How can we dance in a time of global pandemic and economic uncertainty?
I have to be honest with you. In times like these, sometimes the last thing I feel like doing is dancing.
Each day feels bleaker than the last. Every day more and more people are getting sick. We pretty much all already know someone who is struggling with coronavirus symptoms, and those of us who are lucky enough to still be healthy in this moment still have to deal with the fear over the very real possibility of getting sick some time in the future.
And the death toll keeps on rising. For many of us, that toll is no longer just an unfortunate statistic. For those of us who have personally lost a loved one to COVID19, the loss is very painful and very real, striking at the very core of our hearts. This virus is especially awful and cruel. We cannot be physically near our loved ones to support them as they pass on, nor can we gather together afterward to remember their lives while we bid their bodies farewell. My heart is with all those who have lost a loved one in this horrible time, as I grieve the terrible loss of one of our own students (and a truly incredible human being) this week.
Not to mention all the other losses we are suffering collectively. Employment terminations and pay cuts are sweeping our society and we have lost the freedom to come and go and gather as we please. This pandemic is taking a huge toll on our ability to sustain ourselves mentally and financially.
At the time of this writing I wish that I could offer something more promising and optimistic, but unfortunately things will likely still get worse before they start getting better.
But that's precisely why right now it's more important than ever for us to start making ourselves, our physical health and our mental well-being a priority, despite the very valid fear, anxiety, pain and grief we are all feeling collectively and individually right now.
Things will eventually get better. This time of catastrophic loss and terrible hardship, like everything else in life, is temporary. Though we don't know how long this phase will last, or exactly how we will each be affected, or how hard the aftershocks will hit us, we do know that this too shall pass one day. And until that day arrives, the most important thing we can do is take good care of ourselves so that we can give ourselves a fighting chance to get through this, and so we can be there for the people who are relying on us.
Taking good care of ourselves means creating space to do things that we love every single day, even when we don't feel like it. And I guarantee, you often won't feel like it. It seems so easy, but getting ourselves to do the things that make us happy, in a time when we are struck with so much sadness and stress, is far from easy. In fact, that's probably one of the hardest things to do in those moments. When our bodies are pumping out stress hormones constantly, we actually become physically addicted to stress and subconsciously seek out ways to maintain higher and higher levels of it. This is where we see self-sabotaging behaviors like constantly checking the news and refusing to do the things that would nourish us.
Yet, living in a constant state of stress is harmful and dangerous. So fighting the urge to stay in a constant state of fear and grief, no matter how warranted, by making the time to do something you love every day, is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself right now.
Whether that's reading, writing, singing, playing an instrument, drawing, painting, dancing, exercising, meditating, or anything else, there is something you can do each day to carve out a little space for yourself that will help you release the stress and anxiety you are going through, and you are worthy of that space. Even if it's just for 5 or 10 minutes each day, creating this habit can make a big difference.
Let's give ourselves this gift whether or not we feel like it. Not because we're on a race to be productive with our stay-at-home time, not because we're rushing to reach specific goals (though if that's you, all the more power to you), and not because we don't have valid reasons to be stressed and anxious, but because we deserve that love and nourishment from ourselves, and we need it to overcome the challenges that lie ahead, to help both ourselves as well as others.
As a belly dance teacher, of course dance is a huge source of mental and physical nourishment for me. Yet I have to confess that in times like these, I really just don't feel like dancing.
Which is exactly why I get up and dance anyway. In times of crisis, my practice isn't necessarily pretty. It isn't about reaching for a goal or being perfect. But it is about nourishing my mind and body with movement. It is about appreciating my current state of health more fully. It is about washing away the pain and grief that I am rightfully feeling, even if just for a brief moment.
Can you use a little bit of that right now?
Yamê is a Brazilian-American belly dancer based out of New Jersey, USA.