Congratulations! You have retired! You are finally ready to enjoy absolute freedom with no one to tell you how to spend your time. Now what? What do you want to do? Without planning, it’s possible to sleep late, watch TV all day and become isolated from others.
The best way to avoid stagnating in retirement is being intentional about “building a good day”. A good place to start is with daily routines – a time for waking, exercising, cooking, reading and going to bed. The next step is to add your favorite activities – gardening for some, a book club or bird watching group for another. Later on, you may try adding activities like volunteering or Pickleball.
If you have friends or family nearby, you can be intentional about how often you see them and what time works best for you.
After you’ve set up your “good day” or week, check in with yourself that you have balanced your time well and that retirement feels like a gift.
*Based on an idea from a wonderful new book by Mary Pipher on women in their sixties and early seventies that I highly recommend called “Women Rowing North”.
I hope you can use this as a way to get across to people in your life how depression feels if they have never truly experienced it. You have probably heard them say “snap out of it” or some version of “I’m sure you can feel better if you really put your mind to it”. But that’s not how depression works. It has its own voice and weight that stops you from moving forward out of it. There is no “simple” way as others might believe.
When depression speaks the voice tells you messages like:
- You are not good enough (You may even hate yourself or some traits that define your character).
- You are not lovable.
- Nothing in your life matters.
- You will never feel joy again.
These thoughts are frightening and often paralyzing. They can make it hard get out of bed, go to work, take care of the important people in your life, etc..
I wish there was an easy answer for combatting depression. But, it usually comes with baby steps. Be kind to yourself during this time difficult time. Can you give 50% at your job if you can’t give 100%? What about at home? Can you feel okay about being easy on yourself because of your depression? Wouldn’t you do that if you had a physical illness like pneumonia? It takes time to heal.
The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) concept of Opposite Action, asks you to do the opposite of what you feel like doing when you are depressed. With depression, one might feel like curling up in a ball under the covers and crying in bed or withdrawing and not interacting with others. Using Opposite Action, what small action steps could you take to break free from those depression voices?
- Go make yourself a cup of tea or coffee
- Shower and get dressed
- Go to the grocery store
- Go to the library and look at a magazine
- Call a friend/ or family member or send them an email
- Call to make an appointment/go to an appointment
- Write something in a journal
- Go to a therapist and/or for medication management
Try to pick things that you like to do. Start out with things that seem manageable like making tea and work up to more difficult things, like meeting up with friends and going to work or exercising. If you choose medication to help with your depression, these steps can still help in your recovery.
REMEMBER, depression sends you messages to try STOP you from taking these steps that are good for you. SLOWLY, take these small steps to act in ways that make you feel better.
Once people around you understand better what you are going through, you can ask them to help you with these small steps.
Do you ever find yourself ruminating about the past? Maybe you are caught in a loop of “if only” – wanting to turn back what happened in the past or stuck in a feeling of why is this happening to me today. Perhaps you worry you made a stupid comment at school, work or with friends or family? You surmise if you had talked more on your date then s/he would have called you back. Maybe you are afraid other parents think you are a bad mother because they heard you yell at your child at school.
STOP. Realize that these negative thoughts are harming you so take immediate action to combat them.
1. Put your thoughts in prospective by considering that you are looking at only looking at part of the picture. You may be focusing on one comment in the meeting and come across splendidly for the rest. Even if you did make a “stupid” comment, did anyone notice? Will they remember next week? We tend to focus in on the one negative thing we hear and exclude most of the positive.
2. We only know our own thoughts. It is frustrating and a waste of time to try to guess at what others are thinking. You don’t know why your date didn’t call and you are torturing yourself by questioning your date’s behavior. Take action instead. Get out – find an activity you enjoy and meet people. Your mood will improve so you will be ready if the right person comes along.
3. We all make mistakes. Try not to judge yourself at a higher standard than you would your friends. If you saw another mom yell at her child in public, you would probably relate well to the frustration she was feeling and even feel empathetic towards her. It makes sense to let yourself be imperfect the way you would a friend.
So, if you sitting at home, feeling anxious and depressed about the past or the future, put all the energy you can into challenging your thinking and force yourself to take action and distract your mind by getting out.
