WHEN Should You Retire?

The Skills and Models of a Happy Retirement

[Portions reprinted from the state journal of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, PMEA News, Spring 2019 issue – All rights reserved.]

 

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Is It TIME to Retire?

This is a personal question that no one but YOU can answer… not even your PMEA Retired Member Coordinator! By the time you read this article in the Spring edition of PMEA News, this choice may be uppermost in your mind, especially if you are within a couple years of that so-called “retirement age.” Most school districts require advance notification of an employee’s plan to retire in order to retain full benefits and exit bonuses, and to allow planning for the job replacement search and screening process. (Check your teacher’s contract!)

In music educator conference sessions, director meetings at festivals, and printed in PMEA News and the online e-publication Retired Member Network eNEWS, much has pmeabeen discussed about the “what,” “how,” and most recently, “where” of retirement, even issues of “privacy” regarding your decision. For a review of these areas and a bibliography of resources, please visit:

The “why” of retirement is also relevant. There may be a lot of influences for someone to consider leaving their full-time career:

  1. Boredom or lack of stimulation in the current job
  2. Changing employment status or responsibilities
  3. Health problems (yours or other members of your family)
  4. Spouse retiring
  5. Your or family member’s desire to relocate
  6. Needs for caregiving (grandchildren, parents, or elderly family members)
  7. Travel opportunities
  8. Acceptance of a new position or the start or expansion of an “encore career” (higher education, music industry, travel/tour planning, or another field)

Other involuntary or more negative motivations may “encourage” you to resign your position:

  • Music and/or staff are eliminated from the curriculum or building in which you teach.
  • You are experiencing a decline in music program enrollment or participation.
  • You feel unappreciated, unsupported, devalued, or ignored as a professional.
  • You conclude you must retire early to avoid losing existing contractual benefits.

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However, the most important reflection on WHEN to retire should begin with the question, “Are you ready for retirement?” and…

Do You Have What It Takes for a Happy Retirement?

A successful retirement is not “all about the money.” Certainly, you are well-advised to make an appointment with an estate planner, elder attorney, and/or financial advisor (probably all three). Bring a copy of your bank and investment statements, annual reports on your pension, social security, annuities, and insurance documents. Make sure you have the “big picture” of your net worth and accomplish the following (https://www.fisherinvestments.com/en-us):

  • Determine your goals, objectives and time horizon;
  • Make key distinctions between income and cash flow;
  • Develop a basic plan to help achieve your retirement goals.

However, probably even more important, experts say there are many other requirements that foster preparedness to enjoying your post-full-time employment years. For example, proposed by the editorial team of the NewRetirement website, there are eight essential keys to a potential retiree’s “happy transition.” (Read the entire article for a greater perspective at https://www.newretirement.com/retirement/8-skills-you-need-for-best-retirement/.)

  1. A Knack for Dealing with Uncertainty
  2. Resilience: Can You Overcome Adversity?
  3. Capability to Maintain a Set of Friends
  4. Cash Flow Mastery
  5. Ability to Set Your Own Schedule and Stay Motivated
  6. Can You Relax?
  7. Capacity to Have a Purpose and Follow Passions
  8. Do You Know How to Manage an Overall Retirement Plan?

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These concepts are supported by the book Happy Retirement: The Psychology of Reinvention by Kenneth S. Shultz (DK Publishing, 2015) which focuses on the question, “Are you psychologically prepared to retire?”

  1. How important is your job when it comes to getting a sense of life satisfaction?
  2. How many non-work activities do you have that  give you a sense of purpose?
  3. How do you imagine your life to be once you stop working?
  4. How do you think retirement will affect your relationship with family and friends?
  5. How much energy for work do you have these days?

Being “psyched” for the “big day” also involves learning personal coping skills, modeling these characteristics of good mental health (from the book The Psychology of Retirement: Coping with the Transition from Work by Derek Milne, 2013):

  • Being able to use your talents and energy productively
  • Enjoying challenges and gaining pleasure from accomplishing tasks
  • Being capable of sustaining a meaningful love relationship
  • Finding meaning in belonging and contributing to your community
  • Being responsive, sensitive, and empathic to other people’s needs and feelings
  • Appreciating and responding to humor
  • Coming to terms with painful experiences from the past
  • Being comfortable and at ease in social situations;
  • Being energetic and outgoing
  • Being conscientious and responsible.

