5 Tips to Balance Dance, School and Life

With the new school year underway, it can get tough to balance everything. You’re probably eager to maintain the momentum of your summer training, but now there’s also homework, studying for tests, catching up with friends, and making new ones—all while adjusting to a new routine. Here are some tips to avoid feeling overwhelmed and make the most of it all. 

1)   Sleep! It might be impossible to get as much sleep as you should be getting every night, but really try. Conventional wisdom prescribes 8 hours of sleep a night, but for teenagers getting as much exercise as dancers get, 9 or 10 hours are recommended. Foregoing proper rest has serious consequences. Your body recovers more slowly. You’re less coordinated. You’re more susceptible to getting sick. It’s WAY harder to learn combinations (not to mention anything at school), and it can lead to weight gain, anxiety, and depression. So while it’s tempting to stay up to watch one more video, read one more chapter, or talk to friends late into the night, being disciplined about your sleep schedule will pay off big time.

2)   Get organized. Try to know your schedule well in advance and prepare for the stressful times. If you know you have a convention and a midterm the same week, start studying for your test earlier than you usually would. You will have more time to process the material. And when rehearsals inevitably run late you won’t have to pull an all-nighter to cram.

3)   Give school work enough attention. It can be hard to resist online social media, random google searches, Youtube, or checking email when you’re working on your computer, but try to block out chunks of time during which you can focus 100% on getting through a task (finishing a chapter, completing a problem set, etc.). One option to help you manage your time is the Pomodoro Method, which is a technique for organizing your productivity into 30 min segments. You work with total concentration for 25 minutes and treat yourself to a 5-minute break at the end before getting back to work. After completing 4 of these cycles, you get a longer break for 15-30 minutes.

4)   Give yourself chances to de-stress. Keeping up with the rigors of dance training and maintaining a strong GPA can wear your down. One of the benefits of being organized about your time is that it will let you eke out a little free time here and there. Try to use it for whatever it is that makes you feel happy and rejuvenated. 

5)   Friendships are vital and they need work to flourish like anything else. It can feel difficult to maintain friendships with people who don’t know the insanity of a dancer’s schedule from experience. When you have to frequently skip hanging out for class or rehearsal you might start to feel distance opening up between yourself and your friends. But it’s important to remember that you’re not just a dancer. Often it’s exactly your non-dance friends who are able to remind you of that and provide some needed perspective. Your friends will understand that the demands on your time are important because they are your friends and admire you for who you are, and dance is obviously a part of that. Trust them to get you and be emotionally available for them, even if sometimes the best you can manage is via text while you’re stretching before class. Little reminders that you care add up and mean a lot.