It’s safe to say that all dancers feel body image anxiety. Whether we’re in quarantine, or not. When we’re in the studio, staring into the mirror day after day, we can feel both the highs and lows of looking in the mirror. And while you’ve been taking virtual classes while at home during this crisis (with or without a mirror), you’ve probably experienced similar highs and lows.
Thoughts like, ‘am I doing enough?’, ‘should I be doing more?’, and ‘how come I’m not getting better/stronger/fiercer faster?’ plague all dancers, even in the best of times.
And the past several weeks most likely haven’t calmed or quieted that inner critic, but brought it out in full force, screaming and demanding attention. Combined with the collective stress we’re all feeling right now, being anxious about our bodies and body image is completely understandable and totally normal.
But as an eternal optimist, I refuse to see this experience as a win for my inner critic. Instead, I choose to see this time at home, alone with my body, thoughts, and dance practice, as an opportunity to lean into some new, and healthier, habits when it comes to body image anxiety.
Here are my top tips to help you manage body image anxiety, during quarantine, and beyond, because these tips are evergreen; they’ll continue to serve your body, mind, and spirit, long after quarantines and shelter in places have lifted (major win!).
Number One: Pause and/or Meditate
Can you become extremely curious about the negative body thoughts when they do pop up? Do they first show up as a sensation in the body (heat, tingling, butterflies)? And from there, can you be curious what happens next? Do you start to internally rage against yourself and bash yourself?
Becoming curious about these thoughts and feelings when they arise, and pausing to see them for what they really are (fear and lack mindset), gives us a chance to zoom out, and detach from the heat and intensity of the moment.
A meditation practice will also help with this. Practice sitting quietly, observing your breath and what feelings come up, is a sure-fire way to pop the body image anxiety bubble before it turns into a black hole.
Number Two: Get Rid of Scales
If numbers on a scale psych you out, trip you up and hold power over you, get rid of them. If stepping on a scale turns your day from great to terrible, you’re putting too much stock in a number, and the outside noise of what we think that number means. Instead of tuning into the outside noise, go inward - back to meditation, or back to whatever you were doing that felt good before you hopped on the scale.
Number Three: Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries with yourself, and others, when it comes to how you talk about bodies, and how you talk about food can be transformative. If someone you live with is constantly remarking on what you’re eating, or how often you’re dancing or working out, politely tell them that comments regarding what you put into your body and how you move it are off-limits.
Similarly, if, when you start your practice of pausing, and becoming curious about your thoughts, you notice your own thoughts are harsh and judgmental around food and movement, set this same boundary with yourself. Actively choose to reframe thoughts like ‘if I eat that, I’ll have to work out again’, to something gentler, like, ‘if I eat that, I’m going to really savor and enjoy it!’
Number Four: Gratitude
Have you ever stopped to think about all the amazing things your body does for you, without you even asking or telling it to? Heart beating, blood pumping, oxygen flowing. Your body is a full-time machine, and needs and appreciates a little gratitude! Make a daily, or weekly list of all the things your body does for you that you’re grateful for. Good feelings beget more good feelings, and I guarantee if you continue this practice, you’ll feel a shift in not only how you talk to yourself, but how you see and feel about yourself!
Number Five: Clean up Your Social Media Feed
It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time on screens and social media these days. Social media can be wonderful for connecting with friends, family, and folks you admire, but can also be a soul suck and induce feelings of compare and despair. That person you follow on Instagram who you admire so much might have beautiful pirouettes that you admire, but their posts on constantly working out, only eating green things, or modeling the newest skirts and leotards could leave you feeling drained, depleted, and like you’re not enough.
Delete, delete, delete. Clean up your social media feed and people you’re following so that when you do get online, you’re surrounding yourself with high-vibe, positive people that lift you up, not bring you down.
There you go! Five actionable tips you can use, starting today, and reap the benefits of for years to come! I’d love to know which of these resonated with you the most, or which you plan to try out first.
This experience (and every experience in life) is an opportunity to learn about and lean into the things, habits, and people that support us and make us feel good, as long as we’re open-hearted and minded to see it that way!
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