School for six hours of the day. Change in the car as you rush to dance right afterward. Scarf down some dinner at home before diving into two hours of homework. Find time in between to text your best friends about weekend plans and tell your family about your day. Crash in bed, sleep, repeat!
So many dancers’ days follow some version of this jam-packed schedule, and it can be difficult to deal with it. Often, when we put so much on our plates, we end up neglecting one or more of our priorities. It can be overwhelming to try to perform this outrageous balancing act- succeeding in the studio, getting good grades, having a social life, engaging with your family…all while remaining happy and sane! While there is no equation to a perfectly well-rounded life, there are some ways you can manage all your priorities so that your life feels a little more balanced, and you feel a little happier.
Most dancers are doers, and we’re willing to stay up late to get as much done as we can, even after long rehearsals at night. But sleep is more important than we think and plays a huge role in our mental, emotional and physical health. Try not to push yourself at night, and get at least 8 hours of sleep! Give yourself a bedtime that is reasonable and gives you that full 8 hours. Discipline yourself to go to sleep no later than a certain time, just as you discipline yourself to get all your homework done or stretch at home. Make your bedtime just as much of a priority as other things like family and dance, and you’ll find yourself more productive and alert during the day.
On particularly overwhelming weeks, plan time for things that make you happy. Carve out a little bit of time to breath and take a break from all the obligations of life. Maybe that’s reading, or watching a Netflix show, or painting your nails. Actually schedule them, too! Write them down or put a reminder in your phone so that it’s truly a part of your day. It will make you happier and calmer.
Organization is key to balancing all the things you do in your daily life. Before your week starts lay out a schedule for what activities you’ll have, what big assignments are due, and other events that you have to remember. Write your weekly schedule down or plug it into your phone or computer’s calendar. Note when your busy days are and when your more free days are. Maybe even add a to-do list in the margin, of non-mandatory tasks you could tackle on more free days, like go to the dance store, or get a head start on a big assignment. A visual representation of your life is SO beneficial to making the most out of your precious time and keeping an account of the major priorities you have.
Write down all the important activities, relationships, and goals in your life right now. Don’t put them in any special order, just write. Focus on what is meaningful to you today and in the near future, not what will be meaningful in five years. Another tip: really make sure you’re writing down what is important to you, not your parents, your dance instructors, your teachers at school, your friends, but really just you. Make the list as detailed or as general as you like, just get the big parts of your life on there.
Chances are, you have a lot of different aspects of life on the list! Check them out and ask yourself, do they all make you happy? Do they all make you a smarter and stronger person? Are there any activities or relationships you put down that stress or overwhelm you? Are those activities helpful to you in another way, or do they just hurt you? Did you write down something that doesn’t do anything more than make you happy? Or does your list consist of only serious obligations? The goal is to pare down your list to only the parts of your life that truly aid you in your growth as a dancer, student, friend, and whatever else you are! Put the items in order of importance, with the most important activities, assignments, and rehearsals at the top. Use this list as a reference when things get super overwhelming to make sure you’re prioritizing the items high on the list, and not crying over the ones at the bottom.
Unfortunately, no one has developed an equation for how to have a perfectly balanced life yet. In the meantime, using these tactics will help eliminate that feeling that you’re wobbling on the tightrope of life. Take a deep breath, don’t put too much on your plate, and enjoy your exciting, full life!
Emily Strickland is a professional ballet dancer and writer from Fredericksburg, Virginia. She is currently dancing with Nevada Ballet Theatre in Las Vegas, where she’s had the opportunity to perform ballets like The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake, as well as in a collaborative performance with Cirque du Soleil. Previously she was an artist at Columbia Classical Ballet and a trainee at Richmond Ballet, where she was the featured soloist in Connor Frain’s premiere piece “Inertia”. She has trained with Richmond Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Festival Ballet Providence, Nashville Ballet, and the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition, she is a ballet instructor at Avery Ballet.
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