I know. I know. You don’t need another blog post, podcast episode or piece of social media content about COVID-19. But here we are!
I attended the marvellous Marie Walton’s-Mahon’s Progressing Ballet Technique workshop yesterday. In fact, I highly suggest listening to Episode #33 of the podcast where Marie and I sit down to chat about her amazing life, love and journey of caring for the dance world and beyond. Anyway, I digress… the situation the world is currently facing felt very real with Marie doing a remarkable job sanitising the space, proving antibacterial wipes for everyone to use and checking that people were comfortable to touch and do partner work.
She handled the situation with such grace which inspired me to do the same. So today you’re getting a big dose of ‘just try and relax’ and a reminder that this practice will serve you best.
Today we talk about turning inward. Today we talk about powering down your devices if they’re making you anxious. Today we talk about being sensible and hygienic. Today we talk about the importance of humour and to not feel bad about trying to find light amongst the darkness. Today we talk about the immune system and why it’s important to take your health seriously EVERY DAY – not just when there’s a health crisis.
I don’t know anything about the coronavirus, but I do know that there’s always a sliver lining and I have some ideas at the end of this episode for your to focus your energy on.
One of my favourite content creators, ‘Words of Women’ posted this beautiful and highly appropriate quote the other day…
Everything that slows us down and forces patience,
everything that sets us back
into the slow
circles of nature,
is a help.
Isn’t it profound and oh so true at this time in our lives?!
I thought long and hard about todays podcast episode and whilst it was always going to be a solo episode, I had a very different topic planned. I want to preface this conversation with the fact that I always want this space to be an escape from the craziness of the world. A safe haven to nerd out on our love of ballet together. Although it seems that COVID-19 is at every corner we turn and I’m sorry for contributing to this by releasing the episode, but I promise if you keep listening you’ll understand why I wanted to address the topic and instil a sense of hope, silver lining and calm…
Before we get started, let’s note that people are nervous for their jobs, their health and their sanity. As a small business owner, I feel you. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve spent countless hours with my Mum talking about contingency plans. But we are amongst the privileged and so I remind myself daily that we need to exercise non judgment in the ways people are dealing with the current situation and find peaceful moments throughout the day.
At the time of recording, schools haven’t been shut down yet in Australia (but it’s a high likelihood) If they do so, I will be sharing lots of content online for my adults and young children who will be missing their ballet dearly. At classes this week I’ve already planned calm flows and exercises that induce a sense of peace so that everyone can still escape the craziness of the world we’re currently living in. It’s important for our health and for our immunity. I encourage fellow ballet teachers to do the same for your community…
So I want to break down my thoughts around 5 key points…
The media can be a panic inducing, anxiety ridden beast. Consume with caution.
I usually don’t comment on anything political or hyperbolic in the mainstream media, however you can’t argue that the world feels a little off kilter at the moment. Even for someone like me who hasn’t watched the news in about 3-4 years!
If anyone has been a client of mine for a long period of time they will have noticed that four years ago I really upped my game. I truly dived into the deep end and made a lifelong commitment to my practise and love of ballet. I changed my Instagram handle to @thebalancedballerina and started working on the first ideas for the ‘Balanced Ballerinas’ brand and retreat concept. In 2017 I poured my heart and soul into a TEDx Talk about ‘The Brilliance of Ballet’ and I took a trip to Africa to teach ballet in the slums that changed the way I view the world and the power of this beautiful art for the rest of my life.
On a smaller scale, my business started producing more quality classes, dancers, teachers, performances and community vibes than ever before and my own craft – the art of teaching classical ballet – only sharpened. The proof was in the pudding as my clients saw progress, improvement and results. What was the catalyst? What was the difference? And if I’m honest, none of this would have happened if I stayed up to date on US politics, the Royal Family or the constant revolving door of Prime Ministers in our Australian government.
Call me crazy (which friends at dinner parties have done many times!) but to a degree I don’t care about what’s going on in the world because I truly believe my role in this life is to spread positivity and passion through our collective love of ballet and provide the space and resources to do so. There’s enough people in the world keeping tabs on what’s going on in sport, current affairs, pop culture and I am so lucky to be surrounded by family and friends who will let me know if there’s a crisis to run from or prepare for. I do realise how privileged this position is… but I want everyone to know that my passion about this topic truly come from compassion.
