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SHAC is available to all students and others within the Albuquerque community. August 30, 2019.

UNM students practice self-care while in isolation

In a time when normal life comes to a halt, having a daily workout or meditation session may seem trivial. But, the battle against the new coronavirus is not the only battle people must fight. Depression, loneliness and anxiety are things that many people struggle with already and are only exacerbated by orders to stay at home, not go to school or refrain from socializing in person.

The fight for health and sanity in such concerning times is not impracticable. Resources have already been mobilized for those stuck in their homes. Amazon now offers select children's movies for free. Arnold Schwarzenegger shared his home workout routine online. Self-help mobile apps like Sanvello are offering free premium access to their services for the duration of the outbreak. And online counseling services are experiencing increased demand.

James Patten, a secondary education major at the University of New Mexico, had been training for a half-marathon scheduled for April 4. The marathon was canceled due to the pandemic, but Patten said he still plans to keep training.

"I've been running outside (and) though the gyms at Johnson have closed, I do a lot of workouts in my dorm — just a lot of push-ups, core workouts, stuff like that," Patten said.

Although many students were told to leave the dorms by April 5, Patten is one of some that received the clearance to remain since he cannot return to his home in Arizona.

The UNM Recreational Services fitness webpage has been updated with links to workout routines that can be completed at home with limited to no equipment. The first link listed contains over 500 yoga videos available for free, while the second website contains a variety of home workout videos for different muscle groups and styles of exercise.

No equipment is required for yoga — instead, it uses a variety of poses and stretches to target different muscle groups. Due to its low intensity compared to running or lifting weights and the ability to practice while remaining in one spot, it can be easily done in a small apartment or bedroom.

Workout regimens nicknamed "prison workouts" or "hotel workouts" also accommodate for small spaces and limited workout equipment. The regimens emphasize body-weight workouts such as push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups, which are usually done in quick succession to maintain an increased heart rate.

"Aerobic exercise and strength training are very important at preventing and actually helping address symptoms of anxiety and depression," UNM Health Sciences Center psychiatrist Caroline Bonham said.

For a more aerobic exercise, running or jogging is still encouraged in spite of the coronavirus outbreak, given that runners maintain at least six feet of distance between themselves and other people.

"We also know that exposure to sunlight is very protective in terms of actually helping reduce symptoms of depression and in helping maintain a healthy sleep cycle," Bonham said.

UNM Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) also has resources available for mental well-being during the pandemic. Through the SHAC website, UNM students can access a program called Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) for free. The TAO program provides online workshops and lessons for a range of different mental health issues.

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The program also contains a mindfulness library filled with videos discussing mindfulness practices and guided meditations.

Mindfulness meditation emphasizes paying attention to the environment and the sensations of one's body, such as the flow of the breath. It can be done while sitting, laying down or even while walking.

"Some of the principles of (mindfulness) are really noticing when you have feelings of anxiety or when you have strong emotional feelings," Bonham said. "Noticing what it feels like, noticing what it feels like in your body and then really not being judgmental ... just noticing it and letting it pass."

For Patten, these are practices he's already familiar with and uses often. He also makes sure to stay connected with his friends remotely.

"I do meditate a lot. I tend to also pray a lot," Patten said. "I do a lot of FaceTime and Zoom calls with friends."

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world, news coverage is focused heavily on updates about the coronavirus. While some people find comfort in staying informed, Bonham said, some may find that too much news can become overwhelming.

"If you watch the news and you feel more hopeful and you feel a bit empowered because you've got more information, that's a really good guide that actually having access to up-to-date information is helpful for you," Bonham said. "If you notice that when you read the news or watch the news you're feeling more stressed, more anxious and that your thoughts are going too quickly, that's a really important guide that maybe it's important to limit how much news you watch or consume each day."

Emma Cassady, a UNM elementary education major living at home, said that keeping a daily routine and staying busy helps her combat that anxiety. She also makes sure to go outside and get exercise.

"I started doing just basic exercises because (I) need to be doing something. I can't just be sitting around at home all day," Cassady said. "(Exercise) gets your heart rate up, and that's good for you, but also it makes you feel like you accomplished something."

Cassady also limits the amount of news she takes in but pointed out that news about the coronavirus is hard to get away from.

"It's all over social media anyway, so I can't even really hide from it," she said.

According to Bonham, other self-care strategies include adopting a consistent sleep schedule and eating healthy. For students cooking at home, the Daily Lobo has published an article containing easy at-home meals for a hungry Lobo.

While many people suffer from the loneliness that accompanies social distancing, Patten said he's thankful for the way new technology helps combat that loneliness.

"If you're feeling truly socially isolated, just pick up the phone. Call a friend, call a family member. It definitely helps," Patten said.

Liam DeBonis is a freelance photographer at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @LiamDebonis

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