September 22, 2020

For stress relief, try Caribbean dancing!


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merengueBy Susan Dingle, From Norfolk Patch

At the Wellness Day sponsored by Seafield Center in Westhampton Beach, I discovered that Caribbean dancing is a great way to reduce stress. Turns out Merengue, Salsa and Penquina help balance the hemispheres of the brain, release endorphins, and provide a shared experience of being in the “now.” Who knew?

Led by Beatriz Rodriquez, a psychotherapist/life coach from Manhattan, and her brother Juan Rodriguez MD, we therapists and other clinicians experienced this great stress reduction technique when we practiced these dance steps and learned firsthand how “cha-cha-cha” can decrease stress and bring a sense of wellness.

Activities we enjoy can help us overcome stress. But how does that work?

Stress often involves worry about something that hasn’t happened yet. When we’re stressed, we aren’t in the moment of “right here, right now,” we’re out there in the future somewhere projecting a worse case scenario of “what’s going to happen when…”

So, stress reduction begins on a basic level when we bring our focus and attention back to being in the moment, right here, right now. How can we do that? Usually if we focus on something or someone outside ourselves, that’s a start. The activity could be something ordinary, like walking the dog or doing the dishes. When you walk the dog, focus your attention on the activity. In other words, when you walk the dog, walk the dog. Put your full attention on what you’re doing.

But we’re all such multi-taskers, that suggestion might be more difficult than it seems. You could walk the dog or do the dishes and still be worrying about that medical test next week or whatever is stressing you out. That’s why Caribbean dancing is so fantastic. You probably can’t multi-task and worry about next week when you are dancing salsa or merengue. Go ahead, just try to be anxious when you’re dancing.

Actually for me it’s very easy to be anxious when I’m dancing because I’m trying so hard to get the steps right that I forget the difference between left and right. Then I get really anxious! But the great thing about Caribbean dancing is that doing it perfectly doesn’t matter, you just dance. No one’s even paying attention, because they’re all dancing too. So I just danced, along with everybody else, all having a great time.

If you “ask the therapist” how to deal with stress, today my top tip would be… Caribbean dancing!

Susan Dingle LCSW CASAC is a therapist and well-being consultant in private practice on the North Fork. She works with adolescents and adults in transition, specializing in stress reduction through mindfulness and well-being practice. She is listed in the directory of Psychology Today, and can be reached at 631/734-8658.

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