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In this crazy, fast paced, “need it right now,” world, we teachers, often put ourselves and our needs last. We do it all. We try to make sure work is completed, students’ needs are being addressed, creativity is flowing, deadlines are met, rehearsals are running smoothly, parents are happy, etc. There is also something to do every minute of the day if we allow it to consume us. Sometimes the hardest thing is to allow ourselves to actually STOP MOVING. It’s recognizing that awareness to do so. But, it’s in our nature to do the complete opposite. We don’t even realize we are on full volume most of the time. It’s engrained in who we are and what we do. Burn-out, however is prevalent when we don’t acknowledge that we are not invincible or believing we can keep going and going with no end in sight. Disaster is bound to happen and we really are serving no benefit to our students or ourselves this way.

There is a reason flight attendants assert that one should put their oxygen mask on first before helping others in case of an emergency; but we don’t always pay attention to that very poignant recommendation. Truthfully, it took me a while to learn that recommendation is in place for a reason. What good are we to others if we are not good to ourselves? Do we think about the vibe we are giving off to our students in terms of self-preservation?  Don’t we want them to follow our lead and teach by example, not just in terms of dance steps but in life?

So, how do you think they view you? Do you think they believe you to be well-balanced and healthy in the way you care for yourself? Are you calm and decisive? Or are you stressed and short tempered? I think the hardest thing to recognize is that putting yourself first every once in a while does not make you selfish. It makes you smart. It keeps you from burning out and exhausting everything you have. It allows you to maintain a more consistent mindset in which to help others, keeps your creativity flowing. It allows you to walk into your classes cheerful, energized, unstressed and ready to do some dancing!

Below I’d like to share some of my own recommendations which I started for my own better sense of wellness. I know, I know, easier said than done, BUT…while it did take me a while to find consistency with some of them, think about it and approach it as a life-style change, which in time will promote longevity, vitality and artistry for years to come! And remember, taking a mental health day every now and then isn’t such a bad thing either. Be kind to yourself. Take care of YOU.

Lots of love + light.

See you in the dance studio,


Stretch or start a yoga practice.

Try a meditation practice to start or end your day and find “your center.”

Start each morning with a glass of water with lemon.

Take your daily vitamins.

Keep hydrated throughout the day.

Work-out with an exercise regimen you actually enjoy.

Try a new healthy smoothie or juice.

Everything in moderation. Eat healthy but enjoy the cake or ice-cream cone once in a while.

Aim for 7-8 hours sleep.

Breathe. Breathe again. And again…..

Aim to rise and go to bed the same time each day.

Limit technology/screen time. Disconnect every now and then.

Take a walk. A run. A bike ride. Get out in nature and the sunshine.

Go somewhere new. Discover.

Try something new on your bucket list.

Start a gratitude journal.

Take a personal day every now and then to just do something for you!

Maintain your own artistry, technique and craft. Keep learning and take class!

Set your personal work limits. Ex. I will not teach passed 9pm, no work phone calls after 8, Sundays is a designated no work day, electronics off on the weekend after last class, etc.


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Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford is a native New Yorker and graduate of NYU Steinhardt's Dance Education Master’s Program; with a PK-12 New York State Teaching Certification. Her double-concentration Master’s Degree includes PK-12 pedagogy and dance education within the higher-education discipline. She also holds a BFA in dance performance from the UMASS Amherst 5 College Dance Program where she was a Chancellor's Talent Award recipient. Jess now works extensively with children, adolescents and professionals as choreographer and teacher and conducts national and international master-classes specializing in the genres of modern, contemporary, musical theatre and choreography-composition. Jess’ national and international performance career includes works such as: The National Tour of Guys & Dolls, The European Tour of Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, Salute to Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall, guest-dancer with the World Famous Pontani Sisters and IMPULSE Modern Dance Company. Jess has been a faculty member for the Perichild Program & Peridance Youth Ensemble & taught contemporary and jazz at the historic New Dance Group and 92nd Street Y in NYC. She was Company Director at the historic Steffi Nossen School of Dance/Dance in Education Fund and in 2008 traveled to Uganda where she taught creative-movement to misplaced children. The experience culminated with Jess being selected as a featured instructor at the Queen's Kampala Ballet & Modern Dance School. She has conducted workshops for the cast of LA REVE at the Wynn, Las Vegas and recently taught at the 2011 IDS International Dance Teacher Conference at The Royal Ballet in London, UK. She is also on faculty for the annual Dance Teacher Web Conferences in Las Vegas, NV. Currently, Jess is a faculty member at the D'Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre and master teacher & adjudicator for various national and international dance competitions. Recently, she has finished her NYU Master’s thesis research on the choreographic process of technically advanced adolescent dancers and is the creator of “PROJECT C;” a choreography-composition curriculum for the private studio sector. Jess is also faculty member, contributing writer and presenter in the choreography and “how to” teaching segments on the celebrated For more info, visit her website at

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