 

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Should I or Shouldn’t I Go Now?

No, this won’t be an easy decision… but, you knew that, right? There seems to be a plethora of free advice “out there” to help (?) you deliberate. (Well, you get what you pay for!) A few samples from the Internet:

7 Signs It Is Time (http://www.plannersearch.org/financial-planning/7-signs-its-time-to-retire)

  1. Your bank accounts
  2. Your bucket lists
  3. Your health
  4. The markets
  5. Health care benefits
  6. Social Security benefits
  7. Your spouse

10 Signs It Is Not Time (https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/021716/10-signs-you-are-not-ok-retire.asp)

  1. Struggling to pay bills
  2. You have lots of debt
  3. Have major expenses
  4. Don’t know your SS benefits?
  5. Need monthly financial plan
  6. Need long term financial plan
  7. What about the effects of inflation?
  8. Need to re-balance portfolio
  9. Retirement worries you
  10. You love your job

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Happy retirement = busy retirement. We keep going back to what PMEA MIOSM Chair Chuck Neidhardt said about venturing into retirement – also the perfect bumper-sticker: “Have a plan!” In almost every case study, retiring music teachers must “move on” to an equally engaging and active life style, finding new purpose and meaning in their “senior years!” Considering that many professionals are “addicted to achievement” and the sudden cessation from work may cause some emotional turmoil (Sydney Lagier in US News and World Report, July 20, 2010), we should study examples of those who have happily “Crossed the Rubicon” ahead of us into “retirement bliss.”

Leaving your school employment does not mean you won’t continue doing what you have always enjoyed… personal music (or dance or drama) making, performing in or conducting an ensemble, composing, accompanying, etc. The PMEA Retiree Resource Registry – the proverbial “directory of past leaders in PA music programs” – lists many retired members who continue to offer their talents and experience to help others in the profession. This is a good place to start for asking “advice from the experts” on just about any topic… perhaps even tips on deciding WHEN to retire: https://www.pmea.net/retired-members/.

How about a couple more “models and mentors” who made this “change of life” adjustment and explored new directions towards self-reinvention in retirement?

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Ben Franklin, Founding Father
“Having worked as a successful shopkeeper with a keen eye for investments, Franklin had earned his leisure, but rather than cultivate the fine art of indolence, ‘retirement,’ he said, was ‘time for doing something useful.’ Hence, the many activities of Franklin’s retirement were: scientist, statesman, and sage, as well as one-man civic society for the city of Philadelphia. His post-employment accomplishments earned him the sobriquet of ‘The First American’ in his own lifetime, and yet, for succeeding generations, the endeavor that was considered his most ‘useful’ was the working life he left behind when he embarked on a life of leisure….”

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/09/how-america-lost-track-of-benjamin-franklins-definition-of-success/400808/

2000 – “The Year of Retirement?” for two musical superstars
Barbra Streisand, singer, songwriter, actress, and filmmaker
Garth Brooks, country-music singer and songwriter
“In 2000, Barbra Streisand performed four farewell concerts to mark her retirement from performing live. At the time, she was 58 years old and wanted to focus more on acting, directing and recording albums, reported ABC News.”

“Her retirement ended in 2016 when she returned to the stage for her The Music… The Mem’ries… The Magic! tour, which grossed $53 million over 16 performances, according to Billboard.”

“Garth Brooks shocked fans in October 2000 when he announced his plan to retire to Oklahoma until the youngest of his three daughters graduated from high school, reported Billboard. The country music superstar was 42 years old when he began his early retirement.”

