As I pursue a master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, the course load over the past two years has brought on added stressors that have me rely on the art form of dance to lessen that stress, but now from a different perspective compared to my years training at the studio. A person becomes stressed when overwhelmed with responsibilities and struggles to cope with demands such as added curricular activities, school-related issues, work-school balance, relationships, social media usage, lack of sleep, and other situations that may be challenging. I believe a good indicator of managing stress is looking at the emotional response to it. Stress is an everyday part of life, but how we respond to those stress-inducing events can positively affect our minds and body together.
The increased physical activity requires the body to work more in the sense that the physical activity demands oxygen to build stamina, contributing to a healthy heart, muscle strength and tone, and flexibility (Hanna, 2006). Studies have shown that dance can help reduce stress, boost serotonin levels, improve executive function, long-term memory, and spatial recognition, and develop new neural connections (Vidyapeetham, 2020). This leads me to the importance of dance and its influence on the mind, body, and spirit.
Mind: Dance requires focus and concentration on the movement with the music, connecting the mind and body more efficiently. The knowledge and integration of steps allow you to be present and in the moment without judgment while forming new interconnections in the brain. All while producing feelings of calmness, satisfaction, and a greater tolerance for pain (Vidyapeetham, 2020).
Body: The body is their instrument through movements and expressions for dancers. The benefits of exercise include raising body temperature, increasing blood flow to the brain, relaxing the nervous system, and altering brain electrical patterns, which can improve moods and reduce stress. In addition to providing temporary relief from problems, this activity tends to relax the body (Hanna, 2006).
Spirit: In dance, thoughts, and feelings are visually expressed and symbolized in a manner that cannot be done in words, and by doing so, we can use this nonverbal speech form to cope and express our emotions. This can assist with any pent-up feelings, reduce emotional stress and provide a healthy way to manage overwhelming demands (Hanna, 2006).
The social aspect of dance brings a sense of enjoyment and camaraderie that is unlike any other social interaction. Whether dancing alone, with a partner, or in a group, the feelings of support and belonging create a sense of community that is apparent at ADA, increasing happiness during stressful times.
Hanna, J. L. (2006). In Dancing for health: Conquering and preventing stress (pp. 30–77).
essay, AltaMira Press.
Vidyapeetham, A. V. (2020). Dance – as a source of relieving stress among women. Indian
Journal of Public Health Research & Development, 11, 7–14.