Life Wise Hints,  Retirement

The Naked Retiree…..develops resilience

In my last post, I wrote about the changes to the age pension and retiree’s needing resilience. The world around us is changing and not all for the better particularly with the cost of living.  The Australian Farm Institute tell us that Australian consumers are facing increasing food prices. The article confirms my experience that beef is expensive. Fruit and vegetables will also cost us more due to demand for local supply alongside export demands. Read more about the expected price hike on food here.

The naked retiree needs resilience and resourcefulness to live with a declining income and an increasing grocery bill. We can all show our resourcefulness by starting an herb and vegetable garden. Not everyone has the desire or fitness level to do this but one large pot on the back verandah can grow a tomato plant, lettuce and a few different herbs. Planting citrus trees gives us our own produce and satisfaction that it is “home grown”. The dwarf fruit trees are ideal for small gardens or when you are like us and don’t want the work and pruning that goes with the standard size trees. Later this year we will have oranges, lemons and lime and maybe a mandarin. There was a mix up in buying our mandarin tree and we ended up with two dwarf orange trees!

In the 1840’s the Australian historic site of Port Arthur was home to over 1100 convicts. The main building was constructed in 1843 as a flour mill and granary.  By 1857 it was converted to a penitentiary. Many stories abound about the resilience of convicts and their journey to freedom.

Now we have moved in the direction of being resourceful what about resilience? How do we develop resilience? Once we have it, how do we strengthen it? For me, I know that it is more than having a motto pinned on your wall or framed on your desk. Motto’s help but we must give them life. The motto “walk the talk” is a favourite one that fits perfectly with giving a motto “life”. We can talk and talk about our outlook on life, how we think, how we behave and how we live but if we don’t “walk the talk” we are not going anywhere!

I had a motto on my desk for months to inspire me. It stated “accept, learn, adapt, keep moving forward”. I cleaned up my desk and it disappeared, into the bin! I don’t need it anymore as I have memorised it – is that a good start? Maybe. However, it is a good reminder when life throws me curveballs which are hard to accept. It tests out my resilience and therefore I want to understand resilience more and if I have enough to get me through old age. As resilience is a learned behaviour there is hope for me, hope for everyone!

Looking across the gardens at Port Arthur is very serene. If we are outside walking it helps build our resilience, rather than sitting inside navel-gazing.

Years ago, I became familiar with the work of Virginia Satir, a social worker and family therapist. Satir said the “problems are not the problem; coping is the problem”. If we ruminate on the problem, it is like throwing an accelerant onto a fire – it will only get worse! How then do we “cope” with the problem?

There are many ways of coping with a problem. One of these is solution focused therapy. I used this approach in my work as a social worker. It is about focusing on the present and future instead of the past. The past though has made us what we are today, therefore is the solution focused approach too “glib”? Not if the focus is on strengths and resources. Sometimes the problem will never be solved so it is about living with it and having the resilience to manage the problem. Also, it is vital to develop coping mechanisms that “help” rather than “hinder” our individual growth and mental well-being.

If I concentrate on my strengths and utilise the resources I have, for example putting the knowledge I have into practice or changing my attitude to a person or situation, I will be better off. If I do this I am building my resilience and it is much easier to “bounce back” after disappointment, trauma, health issues, stress, relationship difficulties and loss in all its many forms. The higher our resilience the better we can cope with life, adapt to our circumstances and keep moving forward.

The “experts” tell us there are two ways we can respond to problems in life. There are adaptive coping mechanisms or maladaptive coping mechanisms. Maladaptive coping mechanisms include drinking too much, eating too much, gambling and social withdrawal. On the other hand, to strengthen resilience we must leave the maladaptive coping mechanisms behind and focus on the adaptive coping mechanisms.

Looking across the water from Port Arthur historic site and its serenity gives me hope. Turning my back on the problem and learning a new way of coping.

Adaptive coping mechanisms, is simply about “getting back to basics” – the physical, the mental and social. To begin with the naked retiree who is developing resilience will have a “health check” and if there are any issues these should be monitored by a General Practitioner. Once the “health check” is covered the naked retiree now thinks about exercise, in all its many forms.  I am starting with walking – always a good and easy start. Next is our mental attitude – should I start a “gratitude journal”? Writing down 2-3 things I am thankful for would help, but would I keep it up? That may be something you may want to consider for 2017 but for now I will concentrate on “self-talk” – I enjoy talking to myself! Self-talk is talking out aloud or silently telling ourselves we are okay, we are a great person, a kind person etc. Author Louise L. Hay is known for her motivational quotes and her experience in the power of positive affirmations. One of these is “I do not fix problems. I fix thinking. Then problems fix themselves”. My quote for naked retirees strengthening our resilience is “it is good to be me, I am getting older every day and more fabulous along the way”.

The next step is to eat well – get rid of the “junk” food or “too much” food and increase our intake of fruit and vegetables and drink lots of water! As we get older we also need social contact with others, it is not good to be alone. Social contact can include time with friends, volunteer work, joining a club or a church. Community connections that build relationships with others will at the same time build our resilience. Also, as we get older we need to introduce more fun into the daily routine and not take everything too seriously. Any ideas how this can be achieved apart from watching funny movies?

Overall, building our resilience is not too difficult – I started today with a 20-minute walk and some positive self-talk. How about you?


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