There has been so much that’s been said and written about COVID-19, but one area that sometimes gets overlooked is the toll the pandemic has taken on everyone’s mental health. Given that August is recognized by some as National wellness month, it’s time to take a look at a few ways to promote mental and physical well-being during this unprecedented time. Even the semi-famous need to define what well-being means to them and that’s what Leanne Larsen focuses on.
Amazing Race Canada Alum Leanne Larsen Addresses Mental and Physical Wellness During Pandemic
Being Aware Of and Acknowledging Mental Health Challenges
Former Amazing Race Canada: Heroes Edition contestant, Leanne Larsen, is someone who deals with anxiety and admits the pandemic has been challenging. But rather than getting buried in it, Larsen prefers to acknowledge her heightened anxiety and actively looks for ways to address and reduce it.
On the topic of facing mental health challenges, the late great Kobe Bryant once said.
“It’s about awareness because once you’re aware of it, you can choose to walk hand and hand with it or you can choose to fight it. But you are making that decision. If you’re just constantly burying that in the distance then it starts festering and comes up in different ways – it manifests itself in different ways.”
Larsen wholeheartedly agrees with Bryant’s words of wisdom on the topic.
“Kobe is respected as one of the most mentally tough athletes of all time and to know that he actually said that and believed that is inspiring,” said Larsen, a former Argonauts cheerleader.
“I think Kobe was a very wise man and is bang on in what he said. It’s very important to acknowledge and be open about whatever we’re going through because only then we can take the necessary action to try to make things better.”
Leanne Larsen’s Challenging Times During Pandemic
The 27-year-old from Oakville, Ontario, who works as an Events Operations Manager, speaks about her personal challenges with mental and physical wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In March and April when restrictions were put into effect and everything was being shut down, there were so many questions and really not many answers and that unknown was stressful for everyone, including myself,” noted Larsen.
“Plus, being stuck at home and having to practice social distancing is a difficult concept to grasp. I definitely felt my anxiety level rise and I’m sure that was the case for pretty much everyone during this time.”
The Sheridan College grad finds irony in the fact that her time on The Amazing Race Canada actually taught her with some useful lessons in terms of dealing with the restrictions enforced during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“During the filming process of the show, we were sequestered. This was done so all teams had an even and fair chance. We were separated into our hotel rooms with no contact with the other teams or the outside world. So basically, we had no access to Internet, television, radio, or newspapers,” Larsen explained.
“During that time, Mar (Lyon) and I learned to be resilient; and had to become creative with ways to keep ourselves entertained which is what I found I was doing during the first few months of the pandemic,” she continued.
“Still it’s kind of wild to think that we went from being on a reality show where we raced around the country and the world to being completely locked down in our homes just two years later – it’s just something that I would never have expected.”
Staying Active is the Key
Leanne Larsen points to the importance of staying physically and mentally active during the pandemic.
“When the pandemic hit, everything came to an absolute halt. Gyms closed down and yoga studios closed down but thankfully I have a personal trainer so her an I were able to continue working together through Zoom,” she noted.
According to her personal trainer, Larkin Old, Larsen’s commitment to her work out routine has resulted in multiple benefits.
“On top of her several sessions a week with me, Leanne has found a routine that works for her which has propelled her towards the goals she has set out for herself,” said Old about Larsen.
“Leanne has made so many improvements both in and out of the gym when it comes to her training, nutrition, and her overall commitment to living a healthy lifestyle. Beyond the physical benefits, I have noticed the positive changes that her dedication has brought to her mental health,” Old continued.
“I’ve seen the improvement in her self confidence and it can be attributed to the connection between exercise and mental and physical wellness.”
Old adds that keeping a regular exercise and work out routine helps to improve sleep, reduce stress, and generally leads to healthier choices nutritionally.
“They really all affect each other which is why regular exercise is an integral part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Additionally, regular exercise just makes us feel good. It gets our endorphins pumping and can give us the energy we need to tackle the day.”
Besides her regular workouts, Larsen also practices yoga as part of her overall mental and physical wellness routine.
“Leanne is always excited to practice and said she ended each class feeling strong, happy, and relaxed,” said her yoga instructor, Kyra Morrison.
“She would show up early and eager. These classes became a part of her weekly routine and I loved her dedication to her health and well being.”
Morrison is quick to speak about other key benefits of practicing yoga on a regular basis.
“It allows you to slow down and reconnect with yourself. It also helps bring you back into the present moment. Plus it helps with mobility, joint health, getting into the deep tissues, as well as building strength, and more,” she noted.
In addition to her workout and yoga sessions, Larsen says taking the time to meditate and read each day has also had a positive impact on her overall wellness.
“Meditating is something I really started focusing on this year. I’ve learned it’s really important to spend five minutes to calm yourself down during the day. I have an app that reminds me that it’s time to meditate and it’s great to take that time to focus and work on my breathing,” said Larsen.
“I also take time to read each day. Whether it’s reading just five pages, I think it’s important to forget everything and just read something good for the mind. I enjoy reading personal development books and articles.”
Good Days and Bad Days
Larsen admits that despite her best efforts, she still has her good days and not so good days.
“With the pandemic, nothing is certain. And while I try to keep as positive as possible, there’s days and times where you question things. ‘Is there going to be a second round of this? Is everything going to shut down again?'” Larsen said candidly.
“There’s a lot of what-if questions and it’s that unknown that brings a lot of stress and anxiety. But I don’t let myself dwell on them. I just make the best of every day and try to stick to my normal wellness routines as much as possible.”
Searching for a Silver Lining
According to renowned mental health advocate, Victoria Garrick, it is important to find a silver lining during this time.
“My advice for anyone having a difficult time right now would be to fight to see the silver lining. Every situation is different, some people truly have had their worlds flipped upside down. So if there is any way to fight to see a small silver lining, I would encourage them to do that,” said Garrick.
According to Larsen’s mother, Rhonda Larsen, the silver lining is that it’s allowed the family to spend more quality time together.
“With Leanne being home and me not working because I’m in the school system we have had a lot of time around the house together. We’ve spent many nights sitting around the fire out in the backyard. And now we have been able to invite friends in our bubble over for some long missed time together,” she said.
“It certainly kept us busy and kept our minds off of all the negativity. I’m still in awe of Leanne working, exercising, and keeping our dog Ruckus happy and healthy.”
The former Amazing Race Canada contestant agrees with Garrick and her mother.
“It’s definitely important to see the silver lining. For me, I was on such a fast-paced schedule, and during the pandemic, I’ve had a chance to slow down and spend more time with my family. I can’t remember having a sit-down dinner with family at 5:30 pm, but now we have a chance to and that’s been nice,” said Larsen.
Words of Wisdom
Having dealt with heightened anxiety levels during the pandemic, the 27-year-old Leanne Larsen has some words of wisdom for others dealing with similar challenges during the pandemic.
“I would be surprised if someone says they are not feeling anxious during this time. So my advice would be to talk it out. In some cases, it might be important to get counseling or therapy if that would help. And sometimes just writing it in a journal and reading it back can be useful,” said Larsen.
“Also, I would suggest reaching out and get it out to a friend, family member, or someone you trust. And by doing so you become more aware of what it is you are dealing with and you release your anxiety into the world. I believe by doing this, you can then start taking steps to make things better.”