Make injury time a positive time

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Injury Time Out

Lucy Christodolou advises on how to turn injury time into something positive.

Injury is an inevitable part of a dancer’s journey. All elite athletes will face injury or illness at some point in their career, due to the high physical demands, and elite dancing can be especially harsh on the body.

Typically, when a dancer faces an injury, their mental health also suffers. Being injured can be incredibly isolating, challenging and distressing. While dealing with the reality of being injured, dancers have to accept that they will need to modify or completely stop their dancing – their passion – while they are recovering. They will most probably have to implement a new rehabilitation program that will take time and energy and patience. They know their technique and fitness may decline, and they may feel left behind both in the studio and in terms of performance opportunities. They may also anticipate a reduction in their fitness, strength and mobility, and feel uninspired and frustrated. All of this, while being in physical pain!

Injuries will never be easy. However, dancers can prevent a decline in their physical and mental health by proactively supporting themselves and turning their injury time into something both powerful and productive.

Many dancers use dance as their main outlet for creative expression. While this might make them magnetic dancers, it can leave them feeling empty and unfulfilled when this outlet is removed, even temporarily. To overcome this loss, you can use time away from the studio to find something new, something that also brings you passion and inspiration. Try learning a new skill, being creative with painting or drawing, swimming, moving the body in a different (injury safe) way or educating yourself on something you’re interested in. Find inspiration by creating a vision board or ask yourself “what would I like to pursue after dancing?” Your injury time could be a time when you can begin preparing for your future, whether the next couple of years or further off. You will come back into the studio feeling reinspired and reinvigorated.

Another likely challenge when you are injured is combatting comparison and self-criticism. When watching your peers, the mental chatter begins: “They are so much better than me; they look so much better; I’ll never be like that”. Such unproductive thought patterns will only take you further away from believing in yourself.

Instead of using your peers for comparison, make a commitment to learn from them. When watching a dancer you love, ask yourself: “What do I love about their dancing and why?”. Then ask: “How can I also begin bringing that quality into my dancing?” Your peers can serve as a source of inspiration instead of comparison.

When you are injured, it is natural to become less confident and feel less resilient. You may come to doubt your ability to ever return to full health.

Try to think long-term and broaden your vision. If you can change your perspective and use this time to work on yourself as a human being outside of dance, to understand more about your body and what it takes to care for yourself, you will learn how to optimise and prioritise your health and wellbeing, ultimately enabling yourself to have a longer career than those who don’t. Resilience can be built by focusing on the actions you can take daily to lead to a long-term goal. What actions could you take as a dancer to feel good today and move the needle in your recovery process?

Focus on strengthening your resilience, learning from your peers and broadening your range of interests, and you’ll be back in no time!

Former dancer Lucy Christodolou is the founder of Beyond the Barre, a nutrition and mindset coaching service.

This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb/Mar print issue of Dance Australia. Print is for keeps! 


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