How to deal with an injury without losing your mind

How to deal with an injury without losing your mind

Leg and foot injuries are extremely common with Irish dancers – and for obvious reasons! I can’t count how many dancers I’ve heard of who have experienced broken feet, shin splints, broken toes, sprained ankles, and the list goes on.

I recently broke my 5th metatarsal in my foot (also known as a “dancer’s break”, to give you an idea of how common it is) and have had to deal with finding ways to occupy myself while propped up in a walking boot.

Those first few nights were really uncomfortable sleeping…

If you’re anything like me, a broken foot means that you’ll be going from being very active to hardly walking for a minimum of 6-8 weeks. It’s a hard adjustment for competitive and active dancers, but don’t worry, even this will pass (eventually)! In the meantime, read on for:

The HappyDancer’s Top Tips to stay sane while injured

1) Get lots of rest!

This one is tough, because you’ll want to get back up and moving as quickly as you can, especially if you are still competing. But trust me when I say – your body will need rest! And possibly even more than you thought you would.

Between the pain in my foot, and using crutches for the first few weeks, I felt like I was tired all the time in those early days. If you feel like you need to have some extra naps, or go to bed early, that’s ok! Your body has switched into overdrive to heal whatever injury you have, so allow yourself the extra rest. Think of it as a long term strategy; if you rest now, you’ll be able to get back on your feet more quickly once you’ve healed.

Tough people last

2) Get creative!

I live alone, so creativity has been pretty important because there were a lot of things I had to find ways to do on my own – like, how to carry things when you are also using crutches?! But even if you live with friends or family, finding ways to maintain your independence will help you feel a bit better while stuck on the couch.

A few examples: use a chair to kneel on while cooking or doing the dishes in the kitchen; try “crutch chopsticks” to move something light along the ground; establish a series of tables/surfaces in your room that you can use as places to put things down while you can’t carry them.

3) Find a new show or game

Thankfully with the emergence of Netflix and other streaming services these days, there is no shortage of things to watch! While you are stuck on a couch with your foot up, use this time to find something new. Catch up on past series’ of shows you’ve “been meaning to watch”, or check out a new documentary to learn something new.

If TV shows aren’t your thing, try a new computer or video game. While I would normally advocate for getting outside and getting some fresh air, this time while you’re on couch-rest may be a perfect excuse for trying something stationary.

4) Find your support circle

There’s very few things as difficult for someone as independent as myself as having your ability to drive taken away. All in all, I had to spend 7 weeks asking my coworkers for drives to and from work, and telling my dancers that class was going to be “BYOT – Bring Your Own Teacher”.

Initially it was really difficult to ask people for help, and I had to plan my outings accordingly when I had to go buy groceries; I couldn’t just run to the store or to an appointment for one little thing. That said, life doesn’t stop just because you are injured.

That’s why finding your support circle is very important. Just ask, and you may be surprised how quickly people will rise to the occasion to help you out – just remember to thank them, and maybe help them out once you’re able! I had a lot of friends and coworkers offer to drive me places, check in on me, and even take me out for a drive just to get out of the house, and those people are very important to staying sane during this time!

5) Celebrate small victories

Once you’ve been dancing at a high level, or even just operating daily at a “normal” level, it will be very hard not to feel disappointed by that lack of ability while you’re injured. You may know logically that, “ok, obviously I can’t do an over-2-3 right now because my foot is broken”, but it is still very difficult not to compare to what you used to do.

While you’re healing and working back to where you were before the injury, it’s so important to focus on small victories. Once you’re finally able to do a standing calf raise, try not to look at the fact that you aren’t as high on your toes as before; instead, focus on the fact that you can do it at all! Your muscle memory and strength will come back quickly. Try to think of each day and each exercise as a separate challenge, rather than comparing it to previous days.

6) Stay motivated with planning and goal setting

This one goes along with the last point of celebrating small victories. If you’re an active, competitive dancer, it’ll be hard not to think, “I would have been doing this, or competing here if it weren’t for this injury.” And I hate to break it to you but, that thinking isn’t going to help you heal any faster. Instead, try to stay motivated by planning what you Will be doing once you’re back on your feet. Plan a strategy to get your strength back, and work on your exercises that a physiotherapist has given you (if applicable).

While injured you will have a lot of time to sit and plan, or think about what your upcoming goals may be. Use this time to focus on healing and resting, then once you’re able, you’ll be ready to work full steam towards your goals. Check out my past series about that here and here.

Comeback from an injury

Nobody likes to told to sit on the couch and not dance for 6-8 weeks, but hopefully you are able to stay sane while dealing with this temporary setback, and sure enough you’ll be back on the dance floor in no time.

Let me know in the comments how you coped with injury!


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