I always get sick during Nutcracker. Help! —Emily
Long days, late nights, chilly weather and overworked bodies make the perfect recipe for disaster during Nutcracker season. I'll never forget burning up with a fever backstage in my Arabian costume, or the time when a flu outbreak caused major casualties in our Snow and Flower corps. Staying well requires a combination of nutrition, hydration and sleep—not to mention preparedness and discipline.
Your meals should include a combination of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats to ensure you're receiving essential vitamins and minerals. Use your days off to stock up on groceries and prepare meals for the week to minimize late-night cooking, and keep lots of healthy snacks, like fruits and vegetables, in your bag to stay fueled throughout the day. Most importantly, hydrate. Water oxygenates the blood, flushes toxins, wards off inflammation and keeps the lymphatic system working properly—all keys to a healthy immune system. You may also want to take a daily multivitamin.
I can't stop beating myself up over past mistakes. How can I focus on what's in front of me? —Susan
One of the most beautiful things about dance is that it exists only in the “now"—once the movement's moment is over, poof! You can never get it back. But you can always try again—and that's where the real success lies.
I know from experience how damaging relentless self-criticism can be. I used to cry when a class or rehearsal didn't go well, or give up mid-combination in defeat. Once, after a particularly frustrating rehearsal, the stager took me aside and made me repeat, over and over again, “It just doesn't matter." I felt pretty silly, but she helped me realize that I was getting in my own way.
Try to look at your training and dance career as an endless learning process. If you've performed poorly or had a bad class, it's normal to feel frustrated. But try to have a little perspective. I promise, there are much bigger problems in the world. Instead of equating a botched pirouette as a failure, think of it as an enticing challenge. What lessons can you take away from it? And remember, give yourself credit for all the things you've done right.