Isabella Boylston, photo by Gene Schiavone

From competitive auditions to performances to the challenges of mastering each technical and artistic feat, dancers face many nerve-wracking situations. Sometimes, though, confidence eludes us when we need it most. But there are ways to practice giving yourself a boost when you need it. Here are a few of our best tips for beating self-doubt and holding your head up high, no matter what the situation:

Watch your stress levels. In high-pressure, competitive situations like auditions, your stress levels tend to be heightened—and a Swiss study found that that this could lower your confidence and affect your decision-making skills. When we're feeling uncertain, we tend to take fewer risks in an effort to avoid feeling like we've failed. It's worth making stress relief part of your typical audition and performance preparations, so you'll be empowered to really go for it.

Strike a pose. Sometimes simply acting more confident is all it takes to give yourself a boost. Research shows that holding a high-power pose for two minutes can increase your confidence and lower your cortisol levels (making you feel less stressed).

Know your worth. It's no secret that dancers are perfectionists, but make sure you're taking the time to acknowledge your accomplishments too, from getting a role you wanted to finally nailing a tricky turn sequence. Remember: If you're doing well, it's the result of your hard work.

Dress for success. Though it may sound silly, even your outfit choice can do wonders for your confidence. Whether you need a flattering audition look, or just want to perk yourself up for a difficult class, choose comfortable pieces that you feel good in.

Know you're not alone. Take it from ABT principal Isabella Boylston: "I don't necessarily consider myself the most confident performer. Like everyone else, I deal with nerves, anxiety and self-doubt. But over the course of my career so far, I've learned how to work with those negative emotions—and even how to use them to my advantage."

A dancer backstage at YAGP finals. Photo by Kyle Froman, via Dance Magazine

Spring performance season is an exciting time, but it's also a hectic one. Between performance prep, studying for school exams and gearing up for summer intensives, your stress levels may be higher than usual. Here are some of our best tips for taking care of yourself during this busy time.

  1. Watch out for hidden stress. Sometimes anxiety can creep up on you before you have a chance to figure out what's causing it. Be aware of these sneaky sources of stress so you can avoid them.

  1. Take a social media break—the right way. Research has found that using social networks actively, like posting a shot of you and your fellow dancers backstage, is more beneficial. Scrolling through your Instagram feed and looking at all the fun others seem to be having might leave you feeling lonely or envious.

  1. Write it out. If you're doubting yourself the night before a performance, try jotting a few thoughts in a journal. It's been found to increase self esteem—and could even help you perform better. (Still nervous the day of? Try this helpful self-talk trick to beat stage fright).

  1. Fuel up. When you're busy, it can be harder to keep up with your usual nutritious habits, but it's important to fuel your body with foods that will give you the energy you need (hint: find the right balance between protein and carbs).

  1. Find moments to unwind. Even if you only have a few minutes between activities, there are quick tricks you can use to relax, so you'll be ready to take on the rest of your day. It could be as simple as looking at photos of baby animals.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

 

Photo by Philippe Teston

In today's world, we talk a lot about stress relief. And it's true that taking time to relax and unwind is a necessary part of taking care of yourself as a dancer. But sometimes figuring out how to fit in that relaxation timeon top of all your classes, rehearsals and a fast-approaching Nutcracker seasononly seems to add stress. On your busiest days, you may have just a few minutes in between activities—not enough time for a soothing bath or rejuvenating yoga session. When you're in a pinch, here are a few research-backed strategies to help you relax fast:

Snack smarter. Make sure to bring snacks in your dance bag so you aren't rushing to find something to eat on top of everything else. And what should those snacks be? Not surprisingly, one study found that people tend to crave sweet, crunchy and salty foods more when they feel stressed out. But that doesn't mean reaching for a candy bar or bag of chips will make you feel better. Get in the habit of packing homemade trail mix, or munch on some baby carrots or a piece of fruit to satisfy those urges in a more nutritious way.


Look at something cute. Turns out watching cat videos on YouTube or scrolling through a slideshow of baby animal photos may do more than just cheer you up. It might help you focus when your break is over, too. One study found that participants were able to better perform tasks that required focused attention after looking at cute images.

Focus on your breath. It's been said before, but taking a moment to connect to your breathing may be the easiest and fastest way to relieve anxiety. And it doesn't have to be a full-on meditation session to have positive effects. Research has shown that practicing slow, deep breathing could help lower blood pressure and heart rate, as well as reduce the stress hormone cortisol.

 

 

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

When you're anticipating a high-pressure audition, it's no wonder if your stress levels are heightened. And a little performance anxiety isn't necessarily a bad thing. But a recent study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology found that high stress levels could affect your confidence and decision-making skills in competitive situations.

Swiss researchers reported that participants with higher levels of the hormone cortisol (when released in response to stress and anxiety) had lower confidence levels, and were less likely to make decisions that would give them an advantage in a competitive environment. The thought is that when our confidence is down, we tend to avoid taking risks in an effort to avoid feeling like we've failed if we're unsuccessful. In other words, you might be more likely to hold back and play it safe rather than really going for it in your dancing.

So if you're feeling the pressure before your next audition, think about working some stress-relief into your preparation, whether that's trying a few meditation exercises, talking it out with a friend or listening to music while you warm up. You'll be that much more ready to give it your all when you hit the studio.

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