Ep. 156 Transcript - Dr. Chelsea Pierotti

Ep. 156 Transcript

Dr. Chelsea: Do you feel like it's getting harder and harder to challenge your dancers and hold them to a high standard without hurting their feelings or being seen as a mean coach? When I talk to dance educators, many of them express this internal conflict where they want to push their dancers for more and help them see the value of hard work, but dancers fall apart at any little critique or implication that it's not good enough yet. I've heard dance teachers say they are scared of nasty parent phone calls, worried about being fired, and have a genuine fear of harming the dancers they care so much about. If that's you, welcome!

Hi, I'm Dr. Chelsea. You're listening to Passion for Dance, the podcast for passionate dance educators, and if you have felt this way, I hear you. I understand the stress and fear, and I also appreciate the desire to recognize mental health. Here's the catch though: it's not either or. We can teach our dancers to be mentally tough and protect their wellbeing.

In today's episode, I'm going to share the difference between mental health and mental toughness so that you can be the teacher that is able to create happier, more successful dancers through mental skills.

And before I get into the episode, if you are a dance educator, it's important to make sure you're on my email list that's only for educators. It's where I keep you all updated on my mental skills workshops, the Relevé Membership, and even some special trainings coming up that are only available there. My email list is where I provide extra resources for dance educators and tips to help you support your dancers through this teaching journey.

If you're listening and you're a coach or a studio teacher and you think you might want to ever learn more about helping our dancers with their mindset, building their resilience, and helping motivate them, then please join my list. Make sure you're always able to get the inside scoop.

So here's how to get in. You go to www.chelseapierotti.com/email and sign up. Again, that's where I'll announce all special opportunities, like something new coming out this fall, but mostly it's where I provide more support and resources to help you help your dancers. So go join in at www.chelseapierotti.com/email. You'll see the link in the show notes wherever you're listening, and let's work together to make a positive impact in our dance industry!


[Motivational Music]

Hi, I'm Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and mental performance coach. I know what it feels like to be a passionate dance teacher who cares about your dancers, but you want to challenge them and help them be their best, and I also recognize that some traditions and teaching practices in the dance world are harmful. So I'm on a mission to change our dance industry by creating happier, more successful dancers using positive mental skills.

When you understand how to help your dancers with their confidence, how to find their own motivation, work together as a team and more, your dancers will unlock new levels of competitive success and happiness. And it's not just about them; you deserve the same. So we'll talk about how dance teachers can use positive mental skills to be more confident, resilient, and motivated as well.

Be sure to hit “subscribe” wherever you listen to podcasts. There are new episodes every Thursday, and each week you'll hear from me and my guests with advice and actionable tips for building mental toughness, covering topics about mindset, motivation, resilience, and building a community. Passion for Dance is a show designed to help dance educators like you have a positive impact on every dancer you teach.

[Motivational Music]


The Difference Between Mental Health and Mental Toughness – 3:26

Have you had a dancer who has a hard time getting a skill and then says, “Oh, it's okay. I'll work on it at home,” and then they stop trying, or they get some challenging feedback, like they don't get the part in the ballet they wanted, or they don't like the formation they're in, and they sulk and complain and stop putting in the effort? If you've seen this, you're like every other dance teacher out there, and these dancers lack mental toughness, and it is so frustrating for coaches to hold our dancers to a high standard and challenge them when they seem to be so emotionally fragile. So, what is a coach to do? You can understand the difference between mental health and mental toughness.

Speaking for myself, I am so grateful that there is a larger conversation around children's mental health and that we are aware of the increasing rates of mental health disorders and that we're trying to do something about it. However, I also think that popular culture and misinformed parents are confusing mental health with mental toughness, and by protecting our children from any kind of negative emotion, they're not learning emotional regulation skills.

So here's the difference, according to scientific definitions: mental health is the presence or absence of a mental health issue. Think of it as the overall state of emotional and social wellbeing. So people with poor mental health are experiencing a lower sense of wellbeing consistently, and they're struggling with persistent negative emotions. This can be seen in depression and anxiety disorders as well as many other types of diagnoses. Athletes with poor mental health experience a decrease in their performance and their daily functioning, often with little to no coping strategies.

This type of situation requires help, but not from a coach. A coach's role, a teacher's role is to look out for the red flags, be a listening ear. But if you believe there's a mental health issue that is not being addressed, you can help your athlete find resources like the school counselor or someone local to you. Don't carry that weight on your shoulders as the teacher.

There's a lot more about this specifically in episode 66 of this podcast (there's a link below in the show notes as well) that really kind of breaks down a teacher's role and the current state of the mental health crisis in adolescents specifically. The point, however, is that while mental health of our youth is a very real concern, it's not your job as the coach or the dance teacher to help them learn those necessary coping skills and help them recover from depression. That's for a licensed professional.

