In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re sharing experiences and perspectives from our FHITfam and community to help promote awareness, empathy and understanding. In this blog post, we spoke with frequent FHIXer and mental health professional, Laura Bhatt, on how she’s staying strong, FHIT, happy, and healthy in quarantine.
Fhitting Room’s vision "to help people realize their strongest self" extends beyond just physical health -- there's no question that mental and physical health work together and are equally important.
Get to know our mental health expert, Laura, as she shares her best tips for wellness with our FHIT community.
Hi Laura! Thank you so much for being a part of our Mental Health Awareness Month campaign. Please introduce yourself and your background in mental health.
My name is Laura Bhatt, and I am a New York State licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), with a Masters from Columbia University’s School of Social Work. For a decade, I have practiced in a variety of clinical environments, including large healthcare systems, small clinics, a startup company, and my own private practice. I work with individuals around life stressors, transitions, interpersonal conflict, and acute presentations of psychiatric illness. I am trained in and practice Cognitive Behavioral and Dialectical Behavioral Therapies, as well as Interpersonal Psychotherapy. I also have a special interest and background in maternal mental health, including reproductive planning, pregnancy, postpartum and motherhood.
How long have you been getting your FHIX with Fhitting Room?
I started working with [Fhitting Room] teacher and trainer extraordinaire, Andrew Mariani, about 15 months ago, and started taking Fhitting Room classes around November 2019.
How does getting your FHIX support your mental health, pre-COVID and during COVID?
I worked hard to schedule a few FHIX classes a week, pre-pandemic, and now work to get it into my at home schedule- along with kids’ schooling, my own work, etc. It’s hard, but I find I am less irritable, stronger, and more able to show up for my family mentally and physically when I workout.
What motivates you to stay strong and FHIT, mentally and physically?
My family and my work.
There’s a lot of anxiety and panic going on right now given the current pandemic. What tips do you have for how to best cope in quarantine?
First, I think it’s important to normalize some of the stress that we are all going through. This is an incredibly stressful time for our world and that shouldn’t be forgotten. It takes time to adjust to a new normal and we should expect a certain amount of stress around it. When that stress turns into something more debilitating, such as anxiety or panic symptoms, that’s when to seek professional help.
A useful practice that is becoming mainstream through apps like Headspace and Calm, is mindfulness. Mindfulness is basically just being in the present moment, not ruminating about the past, or focusing on the future. This is harder to do than you would think.
Here are some ideas to access mindfulness strategies in your daily life. I would recommend trying them regularly, much like physical training and exercise, to get into a good practice of doing them, so that you know how to do them when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Five Senses: List one thing you see, one thing you hear, one thing you smell, one thing you can touch, and one thing you can taste.
Box Breathing: Picture a box where each side is a breath and use the following breathing pattern:
Side 1: Breathe in for four seconds
Side 2: Hold for four seconds
Side 3: Breathe out for four seconds
Side 4: Hold for four seconds
Repeat a few times.
Body Scan: Go through every part of your body from your head all the way down to your toes and imagine tensing it and relaxing it for a few seconds each.
Other Awareness Exercises to Try
- Playing with pets or kids is mindful, they aren’t thinking about what’s next or what happened yesterday.
- Doodling or drawing.
- Really stopping and listening to a piece of music.
- As you can imagine, there are hundreds. Anything that can bring your focus to the present moment and hold it there at least for a few minutes.
For more from our Mental Health Awareness Month series, check out these blog posts: