If we want to stay in practice as Massage Therapists or continue studying to become one, without facing another shut down, it is imperative that we follow the CDC guidelines that keep us ALL safe. However, this doesn’t only apply to the time when we are at work or school. We must continue to be diligent in our personal lives as well.

I have many clients I see regularly. I have worked for some time to build a therapeutic relationship with them. Some of them have autoimmune deficiencies. Some of them have other health conditions which make them more vulnerable to diseases like COVID-19. Some of them are elderly. I think of them and the trust they have in me as their massage therapist. I envision their faces, and conversations we’ve had. They trust me to provide a safe and sanitary environment where they can receive their massage and bodywork treatments, and to meet their health and wellness goals. They also trust that I am healthy and disease-free, and doing all I can to maintain myself that way. I can’t and won’t endanger them by selfishly relaxing my standards.

Taking every step we can to avoid spreading the virus to prevent further spikes is crucial not only for the well being of community health but for our careers and the economy. If there is a spike in the number of Covid-19 infections, there will be further stay at home orders and our practices and schools will be shut down again. Following suggested safety measures is not a political issue, it is an ethical and a fiscal issue. Regardless of the industry in which one works, any shutdowns take a significant toll on our economy. When the economy suffers everyone is affected.

Massage Therapists have been back to work in Michigan and most of the country for at least 2 months. The same is true for massage schools like Irene’s. We have seen, read, been trained in, practiced, and experienced the protocols that are important for us to follow to avoid spreading coronavirus. The CDC says, “In general, the more closely a person interacts with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.” This is good information to remind ourselves why it is important to follow protocols, and to do so consistently in our professional and personal lives.

In roughly 6 months, since the pandemic began, we have gone from knowing little to becoming near-experts in masks, hand washing techniques, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. There are days, admittedly, when it feels overwhelming! However, knowing what we know – and acknowledging what we don’t know – about COVID-19, it is absolutely necessary.

What good is masking up, hand washing, cleaning and sanitizing at work or school if we become lax when we are on our own time? What good are we doing our clients, fellow students, and ourselves if we don’t mask up in public places, and if we don’t maintain social distancing on our personal time? These recommendations and protocols are not effective unless we actively participate all the time.

My ears get sore from wearing a mask for hours on end while doing massage or teaching at school. And yes, I do get tired of this “new normal” that we are currently experiencing. I miss gathering with friends, going out to meet them for dinner, and attending my place of worship. I miss hugs! My mental checklist when heading out the door used to be, “Phone, wallet, keys,” but now has evolved to, “Phone, wallet, keys, mask, hand sanitizer.” I, too, hope one day soon we will be able to go back to the way things were. Until then, there are some things I do to remind myself of the importance of observing health and safety practices.

I remember my commitment to my clients. I think of my role as an instructor at Irene’s. The health and safety of the students, as well as fellow staff and instructors, comes first and foremost in that environment. The best way to ensure that I am helping to keep them safe and healthy is to make sure that I’m doing all I can to keep myself that way, too, both professionally and personally.

For now, and the foreseeable future, I will minimize my contact with other people, including family members and friends. I will keep in touch via Zoom, phone, and social media with most people I know, and observe CDC guidelines for masking and social distancing in small groups with select others that I trust to be careful as well. I won’t give in to the temptation to engage in behavior as if the pandemic weren’t still very present among us. If I am tempted, I will think about the trust that my clients, students, as well as members of my own household, have in me to keep myself safe and healthy.

I will also remind myself of the challenges that I faced during the 3 months that I had to close my massage business during the initial phase of this pandemic, and how I don’t want that to happen again. I will do all that I can to avoid that.

If we all do our part, both on and off the job, both in school and outside of school, we help mitigate the spread of the virus that is still very much a part of our world, and increase our chances of retaining the parts of our “normal” lives that we have been able to resume these last few months. We must, however, be diligent in reminding ourselves of what we need to do, and to actively practice that.

It all comes down to this: Stay safe – stay open!

– Paul Mattson, LMT