“During his semi-retirement, he did a few sold-out stints at arenas and a 186-show Las Vegas residency with wife Trisha Yearwood, according to Billboard, but he largely stayed out of the spotlight. Brooks returned to touring in September 2014 and continued until December 2017, performing a total of 390 shows, reported Billboard. Forbes cited his 2017 earnings as $60 million. Together, Brooks and Yearwood are one of the richest celebrity couples.”

https://www.gobankingrates.com/net-worth/celebrities/celebrities-who-came-out-of-retirement/

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“If money can buy you happiness,” supposedly these ten athletes were financially more successful after retirement, as opposed to the total earnings they generated during their original sports careers:

  • Muhammad Ali
  • Jim Brown
  • Oscar De La Hoya
  • Lenny Dykstra
  • George Foreman
  • Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”)
  • Magic Johnson
  • Michael Jordan
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Dave Whelan

https://www.complex.com/sports/2012/01/10-athletes-who-made-more-money-after-retiring/

 

Agatha Christie, British writer
Finally, to answer the question, “What would Agatha Christie do in retirement?” best-selling author Ernie Zelinski quoted in his The Retirement Cafe website the following list of activities proposed to be “her favorite things” from the publication Agatha Christie: An Autobiography (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1977).

  • Sunshine
  • Apples
  • Almost any kind of music
  • Railway trains
  • Numerical puzzles and anything to do with numbers
  • Going to the sea
  • Bathing and swimming
  • Silence
  • Sleeping
  • Dreaming
  • Eating
  • The smell of coffee
  • Lilies of the valley
  • Most dogs
  • Going to the theatre

Ernie concluded, “This list of activities and things that Christie loved may trigger some of the stuff that turns you on and which you can use for an active retirement. This will go a long way towards conquering retirement boredom.”

http://www.retirement-cafe.com/Fun-Things-to-Do-When-You-Retire.html

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Is the time ripe for you to retire? Again, only YOU can answer that!

When it becomes the right moment for you to make that “big plunge” to “living your dreams…” KUDOS and BEST WISHES on your rebirth as you explore your own pursuit of retirement self-reinvention and post-employment “freedom!”

PKF

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

 

 

Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com: “old” by dietcheese, “man” by geralt, “elderly lady” by mabelamber, “senior” by ritae, “woman” by silviarita, “old couple” by monicavolpin, “ben-franklin” by ericdunham, “Fisherman” by paulbr75, “grandma” by fujidreams, and “wooden-train-toys-train-first-class” by Couleur.

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The Myths of Retirement

Dispelling Five Common Misconceptions Involving One of Life’s Greatest Transitions – Perspectives from Gerontologists, Psychologists, Authors, and Other “Retiree Gurus”

 

Throughout my travels presenting at music educator conferences and local workshops, I discover soon-to-retire music teachers and other professionals have many preconceived notions about retirement. I hear the general acceptance of many “myths,” including these five Five Mythsthat seem to be the most prevalent:

  1. You retire FROM something.
  2. It’s an easy transition.
  3. It takes little time to prepare.
  4. It’s completely different from anything you’re doing now.
  5. Retirement is the time to downsize and move.

Let’s “troll the Internet” a little and check-in with a few leading authorities on retirement planning.

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1

You should retire to, not from, something.

“Most people today view retirement as an opportunity to begin a new chapter in their lives, ‘not a time to wind down and move off the playing field,’ says gerontologist Ken Dychtwald, 64, the CEO of Age Wave, a research think-tank on aging issues.”

“They are trying to figure out new ways to be productive. ‘Many are wondering: What can I do with this stage of my life that is perhaps my highest purpose?’ says Dychtwald, who is also a psychologist. He has written 16 books on aging, health, and retirement issues.”

— “How to Reinvent Yourself in Retirement” by Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/10/12/five-stages-of-retirement/16975707/

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“You really should retire to something, not just retire from something… Having a notion of what you are retiring to is also a necessary early retirement planning activity. One that everyone should complete.”

“I would say that I just want the freedom to do whatever I want to do. To spend time in the garden, exercise, travel, pursue opportunities that interested me, learn new things, meet new people, etc. I had done the necessary steps of making sure that I had budgeted for my hobbies and our travel wishes. I thought that was enough. However that wasn’t going to occupy all of my retirement days.”

“Now I do want and enjoy free time where there are no obligations just as much as the next guy, but I needed to look at what I was really retiring to so I wouldn’t end up one of those unfortunate retirees who say they are bored and wished they had never retired. That is why you should plan to retire to something, not just retire from something.”

