May is Mental Health Awareness Month. One year ago, we spoke with our resident Psychotherapist FHIXer, Rebecca Alexander, LCSW, about mental health during a global pandemic. Below, she shares her tips and wisdom on where we are now, why exercise is crucial, and how Fhitting Room classes impact her.
What has been your workout regimen during COVID?
Fhitting Room LIVE! classes on Zoom have been a major part of my workout routine during COVID. I am so grateful to Fhitting Room for really stepping it up and creating the online platform to support its FHITfamily through such a critical time. I have been supplementing my 3-4x/week LIVE! classes with yoga, my stationary bike (Peloton), stretching, and throwing the ball incessantly for my beloved mini goldendoodle, “Monkey”.
Has working out helped your mental health in new ways over the past year?
As a psychotherapist, I firmly believe that exercise plays a fundamental role in our overall mental and emotional health and well-being. Working out from home during COVID has only reinforced this truth—reminding us that working out is not just something we do to stay in shape, it’s something we do to maintain our sanity.
As NYC and the world is opening back up, what tips do you have for adjusting back to pre-COVID life?
First and foremost, we will never go back to a “pre-COVID life”. Living through a global pandemic is not something you can un-experience—it has been life changing for all of us. Our pre-COVID routine was so thoroughly disrupted and we had to create new and modified versions of our routines (like using your living room as your gym/office/kids playroom/Netflix binge-watching zone/etc). As the world opens up, we now have a unique opportunity to re-engage with the people and activities we’ve missed and filter out what we don’t want to take with us as we move forward with our lives. We need to rebuild the social and behavioral muscles that we haven’t been using because of COVID-just like anything else, this takes time.
How does exercise benefit mental health and overall mood?
When we exercise, our brains release endorphins, serotonin and dopamine—chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters that regulate major bodily functioning related to our mental health and well-being (these chemicals are what give us the “high” we feel after a tough workout). Some of the primary benefits of exercise to our overall mental and emotional health include: decrease in levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, improved sleep, clearer thinking, concentration, memory, and overall brain cell production and functioning.
Are you finding that many people are anxious about life returning to normal, and if so, how would you recommend coping?
I have found that while most people are eager to get back to living their lives with a greater sense of normalcy, many people feel anxious because of their uncertainty about which sources to trust for reliable public health information. While COVID was the overarching concern over the past year, there were other major historic events we lived through that we are still reeling from as well. My best recommendation for people is to challenge their fears—if you’re eager to go somewhere but you’re concerned about their safety protocols, call and ask what precautions they are taking. When it comes to being social or even running errands, start slowly and build your way back to a more engaged life that feels most comfortable for you.
What do you love about Fhitting Room?
I am a Fhitting Room OG. I started taking classes at Fhitting Room in 2013 when it was just a small boutique studio on 80th and Lexington and I immediately fell in love with the energy and enthusiasm brought to each class by the instructors, staff, and other FHIXers. Fhitting Room has always reminded me of home (Oakland, CA) because of its commitment to recognizing and empowering its richly diverse community.