2020 has put New Yorkers through the ringer. It has been a historical year in many ways, and a tense time amid the coronavirus pandemic and a stressful presidential campaign.
Mandy Suarez, 42, is a health coach who has lived in the West Village for 15 years and is pursuing her goals of helping people find health and wellness, something she says looks different for everybody (she doesn’t believe in diets). Her health coaching business has been open for a year.
“We’re all in the same boat. Where are we going? What’s going to happen?” Suarez said. “And how do we manage that and keep ourselves healthy and sane during this period?”
Originally from Nebraska, Suarez’s relationship with health had a rough start. At 15 years old, she was modeling in Milan and Miami, and despite being considered “skinny,” she was being told to lose weight. This caused her to develop some body image issues that she carried with her into her thirties. When she had her son, who is now nine years old, her mentality shifted.
“I just had less head space to really focus on, should I be eating this? Should I not be eating this? And I kind of just treated myself with more kindness out of a lack of time,” she said. “I looked at food and health as a way to nourish myself versus a way to deprive myself.”
Though it has been hard to grow her business during the pandemic, she is sure her clients need her even more now. With the ever-present threat of COVID-19 looming over New York, Suarez wants people to be more aware of their health and lifestyle.
“What kind of annoyed me that we don’t talk about more, is how we can be empowered to have better health,” Suarez said. “And I’m not saying that we can prevent ourselves from getting COVID, but if you can build your immunity and live a healthier lifestyle, there’s certainly the chance that you’ll be less likely to get COVID.”
Suarez offers tips for helping to build your immunity and health in general, so as to arm yourself better for the risk of illness. Some areas to focus on:
Moving: “Moving” is a term Suarez uses carefully instead of “exercising.” “Start where you are,” she says. “If you currently don’t move at all, I’m not saying go out and do an hour run or an hour exercise class. Start with 10 minutes of walking and build from there.”
Food: Suarez recommends eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, and reducing the amount of processed sugar. As with exercise, “start small,” she says. “If you’re currently eating only processed foods, to shift to only greens and fruits is probably not likely.”
Anxiety: After COVID, the next biggest threat to New Yorkers, Suarez believes, is anxiety. “Chronic anxiety puts us in the state of fight or flight — which is a good thing. It’s what our ancestors would do when there’s a lion. It’s fight or flight, so they’re running to get away from the lion,” she explained. “But when you’re in a heightened state of anxiety all the time, it has a lot of health consequences, including not being able to lose weight, not being able to sleep, a higher heart rate, all of those things.”
Suarez suggests that we ignore our natural tendency to avoid or distract ourselves from anxiety itself. Instead, she “befriends” it.
“My philosophy is that anxiety is trying to tell you something,” Suarez said. “Anxiety can be a tool to guide you to what you need to focus on. And there are many ways to cope with anxiety, including meditation, going for a walk outdoors, connecting with your friends.”
During the week of the election and the threat of a second wave of coronavirus, anxiety is running even higher. Suarez copes with this by meditating frequently and cooking (which is therapeutic for her).
“I’m trying not to check in constantly with news and social media, really trying to kind of keep it to some windows of the day, so I’m not always barraged with the latest,” she said.
Suarez sends out a bi-monthly newsletter offering more tips on self-care.
Her website is: https://mandysuarez.com/