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Dancing away the stress of daily life

Life brings a lot of stress to all of us in many areas — family, health, career, friends, etc. The list is endless. It’s harder when the main cause of stress in your life is due to things you have little or no control over. You often feel hopeless and or inadequate. Often you blame yourself for the things you have no control over.

As the parents of two wonderful daughters with serious health issues, my husband and I deal with various types and degrees of stress daily. A year ago, the stress on us reached a serious level — as individuals, parents and in our relationship. We were rarely able to enjoy anything. Our time was spent dealing with crises, appointments, treatment meetings and finding resources to help our daughters. When not involved in these activities we were too exhausted to do anything else.

For Christmas 2013, we received a gift from a dear friend. Melanie was aware of our circumstances. She’s like family to us. She has provided a great deal of love, care, prayer and support over the years. In the past, she gave my husband and me a gift certificate for a New Year’s Eve dinner at a local restaurant. However, last year Melanie decided to do something different. She gave us a gift certificate for six dance lessons at Step It Up Dance Studio. Melanie hoped we would get out, do something together and have a chance to enjoy much needed time together.

We were both hesitant at first, but we decided to give it a try.

From the very first lesson, our instructor, Ami, did a wonderful job of making us feel at ease, offering positive reinforcement and encouragement. The best part about it was that we were both learning something new together. We had to work together and concentrate on the steps to each dance. There was no time to think about children, treatment meetings or anything else. We had to concentrate on what we were doing in the moment.

We quickly found this to be a wonderful activity that we both enjoyed doing together. We were both new to it, so we started out at the same level and have had to work together as a team. It has helped us get active. We get exercise while doing something together that we both enjoy.

Since we finished the first six lessons we were given, we have continued taking lessons. We dance at least once a week. We often go twice, and sometimes three times. The physical and mental benefits have made a major difference in our lives. “Dance Therapy” has been scientifically proven to work for various types of disorders by numerous studies. It is recognized as a treatment by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

We would like to thank our dear friend Melanie for opening the door to dancing to us. And we would like to encourage others to explore dancing as a possible means of reducing stress and getting yourself moving at the same time. It has also helped us lose weight and sleep better. You don’t have to have a partner to take lessons. There are plenty of other people who come that need someone to dance with them.

Gretchen Olson is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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