5 Tips to Make the Best of a Bad Injury

Being injured is terrible on lots of levels, but to me, the worst part of an injury is often the frustration and depression of being out of commission until it’s safe to dance again. The sense of time and chances to improve slipping by can turn what could be healthily spent time off into a grueling limbo of waiting and worrying about lost opportunities. But it doesn’t have to be so! Time off, if used well, can be highly productive. Here are five tips to help you overcome the enforced downtime blues and return to the studio with rejuvenated energy. 1) Stay inspired. Not being in class all the time can free up your schedule for some educational entertainment. Dedicate some of your off hours to watching performances. If you’ve got favorites, they can help cheer you up. But you should make a point of watching new material too. Live performances or video of dance in a style to which you’re unaccustomed can give you new ideas about movement, musicality, and aesthetic style. While you’re not working your body in class, you can still work your mind and imagination. 2) Catch up on some reading. Biographies, autobiographies, and/or essays by dancers and choreographers can help you in a few ways. First, just like performances, other people’s stories can inspire and help you conceive new ideas to apply to your own training. Second, sometimes information strikes you differently when you learn it in different forms. People assimilate and process information differently. Maybe there’s been a message you’ve heard a million times in class, but seeing it on a page will help it click. It can be good to read non-dance related stuff too! Borrowing concepts—inspiring images, lines of poetry, character studies, etc.—from other art forms can help with your dancing and ability to communicate with audiences. 3) Give your body all the help you can. As tempting as it is to succumb to junk food sulking, you’ll be much happier exercising discipline. This is not at all to suggest an extreme diet. Your body will need calories to help repair itself. Just give yourself an edge by making sure the calories are healthy and useful—think lots of protein! Sugars can suppress your immune system and aren’t likely to help your spirits. If you really need some comfort food, try to stick to low-sugar options. Dark chocolate can actually be a relatively healthy indulgence, according to Web MD. 4) Spend quality time with loved ones. Chances are you don’t get to see your friends as much as you’d like with normal class and rehearsal schedules. Catching up with them will help cheer you up, and lower stress levels lead to an enhanced physical ability to recover. 5) Listen to your body. Some injuries are the result of random accidents, but a lot of them happen because of negative patterns in your training. Think honestly about whether you may have partially brought this on yourself. Have you been forcing your turn out? Do you create asymmetries in your body by over focusing on your “good side?” Are you taking too many classes without giving yourself sufficient rest? By confronting your bad habits now, you can help yourself prevent future recurrences of your injury—and you will ultimately be a better dancer for it.