Everything was still the same as I walked along the unpaved hiking trail. This was the first hike I had taken since COVID-19 had seemingly taken over, much like those fires had last year, but this sure felt different.

The large oak trees provided moments of shade along the path, the flowers were blooming fearlessly as most wildflowers do, and the deer and horses seemed to have said hello to me as I made my way through their rolling hills. Everything was still the same except for one thing though.

The beautiful green grass that used to cover those hills was still re-growing and finding its footing again after all of the California fires last year. Almost a whole year later, right before me, the grass was still getting back to its luscious green color; its return to how it used to be was a process. I digress, but don’t worry I’ll circle back to that later.

For the last 14-plus years I had started my day with a very consistent routine: a workout session at the gym, a healthy breakfast, an hour or so long hike along this trail, and then a yoga and stretching cool-down routine. Then, I would be off to a day booked of massage appointments.

My high-profile massage clients are primarily elite athletes in the N.F.L., M.L.B., M.L.S., and the N.B.A. and various artists in the entertainment industry ranging from actors, singers, musicians, dancers, and all of the talented professionals who work tirelessly behind the scenes.

With grueling schedules alike, being “on-call” has always been a part of my job and booking appointments were woven into time slots at whatever time during a 24- hour day to make sure my clients received the treatment they needed.

Rigorous work schedules are taxing on the body and as a massage therapist I have always done my best to provide a customized treatment to offer as much healing as possible. Each client’s profession, body type, prior injuries and even their sleep schedule, just to name a few things, have an impact on the way I put together the best massage.

Over the years I have also learned there is a correlation between mental health and the wellness of the physical body. For example, clients often hold stress in their shoulders or back, which could mean extra treatment. Our minds and our bodies are without a doubt connected and both need to be cared for.

Massage therapy is my passion and I take great pride in being able to, even in the slightest bit, contribute to aiding these athletes and artists in pursuing theirs.

Suddenly, COVID-19 spread like a wildfire at the beginning of this spring and everything was different in an instance. Everything changed drastically. Sports leagues and training were paused, film sets halted, live music performances postponed indefinitely, and every other profession stopped including my job as a massage therapist.

For months, what was considered to be “normal” was no longer and I quickly felt the impact of my day-to-day routine being uprooted.

[Read “Voice of COVID-19: Massage Therapists Share Stories of Challenge & Hope”]

My clients reached out to me for tips on things they could do to take care of their bodies while in quarantine. Coaching guided stretching and yoga sessions over FaceTime and Zoom would have to suffice for a then undetermined amount of time. It was during these few months that things began to shift and I noticed the stress of the pandemic on my clients, family and friends alike.

Physical and mental wellness became almost synonymous. I found myself connecting with my clients more and having conversations about what they were up to, how their families were doing, and even what shows they were binge-watching on Netflix. With everyone being isolated in quarantine, human connection and conversation was providing mental wellness now more than ever.

One of my clients in the music industry said to me, “You have always been my saving grace with my crazy sleep schedule and feeling all out of whack, but it has also been really nice to just chat with you during all of this.”

As the height of summer hit and the governor of California began lifting work restrictions, I would have thought that at least some of the stress of COVID-19 would fade away but I was certainly mistaken.

The restrictions for massage therapists have been constantly changing and it’s often confusing and hard to keep up. The new “normal” now includes wearing a mask, face shield, changing into a clean pair of clothes for each appointment and having to work outdoors or in a doctor’s office.

The desire to provide treatment for my clients has been coupled with the stress of following all of these precautions for working during this pandemic. I have continued to coach guided yoga and stretching sessions over FaceTime and Zoom, and have also added teaching both in the park while following the implemented mask requirement and appropriate social distance.

Upon witnessing my new attire for his massage appointment, one of my clients in the entertainment business noted, “Wow, it sure does take a lot to just have things be sort of normal again, huh?” He could not have been more attuned with what our new “normal” was going to look like for a while.

Many of my clients who are dancers in the entertainment industry presented a unique run-in with the impact of being in quarantine. With productions still at a halt, many of them found themselves needing that much more treatment when the restrictions on massage therapists were lifted. Their bodies, not used to being as inactive for such an extended period of time and in such an extensive way had tightened up and found themselves needing different specialized treatment.

One of the dancers I worked with regularly pre-COVID-19 mentioned to me that she “never knew her body could feel this sore when [she’s] not even dancing all the time.”

Learning to navigate working during this pandemic requires a great attention to detail and making a checklist or two to make sure all of the proper protocols are being followed to keep my clients and me safe. Making these changes has been stressful at times, but as my dad always used to tell me, “Never give up, Mich, never give up.”

So, I say to you, “Never give up.” I still have those days where every tiny thing feels stressful and anxiety-provoking, but when I took my first hike that day since COVID-19 had come to town I was shown that everything and nothing was really somehow all the same.

So, here’s the circle back I promised: The large oak trees had provided moments of shade along the path and also  brought comfort, and the flowers that bloomed fearlessly as most wildflowers do also reminded me of just how easily joy can take over, and the deer and horses that had seemed to have said hello as I made my way through their rolling hills had also subtly encouraged me that we are all in this together — and then there was the slow and steady re-growth of all of the beautiful green grass that served as a clear reminder that all things heal in time.

About the Author:

Michelle Rozzen

Los Angeles-based massage therapist Michelle Rozzen has spent the last 10 years of her 14-year career providing treatment for the top athletes and entertainment business professionals. After over a year in production, Rozzen released her much-anticipated all-natural massage oils and body-care line, which has served as the newest extension of her passion to provide people with the best care possible.  MASSAGE Magazine readers: Visit shopmichellerozzen.com and use code ROZZEN10 to receive a 10 percent discount on her products.