I find many women in my practice constantly compare themselves to others, judge themselves in a negative light or expect themselves to be perfect. Do you find yourself saying things like: Is there something wrong with me? Do I act weird, stupid, or say the wrong things? Why don’t I have a partner? Am I too fat or thin, my breasts are too big, small or saggy, etc..?
It’s almost impossible to feel comfortable with yourself (body and soul) when you analyze every aspect of how you live your life and focus on the negative voices that stem from these comparisons and expectations and leave you feeling worthless and low. Some of this comes from comparing ourselves to what people put on social media when we don’t know their reality.
The reason we struggle with INSECURITY
is because we compare our behind the scenes to everyone else’s
The first step is being mindful of these thoughts and recognizing that you want to stop comparing yourself in these moments and focus more on your positive accomplishments and traits as well as things to be grateful for.
Stop comparing yourself to other people; you are an original. We are all different and it’s okay.
“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting the rat to die.”
– Anne Lamott
One exercise I recommend is writing yourself a handwritten letter when you are in a good mood. In this letter, talk about the smallest thing/s you are grateful for (flowers, trees, food, etc..) and also bigger things you are grateful for (a pet, a child, a grandparent). See if you can stretch yourself to come up with these things.
Next, write about what you like about who you are and what you are and things you are proud of in your life. You may feel like writing about how hard you are on yourself and how you want to try to be kinder to yourself. Try to write the letter in a way that when you read it later when you feel low, it will make you feel better. You may end up reading it often.
If you are in a dark place where you can’t write this letter, pretend that someone else is writing it about you in a time you felt better and extracting a positive light you cannot see because you have blinders on at this time.
You can even mail yourself the letter some random day, if you want, or put it away for a difficult day.
Eat like you love yourself,
Move like you love yourself,
Speak like you love yourself,
Act like you love yourself.
– Tara Stiles
It’s such a simple but inspiring message. Live your life like you love yourself. Imagine a world where women followed this message when making choices in their lives. Would you stay in a relationship with someone who is treating you badly if you act like you love yourself? Would you be working so hard at a job you hate if you live like you love yourself? Would you worry what other people thought about you if you live like you love yourself? Or would you do things today that make you happy and be with people who support you if you live like you love yourself?
What are some of the things you would change in your life if you live like you love yourself???
They keep saying that beautiful is something a girl needs to be
But honestly? Forget that. Don’t Be beautiful.
Be angry, be intelligent, be witty, be klutzy, be interesting
be funny, be adventurous, be crazy, be talented –
there is an eternity of other things
to be other than beautiful.
And what is beautiful anyway
but a set of letters strung together to make a word?
Be your own definition of amazing, always.
This is so much more important than anything beautiful, ever.
—-By Nikita Gill
The hardest part of stress and anxiety is often thinking about the “what ifs”. What if I never find someone to love? What if I never find a job? One way to calm these restless worries is the practice of Mindfulness or Mindful meditation.
Mindfulness is a heightned awareness in one’s present thoughts or feelings or sensations without judgment. These Buddhist principles were popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the U.S. in his psychologically based stress reduction program.
You have probably heard that taking things one day at a time can help reduce your anxiety about the future. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of trying to break it further down to the moment. In these mental exercises, one might take an ordinary task, like washing the dishes and try to achieve this alert mental state.
Yesterday, instead of my usual program of cursing the task of doing the dishes and speeding through it, I slowed myself down and adapted to its rhythm– the heat of the running water, the softness of the suds, the circular motion of the rinsing of the plates and bowls and the clanging of the silverware. If my mind wandered to a “what if” place, I refocused my attention on just the task of “doing the dishes”. It was a momentary escape!
What else could I add to my day, as I begin my practice of mindfulness? Stop to pet my cat’s luxurious fur as she sits next to me by the computer, with her black tail curled tightly around her body in a ball? Experience the taste, textures, and smell of the variety of tropical fruits in my salad? Hear the sounds of the city outside my window- garbage trucks, ambulances, and backhoes and try not to judge them?
In trying to make sense of it, it seemed kind of like stopping to smell the roses, which seems like a good idea. And noticing, but not judging the unpleasant stuff, though perhaps more difficult, sounds like its worth a try, too.
This post is also published in www.myculturemagazine.com