ASU psychology undergraduate bridges the gap between fitness, mental health

Melissa Holman

Melissa Holman

For Melissa Holman, an ASU Online psychology undergraduate and personal trainer from New York, wellness isn’t just a physical thing, but a mental practice as well. 

Exercise has been shown to be an excellent stress reliever, and according to the American Psychological Association, 53% of adults says they feel good about themselves after exercise, 35% say it puts them in a good mood and 30% feel less stressed after exercise.

In fact, exercise and movement have been shown to release endorphins, the pleasure neurotransmitters that make people feel better, and exercise can help reduce cortisol, or stress hormones, in the body. This combined with strengthening the body can help boost your mood and serves as an effective coping mechanism for stress. 

For Holman, this is a natural connection that she experiences every day as a personal trainer working with clients. She works with an average of 15 to 20 clients a week, and many of them use fitness as a way to relieve stress in their lives.

“I have a lot of clients who use fitness as an outlet for depression, anxiety, and anger,” Holman said.

Her journey to psychology began long before however, when she graduated with a degree in design and worked as a graphic designer in New York. Long hours in a competitive industry helped her to realize that her passion was elsewhere. She wanted to do something that helped her friends and family more than design and decided that her calling really was mental health.

“I was interested in the medical field and loved helping people from a young age. I was a Girl Scout up until my senior year of high school and completed every badge dealing with first aid that I could find and always volunteered. During my first semester of college, I learned that I have a multitude of people in my family (including myself) affected by mental illnesses. Interacting with individuals in the mental health field showed me just how truly amazing the field of psychology can be and how beneficial it is,” Holman said. 

The struggle she experienced as a young designer straight out of school in a busy, chaotic city helped her to see that she needed to make a change and go back to school to pursue a career in mental health. She realized that the issues she experienced, like anxiety or stress, were things that almost everyone deals with and that she wanted to make a difference for people like her. 

“In the future, I would like to be a neuropsychologist. Honestly, I truly find all areas of research interesting, but if I had to narrow it down I would say that I am mostly interested in behavioral neuroscience, developmental psychology, and cognitive psychology.”

Outside the classroom and working, Holman loves to exercise and stay healthy. 

“The one upside to COVID-19 is that I bought a lot of exercise equipment so now I have a mini gym at my home to use whenever I want,” she said. “It is a great stress reliever and it helps keep me centered on my future goals.”

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