Contributor: Stephanie An
With times being very uncertain right now, many of us has found it hard to stay motivated to do our work or even have a sense of what we are feeling right now. The world is on lockdown, and we are being asked to stay indoors to help prevent the spread of this virus. Students have shifted to online learning, and many people have lost their jobs. Sudden changes like this are not easy to adjust to. All that is on the news lately has been sensitive content for many and as we see the number of lives affected by this virus, it has been heartbreaking.
While we all practice social distancing and self-isolation, mental health risks are on a rise for all age groups. Students have gone from seeing their classmates every day and being able to hang out with their friends to only being able to communicate through social media. Parents who are unable to stay at home to care for their children because they are working are now struggling to find caseworkers. Some students who are away for school have moved back home into environments they are not used to anymore, amongst many more adjustments being made, psychological trauma from fear, isolation, and sudden changes in living puts many at risk. However, I have definitely started seeing media sources such as news networks start promoting nation mental health resources much more within the past couple weeks.
As many of us are currently living with fear due to this virus and what it is capable of, it is important to know that it is okay to feel this way. Many of us were not prepared to go through a pandemic and witness all of this all of a sudden and people are trying to cope with it in their own way. You getting out of bed today is already a good direction towards today! I’ve seen many posts around social media encouraging people to partake in activities such as reading a book, writing letters to loved ones, going for a bike ride/walk, doing home workouts, baking, and many more independent activities to help boost one’s mood and help occupy time with something.
While scrolling through social media the other day, I had come across a tweet the other day from twitter user @elchacas that stated:
“I discovered that I can survive without restaurants, planes, stores, or a car. and I’ve confirmed that I can’t live without music, books, and movies. the different between going crazy and maintaining sanity is art. that is why culture is a human right that should come first”.
As a musician, I know that myself and my colleagues have definitely lost motivation to practice our instruments when this all happened. As March is when our performance season is, the closure to public events on March 17th, 2020 definitely set me back. I had taken the time to practice all of these pieces since May of 2019 to perform in April 2020, then suddenly having them be taken away was heartbreaking, but I knew it was what had to be done. For the next few weeks after the closure, I did not want anything to do with my instrument as it was a reminder of all my hard work of the year disappearing.
There is nothing worse than trying to practice when you do not want to play your instrument due to the lack of motivation or frustration. However, I knew that I couldn’t just stop playing overall. I then came across that tweet and it made me feel inspired in a way to pick up my clarinet again and it made me realize why I began playing in the first place back in elementary school! I discovered that the key to continue playing throughout this pandemic for me was to pick brand new repertoire to work on in order to keep my playing up and go through the learning process of a new piece again. I found that every time I had picked up my clarinet prior to this, I would play through my old repertoire and it made me not want to play. I forgot what it had been like to play for fun, which can happen often for many musicians. We become so occupied with learning these pieces for work or grades that playing can become a burden to us.
Whether your instrument is a woodwind, brass, strings, percussion, piano, or vocals, in times like this, we should be sharing our hard work we’ve put in and our love for music with the people around us. You can see that on social media right now, many musicians have been collaborating with each other all over the word to put together small groups to orchestral sized ensembles through the use of technology and creating virtual ensembles. Even if you haven’t played for a while, this is the perfect opportunity for you get back into playing! Whether it be 10 minutes a day or more, playing or listening to music can help us through these uncertain times.
As many of us can agree, music has its own way of becoming a tool for an individual to help heal, express emotions creatively, communicate, and more, as is used throughout most if not all parts of the world in some form. As the field of healthcare continues to grow, the use of music has been proved to have many benefits towards one’s mental health and overall wellbeing.
Listed below are 5 benefits music can have on an individual that I felt are important to know in times like this:
Overall, as uncertain times are right now, we are trying our best to make the most of it. I want to try to encourage you to enjoy at least 20 minutes of some form of musical activity this week. Whether it be singing along to your favourite radio station/ playlist, playing/ singing a couple scales, learning a new piece, reviewing an old piece, or improvising over your favourite song, we cannot forget the one thing that we can all bond over.
Bradt, J., Dileo, C., & Potvin, N. (2013). Music for stress and anxiety reduction in coronary heart disease patients. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi: 10.1002/14651858.cd006577.pub3
Sapega, S. (2017). Playing an Instrument: Better or Your Brain than Just Listening. Penn Medicine News. https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-blog/2017/january/playing-an-instrument-better-for-your-brain-than-just-listening
Warren, M. (2010). The Impact of Music Therapy on Mental Health. National Alliance of Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/The-Impact-of-Music-Therapy-on-Mental-Health
Novotney, A. (2013). Music as Medicine: Researchers are exploring how music therapy can improve health outcomes among variety of patient populations, including premature infants and people with depression and Parkinson’s Disease. American Psychology Association: Science Watch. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/11/music
Cherry, K. (2019). How Listening to Music can Have Psychological Benefits. Very well mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/surprising-psychological-benefits-of-music-4126866