Students Find a Way to Cope with COVID-19 Stress

Kaitlyn Bush, Flagler College student and NASM-CPT, embodying the freedom that comes with taking care of one's physical and mental health. Photo by Kaitlyn Bush @kaitmariebfit.

By Michela Weber

Through the chaos of a pandemic, a presidential election and incessant social injustice,
many have had to figure out how to confront undeniable fear, stress and uncertainty.

A large community of people that have felt this burden are college students. A year ago,
young adults departed from their campuses filled with confusion; their lives changed and in need
of a way to cope. To do this, many students turned to exercise.

Kaitlyn Bush, Flagler College student and NASM certified personal trainer, saw this as
an opportunity to take on a leadership role. As a student and trainer with a social media
following, Bush held herself accountable for providing fitness support throughout quarantine.

“I feel as though I have taken on a personal responsibility to help those who do not have
the resources through way of a gym or in-person trainer to find their true motivation through the
community and support I provide online,” Bush said.

By of Bush’s and her fellow influencers’ fitness endeavors, many college students
developed a passion for exercise and found a way to cope with the stress of this past year.
Elizabeth Colpe, fitness lover and St. Joseph’s University student, found resources for
exercise support from a variety of fitness influencers, like Bush.

“I found many influencers that I had never known prior to lockdown,” Colpe said. “I
started following workout guides, using dumbbells and using supplements because of research I
did during quarantine.”

Throughout lockdown, Bush noticed an increase in engagement on her fitness page. She
believes that many people decided to use exercise to feel in control.

“I believe quarantine was a big awakening for many of us, who felt as though we were
just coasting in the passenger’s seat of our own lives,” Bush said. “People wanted to take back
their power, and luckily exercise is a beautiful way to do so.”

An abundance of medical professionals agree with Bush’s sentiments that exercise can
improve every aspect of one’s life.

“Physical activity enhances your well-being. It can relieve tension, stress, and mental
fatigue,” said Andrea Trautwein, medical professional at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“Physical activity releases dopamine and endorphins which can enhance one’s mood. There is
growing scientific evidence that physical activity has a positive effect on your mental health.”
Colpe can attest to the idea that participation in any form of exercise helps to improve
mental health, especially throughout the trying times of quarantine.

“I think exercising helped me maintain a healthy mental state. I think that getting my
heart rate up is important and getting energy out so I can sleep well at night,” Colpe said.
“Walking and running provided me with the most stress relief.”
Bush advocates for all people to engage in some form of physical activity. She sees
movement as a key factor to an abundant life.
“I truly believe that anyone can participate in an exercise routine,” Bush said. “It simply
takes discovering the form of exercise that is enjoyable and empowering to the individual.”
Over quarantine, daily walks became an enjoyable and empowering part of Colpe’s
exercise routine.

“Once I started going on daily walks, I felt a lot of stress and boredom relieved,” Colpe
said. “I was able to move around about as much as I did before the lockdown, which made life
feel more normal.”

Trautwein believes that people, who engaged in some form of exercise throughout
quarantine did their mental health a favor.

“Exercise helped people focus on something other than the pandemic and helped refocus
their energy on something positive,” Trautwein said.

Bush finds it paramount to nurture and nourish one’s physical and mental health.
Although the two go hand in hand, she believes people need to show their mental health
particular care.

“Our physical health is only going to flourish if our mental health is taken care of,” Bush
said. “The brain is the most important aspect of our being that allows us to cherish our lives and
count our blessings.”

In regard to embarking on a fitness journey and coping with the stress of quarantine and
comparison, Colpe has some words of wisdom to offer fellow college students.

“Don’t compare yourselves to others, because every person has different life, body and
genetics and your journey does not have to be the same as anyone else’s,” Colpe said.

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