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By Rebecca K. Oliver, LMSW

Last week my sister-in-law did a Facebook live presentation where she shared some mindfulness activities through folk songs. During this presentation, she played a variety of musical instruments: drum, banjo, guitar, and dulcimer. Likewise, I have attended many community orchestra concerts where my husband “mans” the percussion section playing various instruments: snare, cymbals, gong, chimes and many more. To say I married into a musical family is an understatement! Growing up, I played a little piano, played handbells, and sang in school and church choirs. So, while I am no maestro, I do know a little bit about music and reading music.

In music, there are notes which signify a sound or tone that is played for a determined amount of time. A piece of music may have quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes. When all of these notes are put together, of varying tones and lengths, a musical score is the result. When multiple instruments join together to play a musical score, you have an orchestra. But, besides notes in music, there are also indications in the music that there is no sound. Silence. A rest. A pause.

In the last few weeks, we have all been called upon to PAUSE due to the coronavirus. The normal sounds and activities of our life have been put on hold. For many, our work lives have been interrupted. The tasks and activities that would normally fill our days have ceased. We are no longer driving to work. We are no longer keeping the same schedule. We are no longer visiting with co-workers. We are no longer providing the same services.

In similar ways, our social lives have been interrupted. We are no longer able to interact with individuals outside of our immediate family. We are no longer able to go shopping or go to the gym or meet a friend for coffee or even go to church. The friends and family that we depend on for support and camaraderie are now available only through a phone or computer screen.

While some enjoy peace and quiet and "alone-time", others are disturbed by the silence and isolation of these times. All of us are having to find a “new normal” in this time of PAUSE. But, mind you, a PAUSE is not an ending. A PAUSE is temporary.

SELF-CARE IDEA: Set aside 5 minutes to listen to your favorite song. If you want something that has been clinically proven to lower blood pressure, listen to “Nessum Dorma” from Turandot by Puccini. These findings were presented by Peter Sleight, Cardiologist, to the British Cardiovascular Society from a study at Oxford University. One of the most listened to renditions is performed by Pavarotti.

Many have experienced fear during this crisis for understandable reasons. The COVID-19 crisis has certainly brought turmoil, anxiety, and serious challenges to many. Certainly, some others have experienced loss during this crisis. Without minimizing the difficulties and concern during these times, it has been interesting to PAUSE to see things differently and to take a new perspective. Pausing, can enable us to see things through new eyes and to look for positives that we may take from these dark days.

For me, pausing has enabled me to notice spring and the various blooming flowers in my neighborhood like never before. Pausing has enabled my husband and I to have dinner together every night when so often activities and commitments of our regular work week would make that impossible. Pausing has caused me to appreciate the luxury of being able to travel. Pausing has heightened my awareness of the simple pleasures of hugging a neighbor, drawing near to a loved one, and greeting a stranger with a hand-shake. I have witnessed an increase in my neighborhood of families walking together in the evening hours. I’ve seen countless posts on social media of families interacting through dance, singing, puzzle-making, yard games, and the like. I’ve seen neighbors reaching out to see how they can help each other. I have seen offers to buy groceries or pay bills for those in need. Some are taking up a new hobby or contributing joy to others through a talent. And rightfully, many are recognizing the courageous and heroic behavior of our health care workers and essential front-line workers.

SELF-CARE IDEA: Spend a few minutes each day to notice and journal about some small, seemingly insignificant pleasure from the day.

In these days being “safe at home” or “sheltering in place”, what good or positivity have you seen? How can we grow as human beings through these difficult times? How can we be empathetic with others? How can we be patient and gentle with ourselves? How can you share your talents and positivity with others? How can each of us thank and appreciate others?

During this temporary PAUSE, how can we use this momentary quiet to grow and to prepare for our return to the familiar sounds and activities of our lives? The PAUSE will end. The music will resume.


Rebecca K. Oliver is the Executive Director of the School Social Work Association of America. Prior to becoming the Executive Director, Mrs. Oliver served on the SSWAA Board of Directors and has over 20 years experience working as a school social worker. In her current role with SSWAA, Rebecca is able to support school social workers across the nation and advocate for the profession about which she is so passionate. When not working, Rebecca enjoys singing, running, reading, doing home-improvement, and outdoor activities including walks with her two "fur-babies," Abby and Buddy.

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