When you as an athlete focus on UNCONTROLLABLES at any point before or during a performance, several things happen. First, your stress goes up - your breathing speeds up and your muscles tighten. Second, your confidence falls. Third, as a result of the first two effects, your performance goes down the proverbial tubes. By focusing instead on what you are doing while you doing it (the things you can control) you maximize the chances of performing at your potential!
You can't become a champion without training your MIND as well as your BODY.
These are just some of the quotations from Dr. Alan Goldberg (https://www.competitivedge.com/; search him up on Facebook too!). Training your mind is one of the most important practices a dancer can do. Training your body is important too but, if you cannot move past the mental block, the thoughts and inner critics that say "I can't do it", "I'm not good enough", "I'm not strong enough/I don't have enough muscles so I can't be powerful too" etc...then you have limits set upon yourself and barriers in front of you that will prevent you from achieving your goals.
TIPS FOR A HEALTHIER MIND
If you are a dancer who has a lot of feelings of anxiety, this tip is for you.
Anxiety is thoughts about the future. It also can be catastrophic thinking where for example, you didn't place at a competition leads to thoughts where you think you will never place at any other competitions, which leads to thinking that you're not a good dancer which leads to thinking you should not dance any longer/what's the point of dancing if I am "not good enough" which leads to thinking that if you aren't a good dancer, what else are you good at etc etc etc.....understand how anxious catastrophic thinking can just spiral into something bigger and bigger?
To help this, thought stopping would be helpful. This means that you can talk back to that initial futuristic thought and say to yourself "_______(your name) this is not helpful to think this way" and then distract yourself with something else.
You can also talk to your dance teacher about this yucky anxious feeling. They can help you work through this. Each of us have been there as a dancer and can probably help you through this.
Anxiety is not a bad thing. It helps propel you forward and helps you accomplish goals you set for yourself.
Helpful and Un-helpful Thoughts
We did this exercise in class last year.
I asked dancers to sit down and close their eyes. They had to think about themselves poorly (just hold on...I promise this gets better...) for a few minutes. I then had them dance a 4 step Fling. A few minutes after (to catch their breath and have the HR go down), I told them to think positively about themselves, saying how great they are, that they are a hard worker etc...and then I had them dance a 4 step Fling. It was interesting to see the difference between both Flings--I wonder which was stronger and more confident looking??
This is one example demonstrating the power our thoughts have. If we constantly think poorly about ourselves, is that helpful or unhelpful to our confidence, self-worth, and ultimately dancing? How is this unhelpful thinking going to help us accomplish our goals? The reality is, it probably won't.
Now, one way this explanation could be taken is that if we constantly think positively and highly of ourselves, maybe we will be blinded by the reality of what is going on. Perhaps we still actually need work as a dancer in order to win a trophy. Maybe we just entered Premier and have to adjust before we can even begin placing.
It is important to think both helpfully and realistically.
Ask yourself, is this thinking/thought helpful or unhelpful to me?
This is not just a dance-related issue, it can relate to school, friends, another sport or activity, anything where you see people and/or work with people.
This is also a topic that has a lot of grey areas but, I think if we refer to "Helpful and Unhelpful thinking" it will help us out.
When we look at a REALLY good dancer, say Marielle or Rebecca Thow, we look at them and see how fabulous they are and how great they execute their movements. We then may compare their dancing to ours (generally, if we are around the same age as them). Now, here is where it can get tricky. We can accept that they are Canadian and World champion dancers and work towards executing movements similar to them or having more attack and power to our dancing etc. (HELPFUL thinking). We could also think that they are really good dancers and then base our dancing off of theirs and fall into the catastrophic thinking making us feel horrible about our dancing and ourselves in general (UNHELPFUL thinking).
Mindset around this is really important. Accept the "fabulous dancer" for who they are and how they dance, picking a few things that you want to work on to be similar to them and/or set a goal to be like them some day. Also, accept yourself and your dancing right now, the way it is. Set goals for yourself in order to accomplish the things you've picked to improve upon and a timeline for them (short term and long term)-GOOGLE "SMART GOALS".
Comparison can be your friend or it could be your greatest enemy.
More to come!