Amanda (left) pictured with her wife Lauren.

Amanda Merfeld, a communications strategist at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE), started running two years ago during COVID-19 to prioritize her wellness and mental health.

“I was diagnosed with both anxiety and depression at the age of 15,” Merfeld said. “My doctor said that along with medication, one of the best ways to treat it is through exercise.”

This advice led her to become a runner. In the last few years, Merfeld took her running to the next level and successfully ran her first half marathon in November of 2021. She describes running as a relief in her life when she can take time to take care of herself.

“Now that I’m two, three years into running, when I don’t run, I can definitely tell how it affects me mentally,” Merfeld said. “I become more irritable, anxious and don’t sleep as well.”

Running has not always been easy for Merfeld. She has faced challenges, such as getting COVID-19, hurting her Achilles tendon and putting pressure on herself. The next challenge she set for herself, an ultra-marathon, Merfeld described the training process as miserable.

“I think I had lost motivation,” Merfeld said, “When training, I ran about 16 miles, which is more than I’d ever run before, but I just wasn’t having fun. And my partner could tell that, and it just felt like it was work.”

Three months before the ultra-marathon, Merfeld decided to put her mental health first and drop out of the marathon and take a few weeks away from running.

“It was hard to drop out of the race,” Merfeld said, “And I have a personality where I make it deep, where it’s like, if I’m not doing this and I’m not like progressing and it’s not perfect, then it’s wrong.”

After leaning on her support system, her friends, family and wife Lauren, Merfeld had to remind herself why she loves running.

“Lauren has really helped me reverse that and talk to myself in a kind way because once you do that, it’s like you realize that you deserve to take care of your mental, physical health, whatever it is,” Merfeld said. “You deserve to take that time and have that fun and not be so harsh on yourself about the results of it all.”

To read more stories like this one, visit Health and Wellness.

*Wise & Well is a monthly wellness series highlighting BCBSNE employees and their dedication to health and wellness.