— “Retire To Something,” Leisure Freak Tommy: https://www.leisurefreak.com/non-financial-aspects-of-early-retirement/retire-to-something/

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“Throughout your working years, you have probably viewed your retirement as a destination. It is a goal you are saving for and will hopefully reach one day. But once you reach this destination, then what? ”

“The perception of retirement as a destination may be why some people approach retirement with dread rather than anticipation. They view retirement as a finish line or as the end of the road.”

“But retirement is simply a milestone you pass on your journey. It’s like crossing the border from one state to the next. The road will continue to unfold before you.”

“Your life has changed in countless ways from the time you graduated from school and entered the full-time work force until the present. You have probably changed jobs and perhaps changed careers. You may have lived in numerous places, gotten married and raised a family. Friends have come and gone, your hobbies and interests have evolved and your body has changed.”

“Your retirement could easily last two or three decades. It won’t be a one-dimensional, stagnant state of being. Your life will continue to evolve in many ways after you retire. You may move, the people in your life will continue to shift and you will probably travel to new places and engage in new activities.”

— “Your Retirement is a Journey, Not a Destination” by Dave Hughes, RetireFabulously: http://retirefabulously.com/2017/05/15/your-retirement-is-a-journey-not-a-destination/

 

2

For many, retirement may not be an easy transition.

“50% of retirees will suffer some form of acute emotional distress. This is potentially a very large problem given the fact that 10,000 people are becoming eligible for Social Security every day for the next 20 years in the US alone.”

— Dr. Robert P. Delamontagne in Retiring Mind, Fairview Imprints, 2010: http://www.theretiringmind.com/

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quote

“For some people, retirement planning conjures up images of languid days free from the demands of the daily grind, but for others the prospect of leaving the workforce may be a daunting or even frightening transition.”

“For most, this major milestone will elicit a mixture of emotions that fall somewhere between anticipation and apprehension. Retirement is, in fact, a complex experience for almost everyone, characterized by gains and losses and tremendous shifts in identity and routines.”

“Unless those challenges are addressed and dealt with, the so-called ‘golden years’ can be tarnished,” says Irene Deitch, PhD, psychologist and professor emeritus at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. “Even those who may have thought they were prepared can find that the transition is tougher once they’re actually in the throes of it.”

—”Eight Ways to Ease into Retirement” by Katherine Lee, Everyday Health: https://www.everydayhealth.com/longevity/future-planning/happy-retirement.aspx

3

Preparation to retirement is essential for you and your family members.

“Most gerontologists agree that a period of adjustment will occur during the first years of “interning” as a retiree. Even more crucial is the “pre-retirement” or “imagination” stage of retirement, involving your preparation six to ten years prior to “taking the big leap” to FREEDOM!”

“Have you considered a few ‘terms of transformation’ below that are all-to-common to soon-to-be-retirees undergoing that life-changing transition to ‘living their dream?’ How should you unravel these “conundrums” or mysteries of transitioning to retirement?

  • Self-Identity and Change
  • Free Time
  • Energy and Fortitude
  • Losing Control and Perpetual Care”

“The only solution to ‘softening the blow’ of the possible turmoil and incongruity brought on at this time is to follow the Boy Scout rule… BE PREPARED.”

“According to TIPS Retirement for Music Educators by Verne A. Wilson (MENC 1989), at least three years before you leave your full-time employment:

  1. Sit down with your spouse if you are married (and other family members) and plan ahead carefully.
  2. Decide when you want to retire. Estimate as accurately as possible what your economic situation will be after you retire.
  3. Decide where you want to live after you retire. This means not just the neighborhood, city, or state, but also the kind and style of residence… retirement community, one-floor ranch, apartment, etc.
  4. Set some goals regarding how you want to spend your retirement time. Focus on your talents and abilities instead of looking at the handicaps that may come with the aging process.
  5. Be prepared for “change” and learn how to accept it, and be willing to embrace new opportunities for personal growth, flexibility, and adaptability.
  6. Be sure your intentions are clearly stated in writing (wills, power of attorneys, living wills, etc.)”

— “New Dreams and Horizons” by Paul K. Fox and other sources: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/new-dreams-and-horizons/

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quote

“Prior to retiring, you should make a concerted effort to prepare for ‘life after work,’ including:

  • Cultivate interests outside work
  • Lead a healthier lifestyle
  • Revitalize family relationships
  • Spend more time with spouse
  • Embrace spirituality or meditation
  • Nurture friendships and make new friends”

— “Retire Happy: What You Can Do Now to Guarantee a Great Retirement” by Richard Stim and Ralph Warner, USA TODAY/Nolo Series: https://www.amazon.com/dp/141330835X/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

 

4

Retirement may or may not be completely different to what you are doing right now.

