These days the pendulum swings between our happiness for health, family, home and work; and then fear for future opportunity, for the country and how the virus may come back with a vengeance. We are working too hard and exercising much less. And certainly mental health is falling far by the wayside. For women-owned small businesses, it’s even more trying as we juggle the additional responsibilities at home whether as a parent, carer and even good neighbor. That’s where hearing from others helps. And our friends personal trainer Rima Sidhu and psychotherapist Kathryn Grooms are well-positioned to dish out advice especially about their own struggles with practicing what they preach.
These two moms have a wealth of collective expertise that was in demand well before the idea of taking care of ourselves physically and mentally became mission critical. Now, in addition to helping others, their own best practices and beliefs are being tested by the demands of life under Covid-19.
We spoke to Rima and Kathryn earlier this Summer about how they are handling these times and the advice they have for others…
RIMA SIDHU: My day is essentially organized around the few clients that I’m remotely training, my training routine, and my daughter’s schedule. My work has been cut down to about 25% of what it was which has allowed me to have more oversight of my daughter’s school, screen, and physical activity routines.
My wife Kathryn Grooms spends a lot of time working, and I try to pick up the slack elsewhere. And as a now extended family of five (with my parents in tow), we try to plan our meals for the week during the weekend. A few days each week I help with the cooking and clean up, and once per week I go out and do the grocery shopping for the next seven days or so. With my remaining time, I try to focus on figuring out ways to build my business remotely, as I don’t think gyms will be able to open safely anytime soon.
KATHRYN GROOMS: As two Virgos (September 7 and 8th are our birthdays) early on we knew we needed to create a consistent structure and get it down on paper so we could all refer back to it.
RIMA SIDHU: There have been a lot of challenges during this time, although the hardest has probably been being away from home (NYC) and not working. Maintaining what I had was difficult due to gym closures, as well as, financial hardship suffered by several of my clients at this time.
And most surprising has been how busy I’ve been not working! Having to navigate my daughter’s remote learning schedule, keeping her on track and making sure nothing gets missed is quite time-consuming. Then there’s being available to her during her non-school and non-screen time. Also other logistical things- coordinating meals and meal preparation with my parents, doing laundry a few times/week, little bits of cleaning here and there. It’s amazing how busy I am while I’m barely working!
KATHRYN GROOMS: Hardest has been all of the losses of not being in NYC; NYC not being what it was; and also not being there to support the city we love. Also not having independence as a family of 3. It’s tough to move back home.
Nothing has been really surprising. However there have been a few observations: like taking morning coffee to the back yard to give our dog some exercise. In the city this would have, of course, meant heading to the dog run instead. So it’s a nice way to start the day.
Also going to bed early and the lack of interaction outside our “immunopod”. This has actually led to more intentional online socializing than I did in person in New York. Before Covid-19 we did a lot of socializing as a result of day-to-day activities such as on the school playground or during kids soccer games. Also there is a general lack of enthusiasm to do work beyond the necessary. It’s hard to find motivation or inspiration. We are all feeling a bit dull. This is likely a result of working long hours on screens combined with a general experience of confinement and lack of freedoms.
RIMA SIDHU: This is a good question, as many people who are used to going to the gym to work out, or doing an exercise class cannot workout the same right now. But there are other ways…
Easy tips for getting fit…
Give yourself an easy and measurable goal. And then build on it every week. For example: do 10 push-ups every day. After this is routine, add 10 squats and so on.
Yes, even in New York City, it is good to get outside. Even if for only a 20 minute walk, it is good for the body to be physically active outdoors. If walking isn’t enough for you, and you’ve never run before, consider an easy entry into running by doing a walk/run program. Run 2 minutes for every 5 minutes that you walk.
If you are not comfortable exercising outside, there are many virtual classes that are being offered right now. A simple search will yield many different options from Yoga to high intensity group exercise classes.
Some people prefer not to do group classes, or feel like they can’t keep up, especially through a screen. In this case, set up a 6’ x 6’ foot area, and pick 3-4 different exercises to do in a circuit. Repeat that circuit for a certain amount of time- maybe 20-30minutes. If you can focus on 3 or 4 different movements that target your entire body (jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, sit-ups), doing 10 reps of each, and cycling through for a set amount of time, This way, you don’t have to think too much during your workout, and just keep going.
I suggest designating a time each day that you would ideally like to work out. Then put it on your schedule. That way, you don’t have to make any decisions about when you’ll fit it in during your day, as it will already be scheduled. Another way to stay motivated, is to enlist a family member to commit to working out with you. If that’s not possible, contact a friend, and ask them to help hold you accountable. You can tell them when you’re planning on exercising (days/times), and ask them to check in with you either each day or each week (depending on what you need). You can also offer to do the same for them.
Lastly, some people just really need to be told what to do in the moment. Consider working with a personal trainer via Zoom. Many trainers have taken their businesses online, doing remote sessions, myself included. We want to make sure our clients and others can stay fit and keep moving, for both physical and mental health. I know that at this time, finances are an issue for many people. Therefore, I have developed different training options that can meet anyone’s budget. My attitude is that we can always find a way to make it work.
KATHRYN GROOMS: The most important part of taking care of your mental and emotional health is to practice self-awareness and self-compassion. Try to take a moment each day to check in with yourself and notice what your feeling. Often taking several long breaths (intake count of 4 and exhale count of 4) or sitting quietly, can support that check in.
If what you find is feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger, helplessness, loneliness, try to remind yourself these are normal feelings in this environment. Then let yourself be curious about what do these feelings need? What are they trying to tell me? Maybe they need a scream, a cry, a phone call with a friend, an online dance party.
Try to give yourself permission to give yourself what you need. These feelings are messengers, not facts that define who we are. And if you can’t figure out what you’re feeling or what you need, try to give yourself permission to reach out to a therapist. Our practice, like many others, at Kathryn Grooms & Associates Psychotherapy is offering remote sessions. And if you’re a frontline worker in need of support there is a network of trauma specialists, which we are a part of, offering free sessions. More information can be found at www.NYCTRN.org.
And a few extra tips that support our mental health are: try to get adequate sleep; stay connected to a few trusted friends; don’t pressure yourself to do every Zoom house party or every new exercise class; take social media and any media breaks – ask yourself is this helping me feel better? if yes carry on and when not give yourself permission to do something else; let yourself cry; let yourself laugh, move your body, get outside when you can and practice gratitude. Most of all remind yourself you are doing the best you can and you are not alone.
RIMA: I exercise diligently 6 mornings/week. After waking in the morning, it’s the first thing I do, which grounds me for the rest of the day. I start with a run, then do a series of bodyweight exercises. On two of those days, I do a couple of kettlebell exercises as well, and sometimes skip rope. I always finish with a good stretch. From time-to-time I change up some of my exercises and routines to keep things interesting and challenging. I take Sundays off from structured exercise, as my body needs a little bit of a break to recover. But I am usually passively active on Sundays — going for walks, kicking the soccer ball around with my daughter, etc.
KATHRYN GROOMS: I do all that I said above. I do try to walk my talk. In addition, I am playing with the dog, remembering to laugh, maintaining a consistent exercise routine, getting outside at least once a day even if it’s raining. I get plenty of sleep and, of course, lots of hugs with my daughter!