One Month In–Early Retirement Progress
I’m just past the one month mark in my retirement and just moving out of the – I’m on holiday – phase and moving into the – rest of my life – phase. It’s a slightly disconcerting feeling, but a hopeful one. During the first month I took some concrete steps to test out some thoughts about my retirement plan and they all worked well. These are the seven areas that I’ve been working on.
Over the last decade my sleep has gradually degraded, it’s not terrible at 7 hours a night, but it’s assisted by sedative pain killers which impact it’s quality. I’ve a long term plan to wean myself off these pain killers, but that means reducing my pain levels, which won’t be quick. In the interim I’ve used an hour a day of my new found free time to take an afternoon nap. It’s been glorious, I curl up on the sofa in the conservatory and snooze in the warm, it’s a particular treat when it’s sunny. The naps have definitely contributed to increased energy levels in the afternoon and evening.
Bottom line – afternoon naps have been the biggest, most enjoyable and most unexpected benefit of retirement
I wanted to push my body harder, to try and toughen it up and improve it’s ability to recover from the minor injuries that are the inevitable result of hiking and cycling more. This has meant a mix of moving more throughout the day: gardening, housework, doing more cardio in the form of cycling and hill walking and doing longer and more frequent walks. The result has been much less lower body pain generally, but much more shoulder pain and more Achilles tendon pain. To help the tendons I’ve been icing them after long walks, massaging them and soaking them in a hot bath and they’ve not got any worse which is hopeful. My increased shoulder pain is a slight mystery, I backed off any upper body exercises when it started to increase, but it continued to worsen, it could be due to more cycling, or perhaps I just feel it more now that my lower body is essentially pain free.
Bottom line – my body is coping well with moving more and my pain levels are much improved, but my shoulders – ouch!
My personal experience is that my body can cope with all sorts of different foods, including low quality junk and processed food. However I also believe that as I’ve aged my ability to cope declines and that ‘coping’ is not good enough. I’ve hypothesised that I can significantly improve my health in subtle ways by eating well. To that end over the last month I’ve gradually transitioned to a much better diet and I’m now at the point where I’m mostly eating organic fruit and veg from the garden, supplemented by nutritionally dense whole foods like nuts, meat and eggs. To solidify my progress I’ve challenged myself to eat this way for the next 28 days. It’s going well, I’m feeling MUCH better, I have more energy, even though I’m eating fewer calories, my brain fog is minimal and I’m happier.
Bottom line – I’m proving to myself the benefits and practicality of a whole food, mostly garden grown diet (during the summer)
I’ve been understandably worried about stagnating, of slipping into bad habits, filling my time with TV etc. So far there’s no sign of that, I’ve watched less TV and read fewer books and felt busier in retirement than I did when I was working. I’ve started in the way I mean to go on though, to challenge myself to live the kind of life I want to lead. My first challenge, to go to a different cafe every day for 30 days, finishes today and it was a good first choice. Towards the end it did prove to be a little challenging, but it also stopped me getting into a rut, expanded my horizons and pushed me gently out of my comfort zone. Declaring it as a public challenge also made me stick to it in a way that I don’t think I would have done if it had been a private promise to myself.
Bottom line – I will definitely be doing more challenges
Several years ago, when I was working from home as part of a global team, I almost never saw the people I worked with and only socialised with family in the evening. It was a very isolating and demoralising time, even though I enjoyed the work I was doing, I learned to hate conference calls. I wanted to make sure this didn’t happen in retirement, so I’ve made a particular effort to spend time with friends and family during the day at least 3 days a week, in addition to evenings. It’s worked out really well so far, in fact I’ve spent more quality time with people than I did when I was working. Time on my own to read, listen to podcasts, listen to books, explore, work on projects is also important, it’s all about balance.
Bottom line – 3 days with people and 4 days on my own seems about right. bearing in mind that I spend time every morning in cafes with people I know and every evening with family too.
For most of my working life my purpose was provided by my work and young family, now I no longer have my work, my children are mostly grown and my wife is working and mostly financially independent. I need to find a new purpose, or more likely many different purposeful activities. I’ve started with the basics, fix my health, fix up the house, go on adventures, learn about the world, it’s gone ok. I don’t think it makes sense for me to have a single over-arching, all consuming, purpose again given the unpredictability of my health. Better I think to have lots of activities that I can mix and match depending on my health, wealth and the weather that combine to make me feel like I’m living a ‘good life’.
Bottom line – so far I feel I’m living a purposeful life, made up of many activities, not one ‘passion’
In my first week of retirement I started to aggressively reduce my medications, testing my hypothesis that in retirement, more movement, less stress and better food would ‘fix’ me. Although it started well, probably assisted by the placebo affect, I was too enthusiastic, my pain levels went through the roof and I had too many withdrawal symptoms. I quickly put a stop to that idea and decided to take a more measured approach. First establish solid movement, diet, relaxation and sleep habits, essentially the bed-rock of health; second very gradually start to wean myself off the meds, avoiding being too ‘proud’ to go slow.
Bottom line – my health problems were decades in the making, I can’t fix them in a week
In summary, I’ve made a good start, there’s lots more to do and I’m brimming with ideas. I’ve tried not to repeat the content of my earlier one week in progress report, which is a useful supplement to this one.
One of the things I’m really enjoying in retirement is having the time and energy to go on longer walks, I’m particularly enjoying doing this with old friends from work. The photo at the top of this post is of Buttermere, just before Rob and I decided to head up a winding track that lead to Hay Stacks fell, a great day out, one of many.