I am excited to share this article with you as I genuinely believe that to be a healthy dancer you need a healthy mind! Many of us don’t spend enough time looking after our minds as we should do and it’s seems bizarre to neglect it because ultimately it’s a strong mindset that will carry us through our career.
We stretch, we warm up, we work out we take care of our physical selves but so often forget that everything starts in our mind. When we have an injury we will go the doctors, to a physio, to get a sports massage and we don’t think anything of it. We strap ourselves in bright coloured K-tape to support injuries and happily tape our bloodied toes for all the see but then when we feel like we are struggling mentally we are often too scared to speak up!
Terry Hyde has been a psychotherapist/counsellor since 2010. He was a dancer before he went into this new profession so he understands the pressure that is often put on performers and that we put on ourselves.
In the article below Terry has answered some of the most common questions that he has had from dancers.
In a few weeks I will be interviewing Terry and asking him ANY questions that you may have. You can write to us to ask the questions surrounding this topic or anything that you may be worried about. When I ask Terry I will mention no names and keep everything very private!
You can email me, Abbi, at firstname.lastname@example.org
I just want to say a massive thank you for Terry for being here and sharing this with us and for the awesome dance pictures that he has shared with us from his career.
Thanks Terry!- Over to you….
Abbi from The Female Dancer asked me to write an article about the emotional and mental issues that dancers may have and how these can be dealt with. I thought I would get the ball rolling and give some answers to questions that a dancer asked me in the past.
If you have any questions relating to mental and emotional health issues, please send them to email@example.com and I will do my best to answer them for you.
Recognising mental health symptoms
QU: “One of my biggest challenges, and I I’m sure this goes for many others, was recognising my symptoms for what they were, a mental health issue. What sort of symptoms may point to a larger problem than your typical stress, ups and downs, or perfectionism?”
It is difficult to talk about individual symptoms as we are all unique and each symptom may manifest itself in a different way in each of us. In addition, everyone has their own level of resilience to issues which are causing difficulties. It is often the case that people around us recognise any changes in us more so than we do ourselves. So you may find that supportive friends and family are the ones who bring these matters to your attention.
You may find yourself wanting to be alone when you are normally gregarious. You may also be feeling tearful, tired or lethargic and irritable. Another common symptom is being short tempered with people you are close with. You may feel fearful of something but you don’t know what the something is. You may may have lost your appetite or obsessively control your eating (the start of anorexia/bulimia). You could also become controlling in other aspects of your life. These are only a few of the symptoms that you may experience. As mentioned above, each one of us is unique and therefore the symptoms will manifest themselves in different ways. In addition to the above symptoms, there are other factors to take into consideration. Hormonal issues around menarche, puberty, adolescence and for females, the menstrual cycle.
Most importantly, symptoms are a manifestation of underlying issues and your body’s warning that you need to deal with them. Unfortunately, the worldwide medical profession, on the whole, only treat the symptoms, usually by medication, rather than dealing holistically with a patient to find out what is creating the symptoms.
Being a ‘rock’ in isolation and being ‘strong’ is sometimes detrimental to oneself as it saps energy from our own self-healing system. The British resolve of the ‘stiff upper lip’ doesn’t work at all, it only exacerbates the problem by keeping it inside of us, which is toxic to our mental and physical health. For you to ask for help when you recognise the symptoms, is in itself the first step to healing. For some who are normally resistant to showing signs of ‘weakness’, asking for help is the bravest step.
The stigma of psychological therapy
In the USA psychological therapies have been around since the first world war. It was recognised then that the returning troops needed psychological help. From this point psychological therapy became part of the way of life in the USA.
Whereas in the UK, the British resolve of, as I mentioned above, the ‘stiff upper lip’, created a mental health stigma. “I couldn’t talk to anyone about my personal issues”. “No one else will understand my problems”. “if I don’t think about my problems they’ll go away.” “Don’t talk about family issues outside of the family” etc. etc.
Hopefully now with Mental Health Awareness Week and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s ‘Heads Together’, it will help those who have been suffering in silence to get help and talk to a professional therapist about their issues.
Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org any questions regarding issues that you are struggling with, or tell us how you have overcome some of these issues. You can remain anonymous if you wish.
Terry Hyde MA MBACP – psychotherapist and ex professional dancer.