Post-Show Decompression

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Following the Club Bellydance performance with the Bellydance Superstars (Photo by David Sorcher for MetroMix)

Producing a show requires hours of preparation and rehearsing, in addition to taking financial risks and doing everything in your power to make sure the performance is amazing.  Larger shows can take months or an entire year to pull together, and often mean taking on additional stress.  When it’s all over, even when I feel pleased with the results, I often feel exhausted, empty and depressed.  The goal was accomplished… now what?  What am I supposed to spend hours a day doing and creating?  What’s the new, enormous undertaking?  The drive to jump to the next, all-consuming artistic endeavor is almost overwhelming.  And this is when it’s critical to stop… and decompress.

I know some of you are rolling your eyes.  But after doing this for so many years, it’s become clear to me that my health and sanity cannot maintain that crushing momentum.  If I just give myself a certain amount of time (at least three days) following a large creative production to relax and calm down, I begin to feel refreshed.  I can then carry my inspiration and enthusiasm into the next production, rather than arriving with nothing left to give.

Listed below are some of my favorite ways of “shedding the completed work.”

1.  Get out of Character – Slowly and carefully remove “the business” of your dance persona.  The simple act of physically slowing down is instantly calming.  Gently remove the headdress, eyelashes, etc. and put them away.  Then simply sit in or stand under the warm water and envision it washing away the stress and frustrations of the project.  Calming music, scented bath salts or soap scrubs, and fluffy robes are also nice touches.

2.  Hydrate – I tend to eat very poorly during these times, and I also forget to drink enough water.  This usually results in a post-show migraine, which just makes the feelings of exhaustion and restlessness even worse.  I drink a large bottle of water on the way home from the show, and at least another large glass before and after I finish bathing.  It sounds like a lot, but it’s really helped prevent the headaches and muscle cramps.

3.  Better Food – I usually crave the worst fast-foods imaginable and have a compulsion to eat an entire bag of Chili Cheese Fritos.  When it’s all over, I try my best to eat better, starting with a small bowl of soup before going to bed that night.  I avoid caffeine (as much as possible) and try to eat lots of fruits, light sandwiches with tons of veggies and filling soups.  If I’m crunched for time, I throw on a crock pot with something warm and comforting.  Otherwise, I enjoy the process of preparing the food and shutting off my “dancer brain”.

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Drive-thru open 24 hours… just what I needed (NOT)!

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THIS is what I *should* be eating… and it’s a REAL COOKBOOK!

4.  Off-line – With the exception of sending e-notes to thank the performers, audience, etc., I try to avoid social media and other forms of communication for at least one entire day.  It’s very difficult for me to quiet my mind if I’m checking emails, listening to voice mails and scanning Facebook/Twitter constantly.

5.  Pampering – There’s nothing like a massage or accupressure session to soothe the muscles after pushing your body to the limit with dancing and stress!  If massages aren’t your thing, then get a facial or soak in the tub.  Even a great yoga stretching session can do wonders.

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Must… squish out… the… STRESSSSSS!

6.  Reconnect – All those extra rehearsals, online marketing and cat-herding sessions have probably left your friends and family wondering if they’ll ever see you again.  Now is a great time to reconnect with loved ones… who probably don’t want to discuss the project you just finished.

7.  Non-Belly Dance Entertainment – I enjoy watching comedies when I’m trying to de-stress.  Some of my favorites are “The Birdcage“, “Dodgeball“, “Young Frankenstein“, and “Flight of the Conchords” (former HBO series full of random acts of hilarity).  And you know it’s been especially stressful if “Jackass: The Movie” is playing in the house!

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8.  Jammies Weekend – I don’t even want to think about putting on anything special after smashing myself into a tight costume for a long evening.  It makes my brain hurt!  So I enjoy the “Jammies Weekend” whenever possible.  Did you know there are adult footy-jammies?  Yes!!  And I’m not talking about that Forever Lazy nonsense… I mean you should get some proper, footed PJ’s!!

9.  Journal – Give yourself at least one day of decompressing before doing this one.  I find that writing my thoughts (good and bad) about the production in a journal gives a sense of finality to all that work.  It lets me spill my dancer brain on the page, listing what I liked about the show, what worked well and what could have been handled better.  Once that’s done, I won’t forget anything about the project, and no longer feel the need to obsess over it.  It feels “finished” when I get everything out of my head.

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It makes Z a dull girl, too…

10.  Celebrate! – Choose something as a means of celebrating the completion of the project.  It can be a nice dinner, fancy drink, indulgent dessert, new piece of bling, whatever makes you happy.  And no matter how the project turned out, celebrate its completion and your hard work.  FYI, be sure any tangible items purchased continue to remind you of good times, and not frustrations or disappointments.

Now… relax, unwind and bask in your fabulousness!

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