Thursday, November 19, 2020

Tricks for Change

Ahhhh . . . retirement. A time of doing as much of the things we want to do and as little or none of what we don’t want to do.

That’s what I thought life beginning the first day my own retirement. I had made a list of things I wanted to do more of or add to my life, but exactly one year later, I looked it and realized I’d only done one of the many things I’d written down!

Shocked, I realized I had frittered away an entire year, hours and days at a time, puttering around the house and yard, reading, watching sports on TV, etc.

Sound familiar? If I asked if anyone else has done the same thing, would yo sheepishly raise your hand? 

I didn’t want to waste another day, so I did some research and learned a few tricks to help me out. If you need tips on how to add activities to your life so you are living your life, retired or not, more fully, perhaps one of these will work for you.

Kedging, a practice used by captains of ancient ships involves “setting a desperate goal and working like crazy to get there” (Chris Crowley, in ch. 9 of Younger Next Year* for Women). My friend Maribeth utilized kedging to motivate herself to take all-day bike trips on the weekend. Instead of making a commitment to herself to begin riding her bike every day, increasing the distance ridden every week — a commitment she feared she wouldn’t stick to — she signed up for week-long group bike trip across the state of Michigan. She knew she would have to take all-day rides on the weekends — her original objective — to prepare for that trip.

Talk about a desperate goal — she didn’t even own a bike! She studied the tour brochure and the itinerary; she even used a topographical map and YouTube videos the tour company posted to get an idea of what she’d be facing. One thing she knew for certain. She needed to buy a bike, so the day after she signed up for the tour, she visited a local, well-recommended bike shop.

That trip to the bike shop introduced Maribeth to three more tricks that might help you add new activities to your life.

First, Maribeth bought a bike. Not just any bike. She bought a fantastic long-distance touring bike with a sales price that was, for her, somewhat extravagant. She knew, though, that if she spent a significant amount of money, she’d be motivated to get her money’s worth. For her, the bike purchase was an investment.

When she told the bike store owner why she needed the bike, he was more than happy to help her draw up a 5-month training plan. 

The bike shop owner also invited Maribeth to join a local cycling group outing. He told her that since she needed a few days to have the bike rack she purchased (another investment) installed on her car, he would be glad to bring her bike to their next outing, 8 days away. She attended that outing, rode several hours that day and made friends. By the time the day had ended, she had committed to returning again the following week. Now, she had accountability partners

Eighteen months later, Maribeth rides with the local bicyciing group 3 or 4 times a month. And, yes, she completed the week-long bike trip across Michigan. She’s also completed week-long bike tours of California wine country and of Boston and Philadelphia, and when COVID restrictions are lifted, she’ll be heading to Europe for a 14-day biking tour of important WWII sites. 

Maybe you have no plan to add bicycling as a hobby. Whatever activities you do want to add or simply do more of, kedging, making a significant financial investment, committing a vague plan to a more specific plan with target dates, and/or establishing some means of accountability may be just the tricks that motivate you to do that. 

Please join in the conversation by sharing an activity or two that you’d like to start doing or do more of. What tricks sound like they would help motivate you to do that? What other tricks can you recommend?

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Are You Emotionally Hungover?

I occasionally experience what I call an “emotional hangover”. 

Before I go on, I want to stress that an emotional hangover is something that is temporary and, for want of better word, “mild”. If you are experiencing any of the emotions I’m about to talk about to the point that they impact your ability to function normally or if they impact your quality of life, I urge you to seek professional help. Talk to your pastor, a counselor, your doctor . . . a qualified professional you trust implicitly.

A person with an emotional hangover feels any number of negative emotions such as sadness, lethargy, hopelessness, confusion, anxiousness, grief, fearfulness, melancholy, weariness, and so on.

Sometimes I have an emotional hangover in response to my own actions. A couple of years ago, I overspent on vacation then faced the consequences when the credit card statement arrived the following month.  

Sometimes events outside my control have been the cause. My children have left after a visit from out of state, and my house is empty again.

If social media posts are any indication, many people are experiencing emotional hangovers right now. News of friends and loved ones battling COVID-19, extended periods of self-quarantine, and the unceasing divisiveness over masks and government officials’ responses (or lack of) to the pandemic has affected many of us. The months of political campaigns, social media vitriol, election-week drama, and the outcome of one or more of the specific races has also impacted those of us who live in the United States.

Fortunately, there is a cure for an emotional hangover, and it involves only two steps.

First, consider what has been effective in overcoming one in the past. 

