-packed, and you’re either in final (and extra) rehearsals for your competitions or your regional season has already started. You’re up early to go to school, rushing to dance right after, shoving dinner in your mouth on the car ride home, and then staying up late to finish your homework. Then, instead of a chill weekend to recover, you’re up before the sun for convention classes and performing onstage late into the night at competition.
(Take notes of everything during these extra crazy times—someday you’ll want to write a book called “How I Did It All In High School.”)
Anyone who tells you middle and high school should be the best times of your life is right—life is good!—but it’s also downright stressful almost every single day. So there’s nothing wrong with feeling overwhelmed or defeated from time to time. No one expects you to be able to handle all of your daily demands easily and with a smile on your face at all times. But with the holidays on the horizon and (oh boy) Nutcracker performances about to take over your schedule, it’s important to devote even three minutes a day to “me time.” Here are a few of our favorite free, cheap, easy, DIY-on-the-fly ways to chill out, regroup, and come back feeling refreshed and fabulous.
- Take 10 deep breaths. Inhale deeply and exhale loudly. Slowly. Ten times. How easy was that?
- Meditate. You don’t have to be a zen yoga master to meditate. Meditation is just a state of mind. It doesn’t require contortion or chanting or anything “weird”—unless you want it to. Here’s how to start: Get in a comfortable seated position, like on a pillow or folded blanket. Eliminate all distractions (ahem, Instagram notifications), close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Practice breathing deeply and letting your mind relax. Let thoughts enter your mind if that’s what happens, but then let them leave. Try to just sit and relax with your thoughts for 2–3 minutes to start, and then try it for a bit longer each time. Think of it as “concentrated quiet time.” Read more about beginning meditation here.
- Go for a walk. Whether it’s around the block or it turns into a 3-mile jog, get some fresh air and get your heart rate up. Either go unplugged or blast your favorite playlist. (No judgment if it’s just The Biebs singing “Sorry” on repeat.)
- Paint your toenails. And then actually sit still while the paint dries. Go ahead: Read the last month’s worth of US Weekly mags. Keep up with those Kardashians. Whatever brings you bliss.
- Stretch. Not structured dancer stretching. Let that go. (Let it goooooo!) Stand with your feet hips-width apart and fold forward at your waist, releasing toward the ground. Let your head and arms hang toward the ground. (In yoga this is a Forward Fold.) Shake your head “yes” and “no.” And just hang out for a while. Sometimes you have to go upside-down to feel rightside-up again.
- Call your grandma. She’ll love it. Promise.
Write it all down. Bust out the journal you haven’t used since fifth grade and get writing. It doesn’t have to sound good, it doesn’t have to make sense, and it definitely doesn’t have to be grammatically correct. But journaling can be a great release. Acrostic poems and haikus are always welcome, too.
- Do a crossword puzzle. It can be from The New York Times or People magazine. It’ll stimulate your brain without making you feel like you’re doing homework. (Sudoku is an appropriate replacement if you’re not into wordplay.)
- Dance! Put on your current favorite song and literally dance it out. (Bonus: Improv and freestyling are the best skills dancers can have. So you’ll essentially be working and relaxing.)
- Unplug for 10 minutes. Take a bath. Take a walk. Get on a spin bike at the gym. Do literally anything, but do it without your phone, TV, music, or anything with a screen or headphones or noise. Just be for 10 minutes.