Mental Health

When dance gave me anxiety, God turned things around

Shernice Wong // September 7, 2021, 4:39 pm

Dancing with God

“Energy, more energy!” my dance coach would scream at us from the front of the dance studio, occasionally banging the table, which caused all of us to flinch and wince at the loud sound.

I was a member of the dance club in my college, and we were in the midst of preparing for the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF).

The routine was this: Dash straight into the dance studio after a whole day of lessons.

Rehearsals were from 3-7pm on Mondays, followed by another three hours on Wednesdays and, devastatingly, another four hours on Saturday mornings, which used to be my only day in the week when I could squeeze in eight hours of sleep.

The air in the room was always suffocating, and I often worried if I would be the one receiving relentless scolding that day.

The criticisms often pushed us to our mental capacities, frequently sending dancers out of the studio in tears. They were not allowed back in until they were sure they would grit their teeth from then on.

The air in the room was always suffocating, and I often worried if I would be the one receiving relentless scolding that day. The anxiety turned into dread, a feeling which constantly weighed me down so much that I feared going to every single rehearsal.

There was the stress of not meeting my coach’s expectations, of not memorising the choreography in time, of not being able to complete my assignments after reaching home late… and a whole string of worries after worries and fears after fears, which made me so miserable.

JC: The 2 hardest years of my life

This endless list of pessimism bottled up within me finally spilled when I did my Quiet Time one night.

I asked God why He had to put me in such an unhealthy environment that took away the joy of dance from me, and why I had to juggle these emotions.

Even though there were no definite answers, I clung onto the knowledge that God wouldn’t put me in situations that I couldn’t handle, and that these trials helped to mould me as a child of God.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

Yet, I still wasn’t able to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the competition being some time away.

Feeling extremely lethargic (both emotionally and physically) and helpless, I knew the answer to my unending struggles and fears was to pray.

I remembered 1 Peter 5:7.

God did not take away all these emotional burdens from me immediately, nor could I say I felt liberated right away after praying.

However, I was provided with the time to find rest in God’s presence, and tried to commit every single one of my worries into His hands. I was reminded that God was in control of everything, and He would protect me because He loves me.

Though it was gradual, I started to adopt a more positive outlook towards trainings and took criticisms from my dance coach with a pinch of salt.

More than a movement: Meeting God through dance

Letting whatever happened in the dance studio stay within the four walls, I tried not to let the negative emotions cloud my mind and focused on my other responsibilities as soon as the day’s rehearsals were over.

Often, I would whisper a short prayer before my dance coach called for a full rehearsal. The intensity of the choreography was always testing my stamina, and I would be breathless and sweating buckets after every full run, only for him to shout: “We’ll go from the top again!”

It was truly challenging on so many levels. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally.

However, I am thankful to God for bringing me through each rehearsal, for giving me sufficient energy to perform to the best of my abilities, and for keeping me safe from injuries so that I didn’t have to sit out rehearsals. 

With a thankful heart, SYF finally came – the day I had been counting down to for four months.

Preparations were hectic, and we were still scrambling to correct movements backstage. I tried to calm my heart and mind, recalling how far I had come.

I thought of how God was really faithful through all my struggles, and how He had always shown me that since He had put me in that environment, He would also be the one to see me through it.

Indeed, He did!

As I took my final leap on that stage, a phrase suddenly came to my mind: “All is well.”

It was like a pat on the shoulder — a huge load was lifted off my chest, and I could finally heave a sigh of relief.

Stressed by exams: Facing my fears of not doing well enough

Looking back, I can’t imagine withstanding all the pressure alone without God’s comfort and strength.

He has held my hand and walked this journey with me. He has used it to increase my faith, bring me closer to Him and develop grit in me.

God often has a purpose for the trouble He allows into our lives. 

As a student taking my A-Levels this year, I am aware that the road ahead will not be easy. But I know that there is a God who is bigger than all of my fears, who wipes my tears away, who brings me peace and who guides me.

There is no burden too big for God to carry.

Though we might be in different stages of our lives, I pray that you will be able to submit your goals and hopes for the future to God, and that He will show you what He wants to accomplish in you and through you.

THINK + TALK 

  1. Are you going through a trying period in your life? What truths from God’s word can you cling on to?
  2. How do you think God might be trying to develop your character at the moment? 
  3. How has God been faithful to you through your struggles? Give thanks for at least 1 thing He has done!