Dance Away the Anxiety
By Ariel Hsieh
May 17th 2021
Anxiety is like a tornado. It can appear out of nowhere, a simple thought can trigger a cascade of uncontrollable thoughts and emotions that result in a full-blown anxiety attack. One can feel helpless when an anxiety attack begins, and it may feel that there is no way to stop it. When one feels an anxiety attack coming there are a few methods to stop it in its tracks.
Grounding is a method of redirecting our thoughts and emotions back into the present moment, connecting yourself back to your body and the Earth. Grounding is forming an anchor to prevent yourself from being whisked away by the tornado of thoughts. So how do we ground ourselves? The American Dance Therapy Association states, “The mind, body, and spirit are interconnected.” Due to this interconnectedness, we can use movement and body awareness to help address the mind and spirit that is adrift. To ground, we engage in exercises to bring our awareness into our body through the five senses, and one of the best methods of grounding the body is through dance.
Dance has been proven to improve mental health and decrease stress, anxiety, and depression (Sharma). It requires the engagement of the entire body through our sense of sight, hearing, and touch. Our sense of taste and smell can also be utilized in dance through imagination to bring forth a certain memory or emotion. Dance can be used to distract from intrusive thoughts, and realign the mind and body into a healthier state.
When dancing to decrease anxiety, simpler is better. The goal is to engage awareness with the whole body, and your alignment with space here and now. If your anxiety is rooted in worrying over a dance routine or perfecting a move, let that go and just let your body move in whatever way feels good. Adding music engages the sense of hearing that can help with grounding. If you don’t know where to start, see if you can follow some of the prompts below.
Start with stillness. Even in stillness, your body is working. Feel the air on your skin. Is there any part of your body that is holding more tension? Work the tension out of your by squeezing then releasing tension. Start with your feet, and move up, slowly add and remove tension from every part of your body. Can you be conscious of the sensation of every finger and toe? Take a breath and feel your body expand with each breath. Can you feel the sunlight? What do you hear? Is it music? Cars driving down the street? A bird singing outside your window? The world is rarely truly silent.
When you start moving, explore the different ways your body can initiate movement. How would you move if all movement was initiated from your pinky finger, your head, or your heart? How would your movement be changed if you were moving through honey or floating on a bubbly jacuzzi. What would your body feel? Touch the floor, feel how the floor supports you, how stable and safe does it feel to roll on the floor? What about the wall? What is the texture of the floor, the wall, your skin, your clothes? Which texture is your favorite?
Give yourself a nice, big sigh. Can you feel your body resonate when you hum? How high and low can your voice go? Shout anything you want into the space! Release your voice! Can you dance to the sounds you make? Give yourself some background music.
So often, we pass through life without exploring what our body needs. Dance moves can be beautiful and feel good, but sometimes your body just wants to let loose and be free. So put on any song and let the music wash over you. Let that music guide your body to move in any way that feels good. Dance like no is watching.