“Many people want to continue to work. In fact, 72% of pre-retirees, age 50 and older, say they want to keep working after they retire, according to a recent survey sponsored by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave. Almost half (47%) of current retirees either are working, have worked, or plan to work in retirement, the survey found.”

— “Work in Retirement: Myths and Motivations,” by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Agewave: https://agewave.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2014-ML-AW-Work-in-Retirement_Myths-and-Motivations.pdf

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quote

“Planning for retirement may require a focus on self-management throughout a person’s career, according to a model of career development by psychologist Harvey Sterns, PhD, the director of the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology at the University of Akron.

“No two retirees are the same and multiple pathways exist to get from work to retirement.”

“There is no right way to retire,” Sterns says. “Many people think retirement is wonderful, and for people who want to retire, that’s the right thing to do. If they don’t want to, that’s the right thing, too.”

“After 26 years as a counseling psychology professor at the University of Maryland, Nancy K. Schlossberg, EdD, was ready to retire. But she was hardly ready to slow down. She looked forward to having more flexibility and freedom in her schedule to explore other interests. Still, there was the question of what her new identity would be…”

“Retirement can take many forms, Schlossberg notes. In fact, she identified the following six based on her interviews with about 100 retirees:

  • Continuers stay connected with past skills and activities, but modify them to fit retirement, such as through volunteering or part-time work in their former field.
  • Adventurers start new activities or learn new skills not related to their past work, such as learning to play the piano or taking on an entirely new job.
  • Searchers learn by trial and error as they look for a niche; they have yet to find their identity in retirement.
  • Easy gliders enjoy unscheduled time and like their daily schedule “to go with the flow.”
  • Involved spectators maintain an interest in their previous field of work but assume different roles, such as a lobbyist who becomes a news junkie.
  • Retreaters become depressed, retreat from life and give up on finding a new path–the only negative path in Schlossberg’s classification.”

“The path retirees choose after retirement isn’t necessarily the path they stay on either, Schlossberg says.”

“It’s an evolving part of your career development,” Schlossberg explains. “And the longer you live, the more your path will shift and change.”

— “A New Face to Retirement” by Melissa Dittman, American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov04/retirement.aspx

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“After the last school bell rings, retired teachers have a leg up. Opportunities cut a broad swath from tutoring to substitute teaching to jobs a little further afield, such as fitness training.”

“Teachers have a combination of tools in their kit that many retirees don’t — solid degree credentials, expertise in a specific field and a passion for helping people learn something new.”

— “Great Jobs for Retired Teachers” by Kerry Hannon, AARP: https://www.aarp.org/work/working-after-retirement/info-04-2011/jobs-for-retired-teachers.1.html

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quote

“Most teachers spend their first year of “retirement” decompressing from the full-time teaching gig. It’s that special time you’ve looked forward to for years. You do some traveling, catch up on all those books you never had time to read, and just relax. Your days are free of ringing bells and reports. Plus, you get to spend a much larger part of your day in your pajamas. Yay! You earned it. You know you’ve arrived when Labor Day stops feeling like D-Day.”

“After a year or so, however, you may start to realize you actually miss working. Not that you miss the standardized tests, parent conferences and grade reports. But something in that work stimulated you in a way nothing else comes close to doing. Perhaps you miss the pleasure you felt creating learning units, or the joy of introducing students to a new author, or the collaborative bonds with fellow teachers. These were true enjoyments and now they are gone.”

“Once you’ve decompressed sufficiently, you might want to consider doing a career redesign. Unlike many other careerists, retired teachers have the freedom and the financial ability to put together a ‘second-act’ career, tailored to the life they want. Keep in mind, U.S. pension policies have restrictions on post-retirement income, so keep a close check on those caps.”

“If you’re feeling ready to begin again, here are ten opportunities you should definitely consider.