I used to watch my Dad pour his coffee black from a plunger and read all the newspapers he could get his hands on. Sometimes we’d even go to the newsagents together and I helped him pick out the papers and if we were feeling extra fancy get takeaway coffee for him and a hot chocolate for me. There’s an elegance to this romanticised breakfast scene – the one filled with keeping abreast of current affairs and the simple pleasures in life, like coffee. Probably inspired by watching my father, I became obsessed with prominent business peoples morning routines. Once I read that Anna Wintour (Editor of Vogue) wakes up between 4 – 5.30am to read both the British and American newspapers so that she starts the day knowing exactly whats happening in the world. I aspired to be like this.
Then slowly over a period of time, I decided I actually didn’t need to be that person. My practise and my offering to the world is through the medicine that is movement… more specifically ballet. Does it require me to be proficient in the stock market? Nope. Or up to date with celebrity news? Not really. It requires me to produce content, to study, to plan and to prioritise self care so I can consistently show up and be the ballet teacher, the human being that my clients and my community deserve. I’ve taken one sick day in eight years and I think that going for a walk, meditating over a morning coffee and doing some exercise instead of consuming multiple news channels might have something to do with it.
I take my work very seriously. Teaching, sharing and communicating the benefits of ballet is not a frivolous job. Every week (sometimes daily!) I have clients tell me I’ve improved their quality of life and people message me from the other side of the world to let me know the conversations on this podcast have changed their day, their week and every now and then their life. That’s not something to be taken for granted. That’s why I consume little news with caution. In order to produce quality content I need all my energy and there’s no time for me to be anxiety ridden. I have a job to do.
And I urge everyone to think about what their job to do is… is your consumption of media stopping you form your life’s work? Is it stopping you from being rational? Is it stopping you from having the time to do the things you love?
Trust me when I say if there’s something going on in the world that you need to know about, you’ll know about it! And then (because you’re smart!) you’ll deal with it by going straight to a reputable source and act accordingly.
Don’t forget how powerful the news can be at turning the whole world on kilter. Think about it like this, when a celebrity dies (think Princess Diana, Robin Williams and more recently Kobe Bryant) it feels like the whole world stops… doesn’t it? It’s a strange feeling of deep sadness and confusion in collectedness. In these moments the world seems to vibrate on a different level. And yet, we don’t even know these people personally. It activates ancient and primal parts of us that remind us we are all connected.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned about the coronavirus, but just remember how powerful news can be. Don’t marinate in the doomsday vibes because THAT will make you sick.
2. Don’t feel bad for switching off…
Now this is when I felt like I had to do this episode; one of my clients entered the studio on Thursday and mentioned she was feeling really anxious as a result of the amount of news she’d been consuming. She said, “Gosh I can’t wait to just get onto that barre and switch off for an hour and a half, I’m exhausted by all this news!” And I feel you! I feel you beautiful ballerinas and I know the power of the barre.
The message I want to deliver today is, don’t feel bad for switching off. It’s important to do so. The news cycle never used to be 24/7 and whilst information is king and very useful, it can also bring mass anxiety and panic. I’m not saying people shouldn’t worry (this is a perfectly normal human emotion) but I would like my beautiful community to be smart. Be strong. Be resilient. Choose your news sources wisely and limit your consumption so that you know the facts, not the hype.
It’s so very simple, but now more than ever do we need to light a candle, take a breath and practise some movement (wether that’s a little yoga or ballet at home or placing your (washed) hand on the (disinfected) barre… because the quickest way to quieten the mind is to move the body.
Speaking of washed hands and disinfected barres, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m ignoring the pandemic the world is currently experiencing. I just think we need to find a little balance amongst all the mayhem.
3. Be sensible. Be hygienic. But most importantly, have a sense of humour!
The most balanced piece of content I’ve seen in the dance community actually came from the incredible Min who is the owner of Cloud & Victory (an incredible, sustainable dance wear brand that celebrates all dancers, whilst getting her gear on some of the most famous dancers in the world!) She put up this hilarious post about what to do if a dancer is starting to experience muscle cramps, falling out of turns and forgetting choreography, stating that they may have coronavirus and should be quarantined at wineries, beach resorts and spa retreats! This example is perfect because she then continued a much more serious tone in her caption reminding studios to follow basic hygienic practices and spare a thought for small businesses that will potentially find these times incredibly tough. Brilliant. Genius. Hilarious.
If you’re scrolling instagram and see the countless jokes about ballet teachers stocking up on wine instead of toilet paper and dancers rehearsing in biohazard suits, don’t feel bad for sharing or consuming. A little humour goes a long way and it’s important to have a giggle every now and then in these situations. Don’t feel like you’re taking the situation any less seriously when enjoying these light hearted moments. In fact, I also recommend visiting David Kings instagram @aballeteducation as he has done some pretty hilarious illustrations as of late in regards to the dance world and coronavirus.
