For our new DESTRESS 360 campaign, we set the focus on the importance of movement for stress relief. Featuring five dancers, we asked them to move fluidly through where they hold stress in their bodies to illustrate the powerful connection between mind and body.
We interviewed the cast between takes, discovering their sources of stress, where they feel it in the body and how they manage it.
Site of stress: Chest
“I hold stress in my chest, it comes from my family lineage. My mum has a dance school so stress was there since day one. When your mum is doing it as a job, it puts a pressure on you to always be on top of things, not consciously just subconsciously. Sometimes I took on my mum’s stress because I didn’t want her to feel it even though it wasn’t my responsibility.
I also hold stress in my shoulders. I think it’s a way to protect myself in an environment where I don’t feel safe, especially in dance if I enter a space and don’t know anyone, I get uptight in my shoulders. Breathing is always a reminder for me to let go and focus on the present moment and not stay stuck in my head. When you enter a flow of movement, you’re engaging your body and you relax and breathe through. Dance is both my source of stress and release from it: it’s a thin line between love and hate. It took me a long time to unlearn stress and accept where I’m at with my life and dance.
Movement is a healing practice—it’s even included in Shamanic practices. Sweating and moving has some kind of ancestral energy. We all have stored information from our families and things that we’ve taken onto our shoulders that aren't ours but it's in our lineage. We carry the pain of our parents because their generation didn't have the chance to heal themselves. It’s like illness generated from fear, pain, stress… it comes into your organs. Your cells have memory.
One big change for me was when I’d injure myself through dance. I used to get really frustrated but I listened to studies that said a way to heal quicker is to talk to your cells and remind them that it's okay and that they'll get better, otherwise they’ll store the memory of the pain and you might heal from it but in 6 months’ time the same issue will arise. The power we have in our brain to talk to our body is enormous but massively unknown.
I’m very into energy and what we don’t see but feel with our gut. The environment plays a massive role, it’s all about feedback, the air, the temperature, the people—they all affect how you move, especially if you’re sensitive or an empathetic person. We’ve been educated to develop [academic] intelligence but we never really get taught how to feel things from an inside perspective.”
Site of stress: Shoulders and chest
“I feel like I’m quite blessed because I’ve had a strong connection with music and dance since I was young. If I hadn't had that, my life would be completely different. It’s been a positive force in my life and it's helped me to become more positive and have a better outlook on life.
When I’m feeling stressed and like life gets too much, I’ll listen to music and dance in my room to my mirror, and it’s just a feeling I can’t really explain—it’s like my problems don’t really matter. It’s something very spiritual, I forget what I’m going through when I’m in that mind frame. When I can’t dance physically, I write down what I’m going through and make it into a song; that way I’m still being creative and it feels therapeutic.
I carry tension in my shoulders, and when I’m really stressed I feel it in my chest. Once I focus on dancing or writing, it’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders; I feel powerful and that I haven’t become a victim of my situation, I’ve used what I have to help me.
Stress has held me back from a lot of things in the past. It’s confused me and taken its toll on my confidence and self-esteem. Stress is something that has to be worked on. Everyone goes through challenges but we have the choice whether to remain in that stressed mindset or do activities to help us come out of it, whether it’s reading, running, dancing, painting, writing… it’s not easy but there are things out there that can help.
It’s good to remember where you’ve come from and the battles that you’ve faced because life can be very tricky and it’s all about overcoming challenges and becoming stronger. It’s all about your outlook on life despite your situation.
I’ve been having cold baths and recently got a puppy, even though I was petrified of dogs. These kind of things help me conquer my fears and feel accomplished. Once I do the things that scare me, the reward is bigger than the fear.”
Site of stress: Chest
“I feel like I’m very privileged to have found a passion at a young age as it helps with so many things. When I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed and feeling stress in my chest, I always turn to dance and it immediately takes my mind off everything. I don’t have to wait for anyone, I don’t have to ask anyone to do it, I just do it and I’m good at it and I love doing it and it makes me feel good.”
Site of stress: Gut
“I feel stress in my gut. Sometimes I don’t know I’m stressed, but I’ll lose my appetite or feel sick and realise. It’s always when I haven’t addressed it in my head or heart that it’ll come up in my gut.
Stress for me is worrying about things that have already happened or haven’t happened yet. When I’m on stage or doing a show, somehow those moments are totally stress-free; I’m in the moment and nothing is affecting my thoughts or my body. It’s when I worry about things that I feel stressed.
I was always taught by my dance teachers and movement coaches to breathe into your lower abdomen and regulate your breathing. It takes your mind to a place of relief.”
Site of stress: Gut and skin
“I dance when I’m happy, when I’m stressed, when I’m low. It lifts my mood, being able to move and connect with my body and the moment. I meditate and concentrate on my breathing; my mind and body are all connected.
Practising mindfulness is key for me, from breathing to stretching to moving into dance—it’s all about being centred with my body. Even just 10 breaths in and out, if you can practice that without thinking about anything else but how the oxygen is inhaled and oxygenates your body, that little amount of concentration on your body helps bring you to the present.
I’m quite bad at auditions, as I get really stressed and my body starts to tense so I can’t perform as well as I could. I hold it in my gut: it feels twisted, I get a stomach ache. When everything’s tensing, nothing’s really functioning as well as it should: my skin gets drier, my posture suffers. At work I perform so much better than in auditions. The anxiousness when there’s so many people watching me is still something I’m learning to get over, but I warm up and remind myself that no one else is me. Comparing yourself to other people doesn’t help but society drives us to think that, so we’re always comparing ourselves and think we need success. Success is within, when you’re present and healthy and happy. That’s more important than comparing yourself to others with where you’re at in your career.
When I dance for myself, I feel totally stress-free because I’m moving and don’t get to think about anything else. Everyone should dance. You don’t have to be a dancer. It’s just so good for you to be there in the moment and feel relief and express yourself.”