5 Self-Care Strategies I Learned on Tour That Are Helping Me During the Pandemic
At the beginning of 2020, I was fresh off the North American tour of The Phantom of the Opera and ready to start auditioning again in NYC. I was optimistic about the opportunities that lay ahead of me and excited to see what the rest of 2020 had in store, but on March 12th, 2020 Broadway announced it was closing due to COVID-19. Like many dancers, I thought it would be a month or two before everything was up and running again, but I was wrong. Several months into the pandemic, I find myself navigating what it means to be a dancer when there are no dance jobs. There is so much uncertainty in the world, and the fear of the unknown is even more heightened in the theatre industry, one that relies on the gathering of large crowds. As I reflect on my experiences on tour, I realize that many of the self-care techniques I implemented throughout the tour are keeping my mental health in check during the global pandemic.
Make time for yourself On tour, you are living, working, and socializing with the same group of people. There is always an opportunity to engage in conversation backstage or explore a new city with friends. It is this constant togetherness that makes a touring company feel like family. On the flip side, it can be overwhelming to constantly be around the same group of people. It is important to know your limit, to set boundaries, and to carve out space and time for yourself. The same is true during the pandemic. If you are at home 24/7 with your family, don’t be afraid to take some alone time for yourself - to read, journal, or go for a walk.
Create a sleep schedule and stick with it After a performance, it takes a while to wind down after you get home. I always liked to eat a snack and watch an episode of a TV show before bed, but sometimes one episode turned into more and before I knew it, it was 4am! I would then sleep in late and feel like I had wasted the day. Enter sleep schedule. I decided to set a bedtime and a wake up time for myself, which changed my life. It gave me a routine where there was otherwise none, and helped me to better manage my energy. This has also helped me greatly during the pandemic. By creating a sleep schedule for myself, I am able to add structure to my days, which helps boost my mood and energy levels.
Make your space your happy place While touring, you are living in different hotel rooms and Airbnbs and it is easy to feel unsettled. One way that made me feel more comfortable was to make any place I stayed feel like home. This could mean putting out pictures of loved ones, hanging string lights, lighting a candle, or sleeping with a blanket made by your grandma. Whether you are staying in a room on tour for one night, or for the entirety of a global pandemic, be sure that it brings you comfort and joy.
Be active about keeping in touch with loved ones Being away from family and friends can take a toll on your mental health. When I joined the tour, I went from seeing certain people in my life every day, to not seeing them for months at a time. With social media at our fingertips, it is easy to feel connected with people, but we all know that a comment on a photo is no replacement for a real conversation. If you miss someone in your life, call them! It’s as simple as that. It will be nice to hear how they’re doing, and they will appreciate that you thought to call.
Maintain an attitude of gratitude When our tour closed, I was heartbroken to leave the show and the people who had made the experience so special. The biggest thing that made the transition easier for me was gratitude. I felt grateful for the experience, but also for the new chapter that was ahead of me. Although 2020 has turned out quite differently than I expected, there is still so much to be grateful for. Make a list of things you are grateful for, and make a new list everyday. With so much unrest in the world, it is important to remind ourselves that we can choose how we want to move forward, and in that choice lies great power.