The National Federation of High Schools did a study in 2019 and recognized that 32% of teenagers have some form of anxiety disorder. So they are likely athletes that you work with who are suffering from a mental health disorder. But your role is to be an educator and a supporter, help them find outside resources, and then you can still teach them mental toughness.

Mental Toughness and Mental Health Go Hand in Hand – 6:19

That brings me to the definition of mental toughness, which is simply coping with negative emotions and understanding your emotions. It's rooted in awareness, where you're not trying to avoid negative emotions. Being mentally tough doesn't mean you learn how to stop having negative emotions. Instead, you learn coping skills so that you know when to lean into hard emotions instead of running away and when to step back and protect yourself because it's gone too far.

Not all negative emotions are bad. And in fact, we need them. We need to learn how to handle them. Mental toughness allows for people who are functioning well to actually continue to grow and be a high-functioning athlete, achieving their best possible performance, and you can be the coach who supports your athlete's growth on and off the floor, teaching them mental toughness without harming their mental health because mental health and mental toughness are two separate ideas.

An important point that I want to make about this is that people who have a mental health disorder can still learn mental toughness and positive mental skills, especially if they're receiving outside help for their mental health disorder. Your dancers with, say, generalized anxiety disorder or ADHD, while also receiving outside professional help is needed, can absolutely learn mental skills that will help them be a stronger and more resilient dancer. You can have a diagnosed mental health disorder and still be mentally tough. In fact, helping our athletes build mental toughness can actually help protect them from a mental health issue.

Strategies to Building Mental Toughness – 7:53

And a lot of this podcast is dedicated to helping you build mental toughness, so there are lots of previous episodes that talk about it, but to summarize some of the strategies, here are a few ideas:

  • First, mental toughness includes learning how to think realistically, not being focused on perfection, and also understanding that not all of your thoughts are true. You might have a dancer who's thinking, “Ah, coach is so mad at me right now and being so mean,” but that doesn't make it true. Dancers might have a thought that, “Ah, I'm such a slow learner. I'm trying to pick up choreography, and I can't get it,” but that doesn't mean being a slow learner is always true or will be true forever. Mental toughness allows for more self-compassion when you're learning to be a stronger dancer, because you're not so focused on perfection and you can understand the basic idea that not all of those thoughts in your head are true.
  • Second, mental toughness also includes emotional regulation. Again, it's not stuffing down your feelings and ignoring your pain but acknowledging how you feel. It's learning to be comfortable feeling a little uncomfortable. Again, not making those negative emotions go away, but learning how to use them. Being challenged is good, and recognizing that negative emotions that pop up when a teacher gives you a correction might feel unpleasant, but you can use skills to calm yourself down and apply that correction without losing control of your emotions.
  • Finally, mental toughness is learning the skill of taking intentional and clear action towards your goals. It's knowing you're tired and don't want to go to a strength training class today but deciding to do it anyway because it's important to you. You're being intentional and clear with the actions that matter to you. It's knowing your values and continuing to take daily actions that align with those values, so you're always doing things that support your goals and that are good for you.

So dance coaches, if you're listening, then you are a passionate dance educator who likely wants to help your dancers build their mental toughness, and I hope you do just that. You can look out for their mental health and use positive coaching strategies so that your teaching isn't harmful in any way, but you can still be the teacher that presents challenges, teaches them accountability, and helps them live in their own values so that they're ready to put in the work.

The way I see it is, as teachers, we get to be the people who have a positive impact on our dancers’ lives far beyond their years with us. I encourage you to take action and explain the difference between mental health and mental toughness to your dancers so that they can develop better mental toughness through dance.

And I know this discussion can feel a little overwhelming, so if you'd like some help with this, I also recorded a mini episode that will be right next to this one in your feed, explaining the difference directly to the dancer. So if you'd like to play that short episode for them as a jumping-off point, it can be a great way to start the conversation and allow you to build from there. Look for it in your podcast feed right next to this episode.

I hope that explanation helps clarify the difference for you and thank you for being the teacher who is willing to challenge your dancers in a supportive and kind environment. You're making a difference. So thank you, and keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!


[Motivational Outro Music]

Thank you for listening to Passion for Dance! You can find all episode resources at www.chelseapierotti.com/podcast, and be sure to follow me on Instagram for more high-performance tips at @dr.chelsea.pierotti. This podcast is for passionate dance teachers and coaches who are ready to change the dance industry by creating happier, more successful dancers. I'm Dr. Chelsea and keep sharing your passion for dance with the world.

[Motivational Outro Music]

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