Second, reflect on what trigger is triggering the one you’re experiencing. Then dig a little deeper. If, for example, your children leaving after an extended visit is a trigger, ask yourself what it is about their leaving that’s causing your emotional slump. Is it the emptiness of your home? Are you worried about the increased grocery bills and expenses from numerous, out-of-the-ordinary restaurant meals? 

Once you’ve determined what has worked before, you can of course, try that again. If you know what the trigger is, you can address that to the best of your ability. No doubt making positive steps, no matter how small, will help you feel more hopeful and in control.

Possible cures for an emotional hangover:


take a break from social media  

physical exercise — something as simple as a walk around the block

volunteer — do something for someone else

participate/practice a favorite hobby or pastime — go fishing, knit socks

get adequate sleep (but not too much)

talk with a trusted friend


make changes to your normal routine 

watch a television show or movie that never fails to make you laugh

get a manicure or a massage

bake cookies and then enjoy them with a glass of ice-cold milk

do something creative

dance around your living room

put on music and sing along

take a drive to a place that lifts your spirits

go to the park and swing or go down the slide

treat yourself without breaking the bank — get an ice-cream cone, buy a

favorite magazine and relax with a cup of tea at your favorite 

beverage at a local coffee/tea house

It’s important, too, that you stop doing things that might worsen an emotional hangover or cause it to last longer. Too much sleep, for example, can be counterproductive, as can consuming alcohol. 

Remember, there’s no single cure, and what has worked before might not work every time. Try different strategies, and be patient and kind to yourself as you find the cure you need.

What strategies help you cure an emotional hangover? I hope you’ll share via a comment below.


Thursday, November 5, 2020

Holiday Preparation, 2020–Style

Across the country, Americans are preparing for what are arguably our nation’s most-celebrated holidays — Thanksgiving, Chanukah (Hanukkah), Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve.

These holidays will, like those that have already been celebrated this year, no doubt look quite different from what many (most?) of us are used to.

Rather than lament what is not, it’s time now to think about what we can do so our holidays are the best — and safest — possible. That they are, as much as possible, days that are full of life and joy and love. 

A little planning can go a long way to making that a reality. In considering some steps you need to take as you plan, I’ll use Thanksgiving as an example. Of course, these same steps can be applied to any/all of the holidays you observe.

First, it’s important to consider how you want to celebrate the holidays. Be honest; it’s okay to think only of your own “wants” for a few minutes. Do you prefer a big meal with all the trimmings prepared by you in your own kitchen, or would a potluck or a buffet of meat & cheese trays, fruit & vegetables and dips, etc., be more to your liking? What about a zoom gathering instead? A socially-distanced family picnic at a nearby park? Remember, you’re thinking only of your own personal preferences at this point. 

Second, now consider the preferences of those with whom you hope to spend the holiday. As much as possible, have a candid discussion — preferably one on one — with the people whose plans are most enmeshed with your own. This would include a spouse/significant other, of course, and likely your children, and maybe your parents or other family or friends. Urge them to share their own feelings openly and honestly, and don’t judge, criticize, become defensive, etc., if what they share doesn’t sit well with you. Listen closely and be attentive to any fears they may be feeling. Some may be concerned about their own and their loved ones’ health; others may be fearful that if the traditional celebration isn’t held, they’ll be alone for the holiday. 

Third, consider your own preferences, those of your loved ones, and any practices you are committed to in order to safeguard your own health and the health of anyone who may take part. There is, of course, conflicting information and advice being offered by the news media, social media, etc. Do your research and look to credible and reliable sites for your information. Then determine the plan that you feel is best for you and any loved ones.

(The CDC has prepared some guidelines that you may find helpful: CDC "COVID-19 Holiday Celebrations"

Fourth, once you (and your spouse/significant other, you have one) have come up with the holiday plan that you feel is best for you, that will bring you the greatest possible joy, happiness and peace of mind, share your plans with those who need to be notified. Do so with love and patience, keeping in mind that your plans may significantly impact them, even when you can’t “see” that. Don’t argue, don’t become defensive, and don’t over-explain. A simple, “After much thought, I/we have decided that this year for Thanksgiving . . .” 

Five, now it’s time to lay the groundwork for whatever you’ve decided to do. Have fun with this! Make your celebration as low-key or as big as you want. 

Don’t just let the holidays pass you by. Instead, live them to their fullest!

I hope you'll take a few minutes to share your own ideas for holiday celebrations 2020-style via a comment below!!