Melanie Doskocil is the director of a busy ballet school. Stressed? How could she be stressed? Many of you can relate, I’m sure. In her first guest spot here on Dance Advantage, Melanie shares how she mistook her symptoms for something else and gives 10 practical ways to restore your usual vim and vigor.
Recently I’ve been feeling a bit, well, I guess you could say “under the weather.” You know what I mean. I just can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but I don’t have my usual oomph. I’m tired, head-achy, getting ill easily and injured easily. My sex drive is non-existent, I can’t focus, I feel easily overwhelmed. I just turned 40 this year and I’m starting to think “oh, no, the dreaded perimenopause…ack!”
I generally prefer to visit non-traditional doctors ie; acupuncturists, naturopaths, energy workers, but I realized I had all these symptoms of peri-menopause and I should go and get tested. They just test your hormone levels. Fortunately, all my levels came out within “normal” ranges. This was encouraging, but it didn’t help me solve my listless, lazy, lack of luster phase.
After seeing the traditional western doc, I went to my usual acupuncture/Chinese medicine doc and also an ayurvedic doc. What the western doc saw as “normal” these other docs saw as the beginnings of serious problems. It seems I had severe adrenal depletion. My adrenal glands were so depleted I was beyond even running on reserves. The sleep I was getting wasn’t enough to recharge my batteries. I was in a constant state of blinking red light “batteries low…batteries low.”
The cause of the depletion…STRESS.
Complications related to stress…Stress?? I stared at my docs, dumbfounded…
How can I possibly have “complications related to stress?” I mean, I love my job! I teach dance…I play in the studio all day. I have a boyfriend who supports me 100%, he even cooks and cleans all those days that I’m at the studio from 8:00am to 9pm. I go to yoga 2-3 times a week, ski in the winter, hike in the summer, teach 18 classes a week, offer private lessons, help my advanced students prepare for auditions, choreograph dances, run a studio, deal with maniacal parents, comfort distressed children…oh…
yeah…I guess that’s how.
The point of this story is to illustrate that even though we love what we do, even though we have people who love and support us, even though we take special care of our bodies, even with all that, the daily PHYSICAL stress of teaching, managing and exercising can deplete us beyond our bodies ability to recover. We have to remember to take time for ourselves to REST. Rest constructively.
What? Rest? I know, I know, I can hear you all now…
I can’t rest…I have a studio to run, a family to raise, dances to choreograph, costumes to order, plus my Pilates and that group run I organized…
Here are some things that my two non-traditional docs recommended:
- Stop eating a big dinner at 8 or 9pm. (This was the most helpful) Eat a big lunch and a light dinner like soup. No raw food after 6pm. This has helped me sleep better and got rid of my acid reflux. My body was expending so much energy digesting that I wasn’t rejuvenating at night.
- Sleep with ear plugs. Again, this helps with more productive rest.
- No more processed foods. You know you can do it! One easy way is to do slow cooker meals that you can reheat for several days. Another is to cook several servings of your largest meal and put them away in the fridge to take for lunches. Instead of cooking one chicken breast, cook three and eat them throughout the week. Instead of cooking one sweet potato, cook 3 etc.
- Minimize corn, wheat and soy products, which many people have unknown allergies to, and definitely keep away from the high fructose corn syrup.
- Minimize alcohol and caffeine. I know, I thought I couldn’t live without my morning latte, but green tea is much more beneficial and the caffeine buzz is more subtle. Have your latte as a special treat a couple times a week instead of everyday.
- Stop drinking soda and those pre-sweetened ice tea drinks! First, these decrease the body’s ability to absorb calcium. People who drink soda regularly are at higher risk of loss of bone density and fractures. 2nd, soda messes with the naturally occurring acid in the stomach and can create digestive trouble. Those pre-sweetened teas are loaded with high-fructose corn syrup; and we just don’t need more sugar to make us feel good. We all know what loading up on sugar does to our students before ballet class, right?
- Meditate. Just 10 or 15 minutes a day. It’s much easier than it sounds. You don’t need a guru! Just a few minutes a day of quiet, focused, positive thinking can work wonders. I simply focus on all the positive wonderful things in my life and the wonderful things I want to bring into my life. If that’s too much, just focus on your breathing…8 counts in, 8 counts out…we can all do that!
- Twice a month have some body work done. I know this part can seem expensive, but the investment is worth it. You could even trade with a parent in the dance school (be sure to choose wisely!) Massage, acupuncture, have your honey rub your feet, whatever. I have it regularly scheduled now so that I look forward to it at the end of one of my busiest days. I actually look forward to Thursdays now!
- Boost your immune system naturally with things like pro-biotics, tulsi tea, odorless garlic capsules, supplements. Work with a non-traditional health practitioner like a naturopath or acupuncturist to determine what is best for your body. Be careful about going to the local health food store and just buying what they recommend. Some stores do hire knowledgeable people, but some don’t. It’s best to work with someone who understands your body and your needs and can help you create a regime for better health.
- If you are over 40, you may want to have your hormones tested…after all, the early stages of perimenopause can start as early as 35. High stress can bring on early perimenopause. Perimenopause is the stage of life where our bodies slow the production eggs and of estrogen and other sex hormones. Menstruation becomes less frequent. This all eventually leads to menopause, which is where all production of eggs and hormones stops, and menstruation stops. The body goes into withdrawal from the lowering and lack of estrogen, progesteren and testosterone. This can lead to things like: fuzzy thinking, head-aches, insomnia, fatigue, crazy mood swings not to mention hot flashes, weight gain and loss of libido. Talk to your health practitioner. There are many more available options for living a healthy vibrant life post-menopause than there were for our mothers.
Above, all, don’t be satisfied with feeling less than who you are. Take care of yourself because your students, family and community value you. You can’t give all you have if you have nothing left to give. You deserve to feel good and enjoy this life you have created.
Melanie Doskocil directs the School of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet with over 20 years of professional dance and teaching experience. She began her professional dance career in 1989 with Ballet Arizona and continued on to dance with Oakland Ballet, Nevada Ballet Theater, City Ballet of San Diego, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Mia Michaels RAW, and Odyssey Dance Theatre in Utah. Ms. Doskocil began teaching in 1995, for City Ballet of San Diego, under the mentorship of Steven and Elizabeth Wistrich. She continued teaching and began directing at Center Stage Performing Arts Studios in Utah, where she created their pre-professional ballet program. Melanie has mentored with master teachers Jean-Philippe Malaty, Tom Mossbrucker, Hilary Cartwright and the excellent faculty of Marcia Dale Weary’s Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. She shares her teaching stories, ideas, and some favorite ballet classes on her blog at www.balletpages.blogspot.com.
Can you relate to Melanie’s stress-related condition?
What are you doing to relieve stress symptoms?
Have any of the above helped you feel like your old self again?