Mindfulness in the Time of COVID-19

Now that the initial challenge of "flattening the curve" of the COVID-19 epidemic has mostly passed in Massachusetts state (fingers crossed we don't have a second wave), I thought this could be a great time to reflect upon how Mindfulness played its role in my life during the coping and handling of my mental state during this time of chaos and uncertainty.

When the news of the initial shutdown of schools and businesses took place, many freelance musicians in this area were faced with a great deal of uncertainty as many music programs, gigs, performances etc were postponed or cancelled because of the audience capacity involved, which threw a wrench in many artists' work lives. I was one of the more fortunate ones in that most of my work could just switch to remote learning, and even that came with its own set of challenges.

While learning to adjust to remote learning (and I will forever be grateful for the patience of my students' families as we trial-and-error-ed our way through countless obstacles!), I inevitably found myself dealing with exponentially more screentime and tech obstacles. Given my non-tech-savvy nature and the apprehension causes in me, I could gradually feel my body locking and stiffening as I worked. I never thought I would have this experience as the regular office-job type of computer work didn't seem relevant as a violin teacher, but I have so much newfound respect for those who do this kind of work on the regular, and the tenacity required! I could feel my spine scrunching further and further downward, my shoulders locked, my neck stiffening, my eyesight blurring and the imminent need to amazon-order a more ergonomic desk chair, cushions, etc.

Trying to find effective communication methods with my very young students during remote lessons was also a big trigger of stress during this time. Usually, these lessons would just need me to manually guide and demonstrate a motion in their posture, but with remote learning, I needed to carefully crafted verbal cues instead. Learning to remain mindful in speaking slowly and articulately when my deepest nature was to want to raise my voice when the internet lag demanded I repeat my words, remain mindful of a patient and welcoming teacher when younger students kept getting swayed by other iPad features, and so on were challenges I had certainly never prepared for back in my training, and learning to handle all these on the job really tested my patience and willingness to stay mindful!

Several weeks into the quarantine routine, I began to really feel the cumulative toll of my stress and anxiety interfering with my daily life. The compilation of everything was effecting my body health, my sleep pattern, my mental state, and I knew I needed to begin taking more conscious steps toward reintegrating mindfulness more actively into my daily routine. I started off with reconfiguring and optimizing my work space setup at first, gathering needed equipment and materials, etc. Additionally, I made a more conscious effort (supported my phone reminders) to "scan over" my body and check for points of tension every 20-30 minutes or so, or notice when I could make adjustments to my own posture, breathing, mentality and such.

Going forward, I think my next personal goal is to have more designated "mindfulness" time to myself completely, and refamiliarize my body with the sensation of bodily awareness. This is something that has pretty much vanished during quarantine, and could also be a great reminder for my own students to review and incorporate into their own lessons and personal music practice time (and anytime really!).

How as your new quarantine routine affected your mindfulness habits? I would love to hear your thoughts!