For those who experience mental illness on a daily basis, it’s no secret that the toll it takes on you can be detrimental. Margaret Koukos, a 16-year-old junior, understands this all too well.
“I’ve always had bad anxiety, but it peaked in 2017 during my sophomore year of high school,” she said. “My doctor had me on mood stabilizers and antidepressants, but it felt like they were hurting me more than helping me.”
Determined to improve her situation, Margaret set out to find ways to feel healthier, both mentally and physically.
“I began practicing yoga in the beginning of 2018, when a trainer at my gym encouraged me to try a class after seeing how much anxiety was consuming me,” she said. “I didn’t instantly fall in love with it, but it grew on me. I started to feel a sense of calm and I knew from that moment that I had to stick with it.”
After realizing the impact of a single lifestyle change, Margaret decided to find other parts of her life she could improve that would benefit her mental health in a positive way.
“My eating impacts everything—how I feel, how I think, my workouts, and my mood,” she said. “I notice when I eat food that inflames me, like gluten, soy and dairy, I get a lot of anxiety. I try to keep a diet that consists of meat, fish, veggies, fruit and an occasional bag of kettle chips or chocolate!”
She also wanted to find an alternative to the brick-and-mortar style of education she was used to, which led her to online schooling.
“I knew life wasn’t meant to consist of days where we countdown the hours until they’re over,” she said. “A typical day for me began at 5am with a workout or a yoga class, followed by eight hours at school where I felt like I couldn’t focus, then coming home and trying to take care of a puppy, my family and, most of all, myself.”
Margaret realized she needed to change her day-to-day routine in order to bring some stability to her life, and online school offered her the balance she needed.
“It has allowed me to focus on school, but also focus on and be present with myself when I need to,” she said. “Thanks to online learning, I am able to take care of myself better, eat healthier, workout/do yoga when I want to and travel! The amount of flexibility is amazing and definitely relieves stress for me because I know that there is time for everything now.”
Margaret has not only discovered her recipe for happiness, but also a newfound love for yoga and its benefits. She strives to share what she has learned with anyone who wants to introduce yoga into their lifestyle.
“As my yoga teacher says, ‘there’s no right or wrong way to do yoga,’ which is so true,” she said. “Everybody is different. I’ve had some days where I’m not missing a beat in a flow sequence and others where something is hurting so bad I’ve wanted to quit in that very minute. I think no matter what, you just have to stick with it because it will be worth it in the end.”
Margaret already has her eyes set on the future and is looking forward to helping others find their balance, both in yoga and in life.
“I want to get my 200hr RYT, which means I will have spent 200 hours studying yoga and can teach classes,” she said.
Once she graduates from ASU Prep Digital, Margaret plans on attending ASU Online and earning a B.S. in Integrative Health while working toward becoming a yoga instructor.