From vegan cooking to salsa dancing, Mary’s Center staff share what they do to maintain their physical and mental health, in honor of National Women’s Health Week (May 9-15).
Marisa Parrella, LICSW, LCSW-C
Director of School-Based Mental Health
I am a believer in exercise every day, and I pair that with socializing. A couple of mornings a week, a very dear friend and I walk our dogs together; we talk about everything and nothing and have increased to 4 miles a day since Covid began. Other mornings, I do a more vigorous outdoor workout with another group of women – we run, lift weights, laugh, talk, and enjoy the outdoors, even in the cold! Being outdoors for any amount of time is so important for mental health. I try and enjoy every type of weather and get outside very day. Rock Creek Park is such a gift to DC residents, and I have explored a lot of it this year.
I also love to cook, especially with my 3 sons. It’s a great way to relax at the end of the day. My boys love burgers, but they also love kale salad and red lentil curry with vegetables! Finally, I do my best to limit alcohol consumption and get enough sleep. I can’t always achieve that, but when I eat healthy, exercise, and sleep well, I am my best self.
Executive Assistant, Board Liaison & Special Projects Coordinator
How do I keep ME balanced? Everything in moderation! And when I notice everything is NOT in moderation, I cut back. I like to live a little! Spending time with my loved ones is also a big part of how I take care of myself. They keep me grounded and remind me to smile sometime!
Gretchen Gates, MSW, LICSW
Director of Behavioral Health Integration
Health has always been important to me, but after a major health scare a few years ago, I learned it’s the top priority: if you don’t have your health, you can’t have anything else! I’ve developed what I call my ‘non-negotiables’ that help me maintain my physical and mental well-being. These include eating a vegetarian diet, running a few times per week, and getting outside with my dog, River, at least once per day.
Gita Agarwal, MD
Women like me by default are caretakers for children, grandchildren, and parents. To do that, it’s important to first take care of yourself. I cook most of my meals at home and this gives me control over what goes in my body and also in the bodies of those I take care of and love so much.
Assistant Director of Individual Giving
I enjoy exercising at least three times a week. When I first began working out regularly, my intent was for it to benefit my physical health, but I’ve found that exercising has positively impacted my mental health as well. When feeling stressed, I try to find a relaxing activity like taking a bath, painting my nails, or playing fetch with my dog, Poe.
Dora Arevalo, BHA
PGHC Program Supervisor
I like to keep healthy by eating my favorite foods such as avocados and fresh fruit like mangoes! I also carve out time for myself and get regular massages to de-stress!
Medical Programs Operations Manager
In the past year, we’ve all had to find new and inventive ways to stay healthy and keep a sense of normalcy amidst all the chaos. In January 2020, I had committed myself to getting healthy and signed up for a gym membership. When the gyms closed, I began doing small 15–30-minute workouts at home and encouraged my family to join as well (my dad and I shared a yoga mat for much of the pandemic). Since eating out wasn’t an option anymore, I took this as an opportunity to learn how to cook healthy food for myself, and I am accidently vegan most of the time now! Lastly, I really enjoy a long nighttime routine before I go to sleep. I put my phone on do not disturb, play my favorite music, take a long shower, and go through my skincare routine before heading to bed.
Community Outreach and Prevention
I can honestly say that I have focused more on getting healthier, becoming more active, and improving my mental health in the past year. The world’s pandemic has put a lot into perspective for me. To maintain good health, I drink more water (at least 64 ounces per day) and load up on the fruits and veggies. I often walk to increase physical activity with a goal of 10,000 steps a day. For my mental health, I sit alone in a quiet place for at least 45 minutes and have a self-care day that includes a mani-pedi and a massage.
Tara Pavao, MPA, MS
Director, Health Homes
As a working mom with young children, I take a couple of minutes each day to center myself, which helps reduce the anxiety of everyday demands. It doesn’t matter if I’m outside or by the window, I love to face the sun with my eyes closed and take a few deep breaths while soaking up the sun’s warmth and brightness. After 5 deep breaths incorporated with positive self-talk, I find myself with a natural smile and a renewed sense of purpose and energy to continue with my day and give it the best that I got.
Elizabeth Hamilton, MPH, CPHQ
Director of Quality & Outcomes
During COVID-19, it has been challenging to remain active, but when I have the opportunity, I like to take walks around my community and chase my 20-month-old around! Now that I am fully vaccinated, I am looking forward to returning to salsa dance classes with my partner. Dancing has been a creative, fun, and active outlet for me for many years and I cannot wait to get back into the swing of it!
Early Childhood Coordinator
In order to stay healthy, both mentally and physically, I have been working out about 3-4 days per week. This includes home workouts and playing two-hand touch football. In addition to working out, I’ve been cooking more at home but of course allowing some days to indulge on my favorite sweets. Overall, trying to maintain a balance.
Working in fitness means a lot of time in the gym, indoors, but my favorite way to stay active is to get outside! Explore your neighborhood or the hiking trails in Rock Creek Park. Sunlight and fresh air are instant mood elevators and work wonders for your mental health. Having issues staying consistent? Grab a friend (with 2 legs or 4!) to help hold you accountable.