  1. Tutoring
  2. Specialized Test Prep
  3. College Application Support
  4. College Adjunct Teaching
  5. Career and Life Coach
  6. Tour Guide
  7. Writing and Editing
  8. Educational Consulting
  9. Translator
  10. International Schools”

— “Ten Great Encore Careers for Retired Teachers” by Peter Spellman, Nextcalling: https://nextcalling.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/10-Great-%E2%80%98Encore-Careers%E2%80%99-for-Retired-Teachers.pdf

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quote

“We were fortunate to have Dr. John V. D’Ascenzo join the PMEA Retired Member Coordinator at the PMEA Summer Conference, assisting on the session “Retirement 101 – Retiree Stories and Strategies,” which was held on July 17-18, 2018 at the Red Lion Hotel in Harrisburg, PA.”

“John provided a lot of interesting perceptions and coping tips for the “soon-to-retire!” He shared new segments for consideration with references.”

“The evaluating of personal and professional paths prior to and at the time of retirement leads to behavioral changes that promote positive outcomes (Krawulski, de Oliviera Cruz, Medina, Boehs & de Toledo, 2017). Activities would include:

  • Giving and/or receiving education/training.
  • Volunteering roles: leadership, followership
  • Pursue different career paths for remuneration or gratis.”

Retired Member Network eNEWS, August 2, 2018: https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Retired-Member-Network-eNEWS-080218.pdf

 

5

Retirement may or may not be the time to pull-up stakes and move from your current residence.

“The US Census Bureau reports that 49 out of 50 people over the age of 65 stay right where they are when they retire.”

“If your current hometown is affordable, close to friends and family, and near activities and entertainment you most enjoy, why move for the sake of moving? Instead, consider whether the need for change can be satisfied through more frequent brief vacations, or by purchasing an inexpensive weekend getaway home.”

— “Fine Out Where You Should Retire” by Melissa Phipps, The Balance: https://www.thebalance.com/where-should-i-retire-2894254

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My next blog for this “Retirement Resources” forum will investigate this subject more closely and pose the questions, “Where Should I Retire?” and “What are the three most important factors to consider before choosing your retirement destination?”

Retirees: Do you have YOUR favorite “myth in retirement?” Please share. (Click on “comment” near the top of this article.) We would love to hear from you!

Otherwise, stay tuned for additional thoughts and tips on preparing a happy transition to retirement. You are also invited to revisit past blog-posts at this site: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/for-retirees/.

PKF

© 2018 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com: “emotional” by werner22brigitte, “knit” by foundry, “grandma” by fujidreams,”senior” by RitaE, “fisherman” by paulbr75, “old couple” by MonicaVolpin, “trumpet-player” by Hans, “fashion” by skeeze, “violin” by niekverlaan, “artist” by imaginart, “guitarist” by SplitShire, and “cottage” by MonikaDesigns.

 

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Tips for Retirees on Managing Stress During the Coming Winter Celebrations

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths. – Etty Hillesum http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/05/holiday-stress-quotes-the-11-best_n_791925.html

snowman-1383597It used to be that the coming winter recess of seven or more days off from full-time public school music teaching mostly meant catching up on much-needed sleep, tackling a few of those deferred household chores, performing or conducting a couple holiday concerts, visiting family and friends, and “pigging out” at a few gigantic holiday feasts.

Now that we are retired, one could argue that “every day is a vacation” and our lives are always “a bed of roses.”

However, holiday stress is a real problem for full-time workers and pensioners alike. No matter the setting or stage of your life, it is something that needs to be addressed!

According to Alexandra Ossola (Popular Science) at http://www.popsci.com/why-are-families-particularly-stressful-during-holidays, “It may have more to do with your expectations than the annual meltdown over the turkey.” She comments, “For most people, colourful-festival-muffins-1317770family gatherings during the holidays are rarely stress-free… Sometimes these situations are small, unpleasant blips in otherwise enjoyable celebrations. But for some, the feelings go deeper—many people dread the holidays, becoming stressed or anxious in the weeks leading up to a family get-together.”

She concludes with research from Terri Orbuch, a relationship expert and sociology professor at Oakland University. “We think this should be a perfect time, the food will be perfect, and our conversations will be respectful. But when our realities don’t match that, we get frustrated,”

xmas-tree-1360371So, here is some timely advice to bring down your anxiety levels and cope with the changing season.

