Change, it’s stressful…even the good stuff! 2020 Covid-19 and all that change too!

Covid-19 should we survive it will change the world forever. It is likely we will all know someone who has succumbed to this dreadful illness and if this is a close family member, partner, friend or colleague we will also have a significant bereavement to deal with too. Taboo #11 Bereavement

 None of us knows how exactly things will change but change there will be. Much of this will be in the short and medium term. It is unlikely we will reach a day when it is proclaimed “It’s all over – get back to normal!” More likely is that over the next year or two we will gradually have restrictions on our movement and social interactions lifted such that at least on the surface we will be living and interacting much as we did before. However, will we ever be at ease travelling or socialising on crowded buses or trains or sitting in a crowed theatre with someone coughing in the next row? Will China be on our ‘Bucket List’ any more? What about the world of work? I certainly envisage that after months of home working many companies and their employees will see this ‘experiment’ as having shown we can actually do without so much expensive office space and maybe international air travel for business will become the exception and not the rule. What of the high street? Will we have got so used to buying online that these businesses will also become things of the past? Will we even go to our doctor anymore? Will online consultations be the norm and only after this triage will we be seen face to face? Will our families even come to visit so often when a Zoom or Skype call is far easier and less time consuming? Will we get used to the absence of physical connectivity and become like our children with our faces glued to a smartphone screen? Who knows?

 

There may be some positives however. Our local community has got stronger and more connected in these difficult times. We have less aeroplanes flying overhead and there are far fewer cars on our streets. That has to be good for the planet doesn’t it? Maybe we will become more community focused and less ‘global’ – of course this will have pluses and minuses but we already see countries ‘looking after their own’ on a scale not previously seen or envisaged. There are shortages of flour and other baking products in many places as many of us are using lock-down making bread and cakes ourselves – will we just stop when it’s all over? Won’t we be rather more skilled in these areas and realise that what we thought was difficult is now an easy and fun pastime and isn’t homemade more tasty? What about that gym membership? Having done online workouts are we all really going to go back to our gym membership with it’s costs etc?? Anti-Consumerism may be something we’ll all get used to and do more for ourselves? There are so many known unknowns as well as unknown unknowns that fortune tellers are likely to make a killing! Maybe the time for reflection will give some of us a new perspective and life will never be the same again, even if we could choose it to be so!? Even good change can be stressful so be aware. There will be opportunities as well as doors closing in our faces. That Bucket List might need editing and choices put off might suddenly be centre field and need dealing with rather sooner than anticipated. Is it now a good time to retire might be one?!

Although this Covid-19 pandemic has been an unwelcome change, one of the great joys of life is that things, including us are in a constant state of flux. We might even celebrate this with expressions such as ‘A change is as good as a rest’ attributed to Arthur Conan Doyle which essentially suggests a change of work or occupation, or in our case retirement can be as restorative or refreshing as a period of relaxation. However, no matter how much we feel the need for change, managing this can be very difficult.

“Planning to retire? Before you do, find your hidden passion. Do the thing that you have always wanted to do.” – Catherine Pulsifer

Probably the biggest and most stressful change we will encounter is the death of a loved one, the closer the more difficult and challenging. The five stages of grief model first introduced by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying postulates a progression of emotional states experienced by both terminally ill patients after diagnosis and by loved-ones after a death. The five stages of grief are chronologically:-denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Stress was first defined in 1936 by Hans Selye as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change” and so can refer to both positive and negative situations as well as being very much ‘in the eye of the beholder’. That is what stresses me may actually be seen as a positive challenge for you.

There are numerous stress league tables including the Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale (1967) which puts Retirement at number 10. 2,500 U.S. military members (sailors) were asked to rank their most stressful life events. They then followed the sailors for six months, tracking their visits to the dispensary, to see if there was a correlation between their reported “life stress” and their visits to the doctor. Each event is assigned a “Life Change Unit” score. These are then added together over a year and used to give a rough estimate of how stress affects health.

For adults, the most stressful life events and their “Life Change Unit” scores are as follows:

  1. Death of a spouse (or child):   100
  2. Divorce:   73
  3. Marital separation:   65
  4. Imprisonment:   63
  5. Death of a close family member:   63
  6. Personal injury or illness:   53
  7. Marriage:   50
  8. Dismissal from work:   47
  9. Marital reconciliation:   45
  10. Retirement:   45

However, this as well as other scales include more positives further down and include such stressors as ‘Christmas approaching’ and ‘visiting the in-laws’. So, whereas getting married, moving to a new house and getting a new job might justifiably be considered major positive life changers they are also major life stresses and retirement and all it entails is right up there too!

Anger, defensiveness and cynicism are natural reactions to major change which Dr.Elisabeth Kübler-Ross highlighted in her grief curve and is now recognised as applying to any major change in our lives and depression is an almost inevitable part of this change process. For some it will be minimal, for others a major issue and last some time. In all likelihood one’s response will depend on circumstance such as whether retirement is forced upon us at a time not of our choosing or if it were planned and worked at beforehand.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

At least we might hope that some pre-planning will help to flatten the curve and avoid the big dipper of negativity!

 

“Preparation for old age should begin not later than one’s teens. A life which is empty of purpose until 65 will not suddenly become filled on retirement.” Arthur E. Morgan

This early planning advice may well have come a little late for many of us, however worth thinking about for our children and grandchildren! The idea of TOYL  (Time Of Your Life) is ageless so whatever your age remember:-

“Age is only a number, a cipher for the records. A man can’t retire his experience. He must use it. Experience achieves more with less energy and time.” – Bernard Baruch

 

I’d suggest that whatever your hopes and aspirations the transition may turn out to be a be a bit more of a challenge than first anticipated.

 “Retirement is not the end of the road. It is the beginning of the open highway.”  – Unknown

 

Let me know your thoughts! 

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