By: Dr. Joyce Hsu
This is the time of the semester where everyone is swamped by multiple responsibilities
– marching band, rehearsals for various ensembles, competitions, sports games, project
deadlines, and mid-term exams...and you haven't been able to really rest or catch up
with life, for weeks! You might feel burn-out or start to question why you are pursuing
music to begin with. Well, you are not alone. We all feel such stress at times, and I am
here to help you with a few thoughts that might get you through this challenging period.
Our physical status can influence our mental faculties, more than we think, and vice
versa. There is always time to pay attention with full awareness of our mind, body, and
As an individual, we have multiple roles to play in our lives: at home, at work, in school,
or whatever we need to do to maintain the life we have; it is no easy job. Every day, we
go out into the world to perform and try to do good. But, how often do we check in with
ourselves and listen to our inner voices? Even when we have time, we might be too tired
to think about these things. We tend to ignore the signals that our body and mind send
us to keep ourselves going. This happens quite often, because somehow, we believe that
we don't have any other options, and it ends up costing us more time and energy.
However, that is not really true. We do have options, and we should allow ourselves to
make the decisions that will benefit us in the long run. Have you ever felt like you didn't
get any rest after a vacation? Or were even more tired after one? It is not the "act" of the
rest that rejuvenates you; it is the mindful moments that count. By returning to being
mindful and aware, we can "take a break and recover" anywhere we are. This way of
being will allow us to see things with a clearer perspective...which can be a big help
during this time of the year!
The first step to practice in being mindful, may be to simply start paying attention to the
breath. This practice can take place in the midst of anything we do: after all, we simply
can't live without breathing. By paying attention, perhaps especially at stressful
moments, you might begin to notice some differences in breathing during various
activities – driving, teaching, performing, and so on. When we remember to return our
attention to breathing, it can help us calm the "monkey mind"—that little chattering
voice in our head that continually reminds us that there are a million things going on.
Attention to the breath gives breathing a purpose and serves as a mini meditation: a
kind of oasis of calm and reflection in the midst of distraction and stress.
As a trombonist and an educator, one of the practices I use the most for myself and my
students is just this: attention to breathing. Deep breathing can slow down our heart
rate, bringing more oxygen into our bloodstream, which in-turn allows us to focus and
think more clearly. Try this breathing exercise, which I use quite often. Simply breathe
in slowly for three counts, gently hold the breath for three counts, and then breathe out
slowly for three counts. Repeat this procedure three times or as many times as you need.
We should remember, however, that bringing true awareness into our lives requires
honesty and acceptance. I am not suggesting being overly obsessive regarding your
actions or thoughts, or giving up on effort and improvement. But it is essential just to
simply acknowledge when times are hard. Mindful awareness serves as a mirror. If your
honest self-reflection says it is time to take a break, then it is OKAY to take a break—
even from doing what you love, from time to time. We must know how we function and
reflect honestly upon what works the best for us. If you are the type of person who needs
a lot of sleep, then put down your phone and go to bed. Some might feel most rested
after exercise, reading a book, listening to music, or simply by being alone. This might
sound simple, but in-fact, it is a crucial realization: if you can get things done in a simple
way (practicing your instrument/voice very much included), then that is what you want
and need to do. Sleep, exercise, seeking nutritious food, reading music with friends,
listening to your favorite records: all these things can help recover your overly worked
body and mind, and they will remind you why you chose to be involved in music in the
Build your own support system by knowing how you function and be someone's support
system when they need it. Being kind, generous, and supportive of others is something
you can do for yourself, as well. Do not give up, because we are all in this together!
Music Body Mind Website - website by Amelia Rosenberger is a trombonist who teaches yoga and is based in Dallas, TX.
Dr. Joyce Hsu is an in-demand trombonist, clinician, and educator. A native of Taiwan, she earned her BFA from the National Taiwan University of Arts, her Master's Degree from Oklahoma State, and her Doctor of Musical Arts from Texas Tech University. She is now based in Dallas and was an El Paso Jazz Girls' teaching artist this past summer.
**All photos courtesy of Tif Holmes who in addition to being a wonderful photographer holds a DMA in Flute Performance! More from Tif Holmes can be found at the below links: