Wellbeing Sessions: Supporting Teachers and Young People Mid-Pandemic
By Mel Simpson
Mel Simpson provides wellbeing for educational settings, offering sessions to support the mental health of students and Dance Teachers amidst the current uncertain climate.
Are your students suffering with anxiety and a consequential lack of focus? Are you struggling with overwhelm, expectation, stress and tension?
We’ve unusually, all collectively experienced the same thing in different ways. Covid-19 hit; we were thrown into Lockdown, many experienced loss, and we’re still currently questioning if life will ever be quite the same again. Let’s not underestimate the impact of that on our own, and on our young people’s mental health.
As a usually very busy visiting dance artist, suddenly all of my educational workshops were cancelled for a number of months. Beyond the initial panic, ultimately I’m grateful, as it forced me to re-evaluate my purpose; gave me the space to be creative, and to have the realization that providing wellbeing for all is paramount to me.
In addition to delivering my established curriculum dance workshops in technique, student choreography and repertoire, I’m currently providing mindful movement sessions. These are run online via Zoom/Teams to offer groups of students a safe, non-judgmental space where they are given permission to become still, breathe, focus inwardly, and come in to the present moment. Students are gently guided through a carefully developed programme of focused exercises for posture and alignment, which in turn have the ability to positively change their emotional state, increasing endorphins. Towards the end of each session, I facilitate creative exercises that will help them to reflect on their individual experiences, enabling them to bring those emotions to the fore and express them in gestural sequences, encouraging self-expression. My key ethos is “we are all valid; there is room for us all”.
With anxiety, depression and suicide on the rise, it is absolutely vital that we embrace new routines and practices that support the mental and physical wellbeing of our youth. Without that, they will not be “ready to learn”, attain, or achieve their full potential. I wholeheartedly advocate for more movement, meditation and mindfulness to be embraced in educational settings in the UK.
Many teachers are suffering with exhaustion as they feel they never get to stop, or slow down. This is dangerous, as high levels of adrenaline and cortisol can lead to lack of quality sleep, which in turn contributes to low mood and heightened anxiety. If this is ringing bells for you – consider what you can do to delegate or alleviate at least some of your daily duties.
I’ve recently launched my ‘DANCE ALIGN’ programme: Slow Contemporary Jazz via zoom, offering a place of uninterrupted solace for dance teachers who want to commit to making time for their bodies and minds. Anatomically safe and designed for small spaces, Teachers can join for 1 hour, to benefit from the main class content, or if they wish to, they can stay and “dance it out” learning longer expressive flowing phrases, as an opportunity to realign and reconnect to their inner dance spirit, releasing tension. It’s so important to keep learning, in order to keep teaching with passion.
If you’re feeling isolated and would like to feel part of a community of like-minded creative adults, ‘DANCE OR DRAW’ might be your place for uplift and belonging during this time. These are quirky fun events, which I host on Zoom two Saturdays per month. You can either take the challenge of speed-drawing/painting me as I dance (stick man scribblings are welcome!), or alternatively, if you’re longing to dress up and pretend to be Kate Bush, or Mary Poppins, you can join to learn the dance with me, for a highly accessible online dance class! Formed during Lockdown 1.0, personally, these sessions have provided me with a ray of sunshine in otherwise dark times whereby we all have the chance to meet, chat to, and get inspired by a diverse bunch of lovely people who all have a passion for creative art, music and dance.
Let’s stay connected, creative and inspired throughout these challenging times.
For more info on joining or booking any of these sessions for you or your students, go to:
© Mel Simpson
Mel Simpson is an independent dance artist, choreographer and education specialist, with physical and mental wellbeing at the core of her work.