Editorial: Pandemic Reemphasizes Importance of Mental, Physical Health

By Aiden Wacksman

Before the coronavirus outbreak closed schools across the country this past spring, I was on Oak Hall’s boys weightlifting team. I was getting stronger each day, and I was having the time of my life. Little did I know, these times wouldn’t last very long.

On March 13, Oak Hall moved to online school due to coronavirus safety concerns. At first, I could not process what was happening. After a couple of weeks, however, I realized what the nationwide shutdown would mean for me and my family.

For many months, I was unable to lift weights. I tried exercises that utilized body weight, but it didn’t feel the same. There is a special feeling when I get ready to bench press, clean, or deadlift, and without equipment to utilize, I was unable to attain that feeling. 

When the 2020-21 school year began, I decided to learn online for the first quarter. Everything went as planned for the first couple of weeks, but at one point I noticed my mental health was slowly declining. Once every couple of days, I would become depressed, frustrated, or angrier than usual. I saw this was becoming a pattern, and I immediately knew something was wrong. This wasn’t like me, and my parents also noticed my change in behavioral patterns. I understood that my routine needed to change in order for me to maintain mental stability.

“The most valuable thing I have taken away from this experience is the importance of appreciating the little things in life.”

Months earlier, I ordered two pairs of dumbbells. However, due to the rapid influx of demand for exercise equipment, I had to wait much longer for it to arrive at my door. Once it arrived, I grabbed the package, cut it open, and immediately put the equipment to use. I got a chair from my kitchen and placed it in my living room. Then, I created a list of workouts to do, and the rest is history. After lifting weights for the first time in nearly half a year, it was as if many of my burdens had been relieved. I was able to let go of issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression. My body and mind felt great. In a way, I would describe my high intensity exercise that day as a sort of liberation.

This experience taught me not only the value of high-intensity training, but also mental health. I now have a better understanding of how negative feelings can affect one’s mentality. I believe one of the best ways to combat frustration and hopelessness is to pursue hobbies. The great thing about a hobby is that first of all, it is enjoyable, and second of all, it can relax your mind.

I decided to return to in-person school for the second quarter of the school year. I was very grateful to finally have access to the weight room, which I immediately benefitted.

After about a week or so, I noticed a significant change in my mental health. Rather than being disappointed or frustrated half of the week, I was happy and relieved at the end of each day. I slept longer and ate more which helped my body and mind become in sync. I also had more energy, which led to an increase in productivity during the day. 

I credit weightlifting for improving my mental health, as it provided an outlet for me to let out any anger, frustration, or stress. This allowed me to focus on other things such as schoolwork.

Before the virus caused a shutdown, I took some things for granted, one of them being the fact that I could lift weights in the first place. The most valuable thing I have taken away from this experience is the importance of appreciating the little things in life. I learned, most of all, that I should treat every day like a gift.