First up, the American Heart Association advocates being “heart-healthy” in all dealings with holiday stress at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/StressManagement/FightStressWithHealthyHabits/Holiday-Stress-Try-These-5-Tips-for-a-Heart-Healthy-Holiday-Season_UCM_433252_Article.jsp#.

  1. Think ahead and carefully outline a consistent “30 minutes of physical activity per day.”
  2. Avoid the perils of party foods (overeating of high-fat, sugary, or salty treats).
  3. Stay active… but not too active (enjoy the added exercise, but don’t overbook yourself).
  4. Layout a plan for January and beyond.

Several ideas for handling your Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and/or New Year galas come from WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/tc/quick-tips-reducing-holiday-stress-get-started.

  1. bag-1-1443662Know your spending limit (set a budget and stick to it).
  2. Retirement usually means being on a fixed income. Share gifts that are meaningful and personal, but not necessarily extravagant or expensive.
  3. Organize your appointments and to-do lists.
  4. Share the responsibility (you don’t have to do everything yourself).
  5. Learn to say “no!”
  6. Be realistic. “Try not to put pressure on yourself to create the perfect holiday for your family. Focus instead on the traditions that make holidays special for you.”

To avoid the predictable “serious conversation alert” or a downturn of the mood at any family gathering, Talya Stone urges the infusion of humor to lessen your holiday stress at http://stress.lovetoknow.com/Humor_for_Holiday_Stress.

  1. reindeer-1-1419910Tell jokes, like “Why do reindeer stop for coffee on their Christmas run? Because they’re Santa’s star bucks.” A whole collection of quick one-liners are available at her website, which she says are guaranteed to add humor to your holiday and de-stress awkward episodes.
  2. Avoid becoming Scrooge. Don’t take yourself so seriously! Laugh at your own foibles and boo-boos!
  3. Create happy memories and find laughter in every day
  4. Watch humorous movies of “side-splitting moments fueled by mistakes, failures, and blunders, allowing you to laugh in the face of any holiday stress.” Suggestions by Stone include A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Elf, The Santa Clause, Jingle All the Way, Bad Santa, and my personal favorite Home Alone.
  5. Organize a harmless holiday prank to help diffuse some of the stress that comes with being so preoccupied during the holiday season. How many times can you gift-wrap a small present in progressively larger boxes? Stone gives other examples.
  6. Don’t forget to bring the games! Several inter-generational ideas for entertainment are Christmas Bingo, Pin the Nose on Rudolph, and Snowball Toss, but almost anything can increase the “festiveness” of every festivity.

christmas_hornIf your stress is made worse mostly due to the transition of a recent retirement, there are numerous resources to help you through this “significant life passage.” First of all, you should know it is not unusual to feel this way. In his book, The Retiring Mind, Dr. Robert P. Delamontagne estimates that “50% of retirees will suffer some form of acute emotional distress.” Now all we have to do is learn how to deal with this change… sounds easy?

Dr. Amit Sood, author of The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, writes “This a time of enormous change. You are leaving your job and friendships with colleagues and finding new things to do.” Sood recommends many christmas-stocking-1443217stress-reduction strategies: “Realize that your brain’s reward center likes variety, so give yourself a variety of experiences.”

He adds, “Let your best friends not be the TV, refrigerator or couch. Let your best friends be real people, books and sports shoes.”

“Treat your first year in retirement as if you are ‘interning’ to give yourself time to readjust and set new expectations,” he concludes. “Find meaning in new passions, including possibly using your work skills in a new job or volunteer work.”

For retired music teachers on this subject, I have written other blogs (see the link “Retirement Resources” at the right), and there are additional materials at the PMEA website: http://www.pmea.net/retired-members/. Please explore these numerous links/books/articles.

Finally, always prolific, The Huffington Post offers a couple dozen articles on the subject of “Holiday Stress Management,” everything from financial advice to mediation to dealing with a difficult person at family visit or party. Go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/holiday-stress-management/.

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From my family to yours – best wishes for the attainment of all of the “R’s” during the coming season – a refreshing, restful, reawakening, reviewing, recreating, reviving, rejuvenating, replenishing, and re-invigorating New Year!

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox