Responding to COVID-19

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

We decided to close the clinic doors on March 16th to practice, and encourage others to practice, social distancing. I have seen other spas and massage therapists say that they will continue to work and practice proper hygiene, because massage therapy is an important service during these times. Massage therapy does help access the parasympathetic social engagement system, helping people feel calm, safe, and relaxed. It’s important right now we remain calm and relaxed as much as possible, but it is also true that during a pandemic, massage is contraindicated (i.e. it is not advised). Right now we need to be distancing ourselves from others (3 feet), and there is no safe way to do that when providing a massage.

It is not so much about individuals getting sick, but about individuals spreading the virus. As this is a new virus, scientists and doctors are having to learn on the spot how to address the spread. Health systems do not have enough of the necessary equipment to treat people all at once. Social distancing now, will help slow down the spread of the virus so that the health system does not get overwhelmed and run out of the necessary resources to treat those infected.

The nervous system responds to threatening situations by acting aggressively, avoiding/escaping the threat, or shutting down and pretending to be dead. Often, we respond by bouncing from state to state. We even, occasionally, find ourselves in an optimal socially engaged state that promotes feeling safe and relaxed. The more often we can find ourselves in that optimal state, the better we feel. However, these are tumultuous times, and we should remember that people’s behavior is reflective of the state their nervous system is in. Since the more threatening a situation is the harder it is for the nervous system to activate that optimal socially engaged state, it makes sense that people are freaking out. Things are uncertain... our health and our finances are threatened, and so far there hasn’t really been a clear direction on what we should do. That makes it difficult to know how to feel.

This does not mean we should panic. There are so many things in life we have no control over. This pandemic proves that. However, we can control how we respond to situations. Practicing mindfulness and building our physical, mental, and emotional awareness helps our nervous systems respond thoughtfully to situations instead of reacting to situations. I am choosing to see this as an opportunity to slow down and get creative. Moving forward I will be looking at the physiological and psychological impact certain social situations have on us. It's easier to change a behavior when you understand the reasons for that behavior. Anxiety, anger, fear, depression, the pandemic has amplified all of these feelings and I hope that by sharing the science behind our behaviors you are able to build your awareness and practice mindful living. If you have questions or concerns about managing your pain during this pandemic, email :

Stay safe, stay informed, and if at all possible, practice social distancing and don't forget to wash those hands.

In health,

Stephanie Devito

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