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A Glimpse into the Lives of DanceSport from a sports psychiatrist, psychotherapist perspective 29/01/2021

There is no doubt that this year filled with the COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of challenges for a majority of people. However, for the sports society and athletes, it became a “life or death” question.

The canceled Olympic games along with other major championship competitions led athletes to a state of needing to “hibernate” - not quitting, but surviving; finding the motivation to continue, but without any exact information about a new beginning.

I have been going through this situation together with DanceSport athletes. Some felt the break was a nice opportunity to rest from the stress of sports and the other things going on in the world. Yet, a large majority of dancers felt out of touch in not having the possibility to dance and to practice with their partners—to them it felt like torture and it raised the question of whether they could continue dancing at all after the lockdown. Some dancers lost their motivation, inspiration and willingness to dance. The first challenge was to survive the lockdown, the second was to get back on the floor to find their passions again and willingness to prepare and fight for the best results in the future competitions and the third challenge was a return to a pseudo-normal life where they were allowed to practice but due to the second lockdown in countries were not able and still cannot compete, travel and get back to their normal life.

It is important to acknowledge how the pandemic has led to some serious consequences regarding athletes’ attitudes towards their future plans and goals in sport with everything unravelling and hard to predict what lies ahead. What once entailed having a whole year planned out in advance suddenly changed to planning one day at a time in the face of an evolving pandemic situation.

DanceSport athletes are unique among other members of the society and they possess unique characteristics that distinguish them from nonathletes. In this article I will mention only two of those unique characteristics, which are extremely important and which have been strongly affected during this period of pandemic, these are: extraversion and perfectionism. Extroverts are characterized by having positive emotions such as happiness, liveliness, optimism, and high levels of energy and activity, also they are friendly and energized when surrounded by other people. Dancers’ routine livelihoods that included practice with their partners, camps, competitions abroad and training with foreign teachers became essentially impossible. This part of dancers’ life was taken away because of Covid-19 pandemic, and of course this loss made a negative impact to athletes’ mental state.  This was hardly experienced especially by those who are more emotional and sensitive. They felt sad and hopeless, couldn’t engage in any virtual lessons because they missed real connection. The other characteristic such as positive perfectionism can be defined as a motivation to achieve a certain goal in order to obtain a favourable outcome. Goal setting has a core value for athletes’ career and success. In DanceSport there are so many different competitions and championships where dancers compete and seek their goals. A possibility to compete and pursue their goals drives them forward. When suddenly everything disappears the majority of dancers feel lost, demotivated and even angry. And usually, it is not enough to tell them, that “you must continue because you love dancing” or “this period of pandemic is a good possibility to change”. Even if those notions are completely true, they don’t help enough dancers to “stay on track”. To maintain a motivation in this period of uncertainty and unpredictability is extremely hard for everyone, especially for younger dancers, teenagers, those who are more emotive and fragile. For those who are more disciplined and focused it may be a bit easier to survive this nightmare of Covid-19 pandemic.

We are human beings and we react to different circumstances with our emotions and feelings. All feelings like nostalgia, sadness, hopelessness, fear, anger, loss, lack of meaning and motivation, doubt, and etc. are natural, totally normal, valuable and important in this particular and extreme pandemic situation.

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with few recommendations:

  1. Being able to talk about how you feel, acknowledge all the negative feelings, be aware of your inner state, would lead you to more harmony and inner peace.
  2. Do not deny, neglect or pretend that everything is “very good and easy” because it’s not. All athletes are facing a lot of challenges during this period. Denial and neglect could lead to a burnout even before everything will come back to normal.
  3. Talking is the best way to free your mind from negative emotions. This is just how our brain works.
  4. It is important to accept things, that you cannot change, like pandemic, and focus on things that really depend on you like relationships with your significant others, dancing quality, sport and etc.
  5. Try to maintain positive attitude towards your life despite how this pandemic has changed it.
  6. Obviously, the world will overcome his war with a virus so probably very soon you will be able to come back to your beloved dance world.

 

 

Brigita Stenger MD

Psychiatrist

Psychoanalytic psychotherapist

Sport psychiatrist