Photographer: Marcia Carlson

ASD community manages physical, mental health hurdles

During days of decreased access to PE classes, workout gyms, and sports team practices, many ASD teenagers lacking home gym equipment have struggled to maintain the physique and fitness level they want. Some have faced insecurities about their bodies and frustration with their overall health and fitness.

N. Khoury, a senior at ASD, states, “One of the biggest things that’s affecting me mentally is not having access to a gym that I can work out in because I have been trying for the last couple of months to get as fit as I used to be last year for the summer… Now I don’t even have much of a chance to do that.”

Although there are in-home workouts that Khoury and others have pursued, many resources such as weights and heavy equipment are irreplaceable by everyday objects in the home. While some desired fitness goals are achievable from home, limited resources lessen the efficiency of home workouts, which can be demotivating for those without a lot of time.

Limitations on exercise routines affect mental, psychological well-being

Vice states that, even for those who have never struggled with eating disorders, the time spent within staring distance of a mirror can result in challenges managing mental health related to body image. Eating disorders may be more prevalent at this time as people have fewer opportunities to burn calories through exercising, so they may resort to under-eating.

Experts remind students and adults that the opportunity to walk or go on a run outdoors still stands. In fact, outdoor exercise may be better than using gym treadmills because it offers some fresh air and a break from staying indoors.

Exercise is a common coping mechanism for stress, but with the weather heating outside, morning jogs and bike rides are becoming a challenge to the already limited range of physical activity choices in quarantine. To make matters worse, being at home provides all day access to the kitchen, which is an invitation for boredom snacking.

While some struggle to continue their fitness routines, others are making the most of this extra free time of shortened school hours and no commute. Senior A. Warraich was able to continue working out, he said.

“I usually have a brisk jog for about 10 minutes before I spend 45 minutes doing some high-intensity dancing,” Warraich said, “and then I stretch and clean up. I do this every day.” He also said that his family spends more time home cooking without the option of eating out.

ASD teachers, employees taking advantage of opportunities available

English and Speech teacher Ms. Patty Klennert tried to work in daily exercise as a break from increased laptop time. (Photographer: Marcia Carlson)

While ASD’s campus has been ordered closed to students and its usual activities drastically curtailed, many faculty members, counselors and administrators and other employees have continued to use ASD facilities to keep fit. Between Zooming with their classes or after working a shift, teachers and other staff report using the track for jogs or brisk walks.

Math teacher Ms. Caroline Murphy completed some of her work outside at ASD.   Photographer: Marcia Carlson

Some ASD teachers taught their classes from their homes, classrooms, offices, or in the case of Strength and Conditioning class, the fitness center!

They managed the unusual schedules and challenges of so many hours on laptops or looking at screens by taking frequent breaks when they could, getting outside, and spending time playing with their children. They advocated similar breaks for their students and stressed trying to maintain some structure to your day while also being kind to yourself and rewarding yourself with healthy treats or snacks as well as looking at exercise itself as a reward.

ASD counselors and teachers offer ideas for coping

While there may be some difficulties to keeping fit in quarantine, there also are advantages. Many people have more time to work out, cook for themselves, and try new things. This is an opportunity to branch out and discover new workouts and hobbies. When social distancing is over, people will still be able to go back to their previous routines, or implement a new variety of workouts that are new and improved. Life will go on.

Individual faculty members found an assortment of positive ways to look outside themselves and occupy their time with positive actions.

ASD’s high school counseling department has offered multiple strategies for managing the mental and emotional health during this time. Counselor Emilee Tollefson reached out to teachers and parents with various lists to aid with their maintaining their well-being throughout the crisis. We hope they help our whole community to remain strong and resilient!


Ideas for Adults

  1. Take a break from social media – Social media is great, but it can also create additional panic and anxiety because you are getting inundated with stories and articles with that is happening. By taking a break, it might help quell the fear that is existing. If you want to continue to know what is going on, rely on reputable sources (CDC, WHO, NIH are some good places to start)
  2. Read something good – When you put down social media, find something else to do with your time. If you are stuck inside, pick up a good book.
  3. Take care of yourself – Continue doing things that help you feel in control. It might be yoga, taking a walk, meditation, or something else. Self-care is important during this time.
  4. Spend time with your family – When you put your devices down, do something together with your family. Play a board game, watch a movie together. Spending time together not talking about COVID-19 can help with your mental well-being.
  5. Connect with family out of town (VIRTUALLY, of course!)
  6. Dance party – Put on some happy music and dance. This gets you moving, laughing and helps you feel good about yourself. 
  7. Talk to someone – ASD counselors are here for you, too. Consider seeking advice from online outside resources such as Truman Group (which takes some Doha-based employees’ health insurance) and William & Associates Counseling Service.
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