The Nurses' Health Studies are among the largest and longest running investigations of factors that influence women's health. Started in 1976 and expanded in 1989, the information provided by the 238,000 dedicated nurse-participants has led to many new insights on health and disease. Most importantly, these studies have shown that diet, physical activity and other lifestyle factors can powerfully promote better health (http://.channing.harvard.edu/nhs/).
One of the major lifestyle changes facing many Baby Boomer nurses is retirement! Are you starting to transition into retirement? Have you thought what it means for you? What is your plan? Do you even have one? What will life be like for you when you don't function as a nurse anymore? Here are three key issues to keep in mind before processing this.
First issue - Remember the early days in the hospital? High stress and over-worked, running all day to keep up and keep patients alive. Up before dawn, on the floors before 7 and the race begins. No time to eat, use the bathroom, visit patients, just keep moving until leaving work exhausted with aching legs, feet and brain. Yes, nursing is hard work, all-consuming and draining. But we love it and that is why we do it.
Ask yourself - How has "over-work syndrome" impacted you after all these years?
Second issue - Many of us have a high dose of co-dependency, meaning we are natural care-takers. We want and like to help people - sometimes to a fault. I call us over-helpers, because we help others more than we help ourselves. "Self-care" is so foreign to us, we don't even know how to do it. If we do take time for ourselves we often feel guilty about being selfish.
Ask yourself - How has "over-helping" played out for you?
Third issue - I see lots of nurses at risk for chronic disease - overeating, under exercising, some still smoking too. As a wellness specialist, nurses have been my most challenging group to work with because many don't take care of themselves. I often hear they don't have time or someone else's needs come first. There's that co-dependency thing again.
Ask yourself - How have your lifestyle choices influenced your level of wellness today?
So how does all this factor into retirement? As you walk away from a demanding nursing career where you have given so much for so long, you are still carrying some old baggage that might be holding you back from living a great life for as long as possible. Consider this a wake-up call that you might be shortening your life because of the issues we have just discussed.It's not all bad news, however.
My motto is never give up! You can turn around habits and behaviors with the right plan and the right support. The fact is you may need assistance with this transition to a new lifestyle. You may need to consider an Extreme Wellness Makeover. Here are four crucial steps to begin the process. I know it's not easy for your "very capable self" to ask for help or be helped, but I have done this myself, and life is very good once you get started on your new path.
Step one: Start focusing on the life you want.
What is your dream, your passion, what do you see yourself doing, where are you going, who are you with? Start creating a picture in your mind of what it feels like to be living the life of your dreams. This will guide all the choices you make from now on. Keep it "top of mind" and create a visual representation to focus on every day. It's like magic, because the universal force called Law of Attraction will help you manifest what you desire - as long as you give it attention. Not sure what Law of Attraction is all about?
Step two: Determine how balanced your life is.
Complete a Life Balance Inventory and find out how you are doing in the six key lifestyle areas. A great resource for you is The National Wellness Institute, www.nationalwellness.org, and their very helpful wellness inventory called TestWell. Once you determine the areas that need attention, you can get started making changes.
If some unhealthy lifestyle choices are catching up with you and you're fearful of the consequences, shift negative thinking into positive energy and use fear as a motivating force. It's never too late to strive toward high level wellness. As a wellness coach, I have been helping others do this for most of my nursing career, with great success.
Step three: Take action now.
Pick one area to work on from your Life Balance Inventory and start with baby steps. When I retired from my last job, I wanted daily exercise to be my top priority because it was the best stress reliever for me. And there were no more excuses I could use like "I would exercise if I had more time - or I can't walk outside after work because it gets dark early - or I'm exhausted from work so I don't have energy to exercise".
Once retired, I had no boss (I was the boss) so I could exercise anytime I wanted. How did I make it happen? I wrote it on my calendar. Most of us live this way, so put it on your calendar and it has a very good change of happening!
Step four: Get support as you transition into retirement.
You might need a guide right now who can focus on you and how you are taking care of yourself. Remember, this is an area where nurses are deficient since they have been so focused on others and not themselves. When I transitioned out from my job at age 56 I really wanted to continue working again in Wellness. What I discovered was no one would hire me because I was gray. Yes age discrimination is alive and well!
Feeling lost and worthless, with low self esteem, I was really stuck. And then my angel appeared - a nurse who was a Life Coach. She graciously coached me and within three sessions my attitude, confidence and energy turned around. I had a plan and was ready to set the world on fire with a new direction. This is the kind of support that all nurses deserve as they face the second half of their lives.
Get a coach! Pay for it! You deserve it! The results will be amazing as your new life is revealed to you - BY YOU. A coach is your guide by your side, not telling you what to do but helping you uncover your dreams and passions while cheering you on all the way. What a gift!And what I realized from this experience was I was not only given this gift for my own personal growth, I was given this gift to help others on their path.
About the Author
If you want that same experience email Carol at email@example.com for a free sample session.
Carol Ebert RN, BSN, MA, CHESCertified Wellness PractitionerMindful Coach Certification InstructorUSANA Health Sciences Silver Director507-643-6436 firstname.lastname@example.org Boomer Wellness Retirement Zone Blog, http://www.creatingwellnesscultures.com/blog/ Please join Carol's FAN page on Facebook for more wellness updates, http://tinyurl.com/wellnesscultures