365 Days In: How Do You Feel?

Revisiting advice from personal trainer Rima Sidhu & psychotherapist Kathryn Grooms

The sun is shining, vaccinations are accelerating and there *appears to be* some proverbial light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. So does that mean we’re all super happy and ready to resume living la vida 2019? Not sure.

Despite the positive outlook, some of us (✋) feel a bit more pessimistic and anxious than 6-12 months ago. Why? It’s of course all very individual, but collectively it’s probably the beginning of post-pandemic PTSD. And if you look at this piece from Psychiatric Times, you may see yourself and understand why.

So, on this near anniversary of our collective lockdown, I’ve been re-reading posts and interviews from last year. Today I dusted off notes from two talented married moms who excel at professions dedicated to strength and healing — personal trainer Rima Sidhu and psychotherapist Kathryn Grooms.

Then vs. Now

Last year was, of course, tough in the moment. And deeply tragic for many. Right away we coped behaviorally (from grocery wipe down to mask adoption and so on). We tried to manage emotionally and physically too. All the while with hope that we’d return ‘to normal’ very, very soon.

But then the definition of ‘normal’ slipped like sand through our fingers. Some for good: e.g., we’ve questioned how we spend our time and who with. And bad: e.g., we’ve gotten use to having kids out of school and living more hermetically.

The year also reminded us of how vulnerable we are — both physically and emotionally. And that’s not even the half of it. Finding our institutions literally vulnerable to attack. And so many of our friends and family willing to believe lies and dark fantasy. Fixated by the news (our more omnipresent daytime friend) it’s hard to see through the fog.

Kathryn & Rima

And that has brought me to sharing this today…routine is critical to a resumption of life as we knew it. Leaving behind routine, best practices and the simplest of self-care is what will keep us in the dark.

You can read the full interview with Rima and Kathryn here and see my favorite tips from our discussion about how to keep the right habits for physical and mental health.

SE: What does Rima Sidhu the trainer suggest to those struggling to stay fit?

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…

Start small

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.

Get outside

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.

Go virtual

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.

Go solo

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.

And to stay motivated…

Create a schedule

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.

Explore (virtual) personal training 

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.

SE: What does Kathryn Grooms the therapist suggest to stay mentally healthy?

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.

SE: How are you staying fit?

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.

…And mentally okay?

KATHRYN: 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!