Strategies for Navigating Your New Normal During COVID-19
by Ashley Mowrey
Dearest dance community, we are in the midst of such disappointment, anxiety, and chaos. Shows have been canceled. Competitions canceled. Proms and graduations either postponed or canceled. We are all existing within our homes, doing online school, online dance class, online socializing, all while trying to navigate the fear and unknown of COVID-19.
I’m so grateful for this amazing community that has stepped up to support our dancers, dance teachers, and dance studios. I’m so inspired to see all the resources available and all the amazing studios switching to online to continue their education with students. I’m so proud of you all for showing up, being vulnerable, and learning new ways to train and teach.
Today, I’ll walk you through strategies you can use during this unprecedented time. But I want to start with this: you are allowed to be exactly where you are. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Your feelings are welcome here. All of them. There is no instruction manual or hack for dealing with a global pandemic. So while we’ll explore some ways to take care of yourself, the most important thing I want you to know is that it’s okay if this new normal feels hard. It’s okay if you’re too tired to train right now. It’s okay if you’re so overwhelmed by the outer noise that it is taking you a minute (or even days) to feel like yourself. Take it day by day, step by step.
On Friday, March 20th, researcher and author, Dr. Brené Brown launched her new podcast, Unlocking Us. In her first episode, she spoke about navigating terrible first times, or TFTs as she calls them, specifically the one we are all in right now. She explored how hard the first times are because they are uncomfortable and often overwhelming. Does anyone currently relate to those feelings with this new normal we’re in?
She goes on to give three strategies for coping with TFTs:
Naming it. Brené says this is the most powerful strategy because it helps our brains make meaning. Once we can name it and say, “Oh, I’m in the middle of a terrible first time. That’s why this is so hard and uncomfortable”, we can bring meaning and language to it. From there, we can normalize our experience.
Put it in perspective. When thinking about COVID-19, there are so many unknowns. But with some perspective, we know that it will not last forever. Things may be different after, but this current situation is temporary.
Parents: Brené also encourages us to remember, “Perspective is a function of experience. Less experience means less perspective." So when our dancers are complaining about missing that competition or never seeing their friends again, she advises, “Lack of perspective is not always about selfishness. We don’t make them tougher or more empathetic towards others by diminishing their feelings. Disappointment is something that a lot of us are feeling right now. And it’s okay. It’s okay to be safe, have enough food, have some resources, and still feel disappointed. Because denying your disappointment doesn’t make you more empathetic towards people who have it a lot worse than you do. It makes us less empathetic. So all the feels. All okay. Name them and talk about them”
Reality check expectations. Brené explains that reality checking is saying, “This is a heavier lift than what we thought or expected. And this is scary." She goes on to encourage us to not only reality check expectations with ourselves but also with everyone around us. Have those hard conversations with yourself, with your family. Talk about your feelings and your needs. She explains that, “when, as part of our TFTs, we’re in something new and hard, reality checking expectations can really minimize resentment”.
While we’re all in this terrible first time of so many unfamiliar and difficult situations and feelings, let’s all remember that it’s okay to feel exactly this way. This is new. This is scary. And we can use Brené Brown’s 3 strategies to navigate it more wholeheartedly.
If you’re like me and have also been struggling with some self-compassion throughout all of these changes, Dr. Kristin Neff’s work and the website is full of practices and resources to help. She has a self-compassion test to explore your level of self-compassion, as well as guided meditations and exercises.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more free resources to help you adjust to this new normal including a 5-minute morning routine, productivity tips, gratitude practices, and more on my Instagram and in my next blog post. Until then, keep dancing, keep showing up, and keep feeling all your feelings. We can, and will, get through this together.
Ashley Mowrey is a Performance Mindset Coach and Educator located in Fayetteville, AR. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from The University of Arkansas, is a Certified Professional Coach through Coach Training World, as well as a trained facilitator in Tara Mohr’s Playing Big Leadership Program for Women. Ashley trained as a competitive dancer out of Dallas, TX before teaching and eventually directing a company and dance studio in Fayetteville, AR. It was during those years that she felt drawn towards the dancer’s mindset and the need for training and tools for a healthy mindset in the dance community. Now, as a Performance Mindset Coach, she is also a dance specialist with Dancers for Doctors. Ashley has also recently been featured on Dance Studio Amplified Podcast, (Ep. 14), Dance Boss University Mastermind guest presenter, and will be on an upcoming episode of Dance Boss Podcast.