UW Alum Combats Mental Health Issues with Yoga during COVID-19

It wasn’t the ending that graduating seniors at the University of Wisconsin–Madison had asked for, and it definitely wasn’t the one they had in mind.

Emily Schmitz, who graduated in May, had just finished an internship right before the university made the announcement in mid-March to transition the rest of the semester to all virtual learning due to concerns and risks of COVID-19.

“Attending virtual classes and graduating virtually was not easy,” Schmitz says.

Emily Schmitz
Emily Schmitz

After graduation, Schmitz headed back to Milwaukee to stay with her family, where the next few months came with uncertainty.

Travel plans, family gatherings and graduation celebrations — all cancelled.

Being cooped up in her home with family members for a long period of time created a lot of anxiety says Schmitz. As a result, Schmitz’s mom and aunts expressed interest in weekly Zoom yoga sessions.

“We’ve always had mental health issues that run in my family — both my mom and aunts have anxiety, and I do as well,” Schmitz says. “During this time, anxiety is heightened, and we thought that teaching virtual yoga would help alleviate some of those stresses.”

Schmitz had been attending a 200-hour yoga training program and used this opportunity to teach others and practice her skills. It was a great way to combat anxiety says Schmitz.

She led yoga sessions with her family and friends, catering each session to their personal needs and taking breaks to discuss current events. Each one of those session lasted 20 to 30 minutes.

Being able to give back to her community during COVID-19 means a lot to her, even if it’s something as small as an exercise activity or reducing exposure in large gatherings.

“When I think about the bigger picture, it’s not just about me,” Schmitz says. “If I choose to go out and eat at a restaurant, I’m not only putting myself at risk, but also my family.”

Schmitz will be returning back to campus in the fall to pursue her master of accountancy (MAcc) degree. However, with UW–Madison’s “Smart Restart,” Schmitz knows that there will be challenges and uncertainties.

While this is not the fall that many are students are looking forward to, Schmitz says that students should take this time to back give to their communities that may be struggling.

“The biggest thing that people should take away, especially in a time of negativity is that we can find a way to be positive and find a silver lining,” Schmitz says.