Now getting back to hygiene. This is common sense stuff! And I think we should be practising these recommendations EVERY flu season. One of the biggest compliments I receive on the regular at our studio is how clean it is. My business partner (aka Mum) and I happen to be clean freaks, but I think that any space dealing with children and adults in a confined, sweaty space should always practise good hygiene. There have been times that I’ve attended other studios for workshops and not been able to find soap in the bathroom or kitchen to wash my hands. I mean c’mon people! Yes, I keep a bottle of hand sanitiser handy at all times whilst teaching, but I take the health of myself and my students very seriously and we’ve always bulk bought antibacterial hand soap since we first opened in 2013.
I urge everyone who is a teacher or leader within the industry to wipe down barres after every class with disinfectant. Vacuum and mop multiple times per week and provide hand wash within all bathrooms and kitchens. Teach your younger students about basic hygiene principles like how long to wash your hands for (I told mine to sing Happy Birthday whilst doing so), place a hand over your mouth when coughing or sneezing, use a tissue and don’t touch your face. And as Min says, don’t be racist and for goodness sake, don’t panic buy toilet paper!
Personally my eczema is playing up like crazy! I think it’s a combination of worry and all the space cleansing everyone is doing. My skin does not like harsh chemicals or disinfectants and for the past week or so I feel like that’s all I’ve been in contact with… but it’s something we all have to do and should be doing to take care of ourselves and as a result take care of others.
4. Now is the perfect time to evaluate your health, immune system and diet…
And panic buying brings me to my next point; instead of panic buying toilet paper, cans of food and highly processed products. How about you stop for a second to think about where your health status is currently at… are you getting enough vitamins and minerals into your diet? Are you eating all the colours of the rainbow? Are you taking care of yourself on a regular and consistent basis so that when times like this arise you feel strong and healthy instead of weak and scared…
Now of course people are born with asthma, lung disease or chronic illness that they have no control over and that’s completely different! But if you catch the common cold multiple times a year or experience gastro on a regular basis, then maybe it’s time to get to the root of the cause and clean up your diet and hygiene practices.
Ensure you eat your fruit and vegetables! Are you drinking at least 2 litres of water per day to stay hydrated? Have you got enough protein and probiotic rich foods in your diet? Are you staying active and getting adequate amounts of sleep? And finally, have you got stress management practices in place to strengthen your immune system?
In the midst of COVID-19 everyone is looking for quick hacks to boost their immunity. This is ridiculous. There’s no such thing. It’s about as useless as consuming oranges after catching the common cold. Health and immunity is built up over time, with patience and practice.
5. You wanted ‘time’ and here it is…
IF we have a little corona curfew here’s some food for thought; whilst we have some time up our sleeve, how about you do all those things that you always say you don’t have time for?
If you’re a small business owner, use this time to forecast potential losses and examine the various aspects of your business. If you have a little extra time up your sleeve, start that project you’ve been wanting to begin. Or you may have been hustling so hard and kicking goals that you could use this time to take a step back and breathe…
On the flip side, if you’re an employee working from home and being forced to take sick or holiday leave, this might be an opportunity to reflect and reevaluate what’s important in life. Perhaps living a more minimalist lifestyle, only keeping what’s important to you is a good idea. Do you really need to go out for drinks three nights a week? Do you really need that new dress every month? Perhaps read that book that’s been sitting on your bedside table to months…
Everyones always saying that they don’t have TIME to do things. Well this might be the time you’re looking for.
Here’s my suggestions;
- Practise some at-home yoga (I’ve recently discovered Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube)
- Do some Balanced Ballerinas body conditioning homework exercises!
- Experiment with meditation…
- Listen to podcasts (I’ve had some amazing guests recently, so if you haven’t already listened catch up here!)
- Plan your meals and enjoy cooking and staying in for a change.
- Go through your wardrobe and sell or donate things you don’t wear anymore.
- Journal, write and breathe!
- Call your family or best friend you haven’t spoken to in a while…
I almost didn’t do this podcast because I didn’t want to panic anyone any further. Because there’s no reason to panic anyone. Because this too shall pass. I simply wanted to highlight the silver lining… because there’s always a silver lining.
As always, let’s keep calm and carry on through grit and grace and of course balance. Stay connected to your communities and keep moving forward with kindness.
Sending my love to all, especially small businesses, freelancers and arts organisations around the world. And for gods sake, wash your damn hands! Haha!