Teaching Tips
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Dance teachers are just as apt to fall into the trap of perfectionism and self-criticism as the students they teach. The high-pressure environment that is the dance world today makes it difficult to endure while keeping a healthy perspective on who we truly are.

To help you quiet your inner critic, and by extension set an example of self-love for your students, we caught up with sports psychologist Caroline Silby. Here she shares strategies for managing what she calls "neurotic perfectionism." "Self-attacking puts teachers and athletes in a constant state of stress, often making them rigid, inflexible and ultimately fueling high anxiety rather than high levels of performance," Silby says. "Perfectionistic teachers, dancers and athletes can learn to set emotional boundaries. They can use doubt, frustration and worry about missing expectations as cues to take actions that align with what they do when teaching/performing well and feeling in-control. Being relentless about applying a solution-oriented approach can help the perfectionist move through intense emotional states more efficiently."

Check out those strategies below!

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You know that feeling you get right before the curtain goes up—palms sweating and your heart pounding? Stress often accompanies performance, but it needn’t be debilitating. In a recent study, mindfulness meditation—actively tuning in to the body and breath in a still position—proved helpful in reducing stress reactions in athletes. Scientists measured the stress levels of professional cyclists before and after two months of mindfulness training. The results indicated that while the athletes still recognized stressors, they exhibited less anxiety. Taking a few moments to close your eyes, taking a few deep breaths and noticing how your body feels can have a positive impact on your performance.

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You know the scene—you’re running out the door, so you grab a snack for the road. According to new research, however, eating on the run may not be the best idea. In a recent study, test subjects who snacked while walking were more likely to eat more food later on than those who snacked while watching television. The study’s lead author, University of Surrey psychology professor Jane Ogden, believes that the walking test subjects were less likely to mentally register what they were eating. The takeaway? Make healthy snack choices and consume mindfully to avoid overeating.

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You can meditate anywhere: while sitting, warming up, even standing on a mountaintop at sunrise. Photo courtesy of Energy Arts Alliance

Despite his busy schedule as principal dancer at the Colorado Ballet, Domenico Luciano makes time to meditate. “It's part of my routine, my cross-training, my lifestyle," he says. He first began meditating in yoga class on the weekends, doing a series of breathing exercises after the last poses of class. “It made me feel calm, neutral and peaceful." Today, Luciano meditates daily for 5 to 10 minutes, sometimes while stretching, or when feeling tired or nervous, or before bed to help him fall asleep.

Meditation—which involves calming the mind and often includes breathing practices—can reduce stress, boost memory and improve mental focus. But it's hard to find time to sit still and breathe, especially when students and parents depend on your constant attention. Fortunately, you don't need an hour of quiet contemplation to benefit from the practice. Even a few moments of centered breathing can reduce daily stress and help you stay grounded amid the demands of your hectic lifestyle.

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