Cleopatra Lee Is Hiking Through Her Post-Pandemic Anxiety

I met Elyse Fox [Sad Girls Club’s founder] through mutual friends, and I just loved how nothing about mental health is off-limits to them. I said, “Wow, I have to be a part of it!” Cleopatra’s army focuses on connecting the mind and body. I’m not trying to say we’re a fitness brand because when people hear fitness all they think about is the gym and lifting weights, but your body is already capable of so much. It is so often your mind that needs training.

What are some of your fears about going back to “normal” life and how are you working on them?

I definitely had a bit of social anxiety about just being with people again, but I miss being with people’s energies so I just trust that as long as I’m safe, I’ll make it through. I think we are gradually getting better at returning to a “normal” way of life. Just do what feels comfortable to you.

I know that one of my personal concerns about things opening up again is the idea that we need to go back to an old “normal” state and forget about all the things that the past year taught us to make our health a priority . Do you have any advice on shaking off those pandemic blues while prioritizing wellbeing?

Be safe by wearing your mask! Taking immune boosters also helps. I used my vitamin C and elderberries a lot and even did breathing exercises where I breathe deeply four times, hold my breath four times and exhale deeply at least ten times. I also pour boiling water over it [dried] Herbs – like chamomile, thyme, lavender, oregano, and bay leaf – and just inhale the steam to keep my airways clear and open.

I take extra precautions to make sure I am physically healthy and still try to be comfortable in order to get to places where I know I don’t have to interact with too many people. Hikes are generally great because one way to allay the fear is to go out in a public space that isn’t too public. I think being in a place where you can still be separated from people, but being close to them and feeling their energy is a great place to start.

I think because the health and fitness industry is inaccessible to so many people that some people fail to realize that your healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be like everyone else’s.

Are there ways our environment can affect our mental health?

Total! I’ve lived in New York for so long and needed a change of scenery so I moved to LA and it changed my whole life so I could do better on my business. It helped me work better on everything. Sometimes you have to change your space to change your mindset. If you stay in the same box you’ve always lived in, you won’t see any change. Even if you do something as simple as hiking to the top of the mountain, you will gain more mental clarity and perspective.

Do you have personal routines or rituals that you regularly bring out into nature?

I try to be outside as much as possible. Even during the pandemic, I took my yoga to the park and now hiked a lot after moving to LA, probably once a week. When I travel, I also like to go hiking. I try to go into the wilderness and the beach whenever I can to adjust to nature and be alone. I don’t really have a set routine, but I do make time at least once a week.

How did exercise and staying active helped you personally master the mental and emotional challenges of the past year?

It kept me sane; Movement is my medicine. I have to move to feel good, and it releases endorphins too. It’s not just a personal thing, it’s science! Even when I’m alone in the mirror or playing a fool with my friends, I somehow get movement. I think because the health and fitness industry is inaccessible to so many people that some people fail to realize that your healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be like everyone else’s. You don’t have to be in the gym every day. Even something as simple as meditation is progress. There are so many ways to incorporate health and wellbeing into your life. It doesn’t have to look like a bunch of weights in the gym.

I’ve also seen a lot of gatekeeping in the health and wellness community making it inaccessible to women of skin color. Why do you think is that so?

I think these rooms are so prone to keeping women away from color because we see racism everywhere in the healthcare industry. Period. For example, the death rate among black women giving birth -[Black women are three times as likely to die during childbirth as their white counterparts]- We see such statistics all the time. I just feel like the oldest story in history. We see gatekeeping because we see it in all other areas of life. This is just one more area where we need to break open these doors – which is exactly what I am trying to do through the community that Cleopatra’s army created.

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