Client Tips – Lockdown Living

We have been in lockdown for 16 weeks already. This has brought with it anger, frustration, sadness, new hobbies, new skills and lots of time for spring cleaning. We asked our clients to share what they have been doing during lockdown, and it’s so encouraging to see so many people making the most of their time at home.

Finishing all those projects on the to do list has been popular amongst clients, and lockdown, it seems, has certainly been the perfect time to do so.

Keeping some type of a routine and staying connected to body, mind and spirit has been essential to many clients, especially as we have no idea when this will be over, so we have to keep our mental health a priority.

There has been lots of cooking going on, with some clients wondering whether to buy new freezers and more containers to keep all their frozen food.

Some clients have been homeschooling and doing online counselling, while others have found themselves taking care of toddlers while their parents work.

There has been a lot of upskilling taking place, and most the clients are now extremely comfortable with Zoom, one client is even doing an online Zoom computer course.

Lots of books have been read, and clients have discovered some beautifully written and inspiring reads.

And lastly, but certainly not least, some clients have used this time to reconnect with their partners, through doing activities such as gardening, or by simply sitting on the couch, holding hands while watching Netflix.

Please let us know what you have been doing during lockdown. We would love to hear from you.

Catching Up with Sally Williams

Sally Williams is a much-loved South Africa icon, fondly known for her legendary nougat, a business she started at 54 years of age. Her story is one of passion, determination and an entrepreneurial spirit. While Sally sold her business many years ago, she still has big plans, so we decided to catch up with her to see what she has been up to during lockdown.

Last year, Sally decided that she would start working on a recipe book that would feature a selection of her favourite and most loved recipes. She had hoped that lockdown would be the perfect time to do this; however, she says it’s a slow process, especially since she has so many to work through, and deciding what to include is proving to be a difficult task.

She is also spending much of her time doing day-to-day chores since her Char has been off since the start of lockdown, so all the cleaning and most of the cooking is left to Sally.

Lockdown hasn’t been with its complications, particularly so when she fell and broke four ribs. Sally stayed at her daughter’s house during this time, and not one to remain idle, she made the most of this downtime and joined Tinder. Her Tinder journey was short-lived, especially as her first encounter was with a potential scammer. Sally knew better than to fall for his story, and it’s safe to say that the scammer was taught a lesson by Sally. When Sally describes this story, you can hear how she lives her life, full of humour, joy and passion.

Having recovered from her fall, Sally is back at it and goes for daily walks between 8:00 and 9:00 am. She walks with friends who live in her complex, and has made a few new friends along the way. She believes in sticking to a routine and feels that no matter how you feel, it is essential to be well-groomed; for this reason, she does her hair and make-up every day.

She says that before lockdown, she had no attachment to her phone, however, since lockdown she has become somewhat addicted to it, particularly WhatsApp. She has a group of friends who share videos and memes daily, and she delights in them.

Sally has managed to watch some TV, and she highly recommends: Becoming, Self Made and Unorthodox, all on Netflix. She also read, and thoroughly enjoyed, Marian Keyes’ latest novel called Grown Ups, particularly because she could identify with so many people in the book.

Despite being isolated, Sally reiterates all the things she has to be grateful for. A wonderful reminder to us all, especially at this time when it is so easy to get caught up in all the negativity surrounding us.

Sally will be one of our guests at our virtual Women’s Day event that will be held in August. Keep an eye out for more details.

Back into the light with Patricia O’ Hare

At this moment, I feel profoundly and deeply disturbed and agitated. My mood is dark. I feel hopeless and helpless. Several people who I spoke to this week echo my sentiments – no matter the age cohort to which they belong. My 15-year-old granddaughter is experiencing a crisis because she has been isolated from her peers for too long. My 45-year-old ex-colleague feels untethered and adrift having worked from home for 100 days. My 68-year-old friend feels she has reached the limit of her endurance of being cut off from life, alive but not living. The list goes on. I am hearing only about the negative. I am overwhelmed by the political, economic and social crisis our country is facing.

A couple of events this past week, and my reaction to them, forced me to sit down and reflect what was actually going on. My domestic worker, who had been part of my family for 50 years, unexpectedly came and returned my house keys stating she could no longer risk using a taxi because of Covid. I understood her reasoning because she falls in a high-risk category because of her age. Intellectually I could grasp what was happening, but emotionally I could not cope with this abrupt and unceremonious departure from my life of a key and beloved figure. I cried non-stop for the entire day. This reaction should have been a warning sign to me because I am not someone who cries easily or frequently, but I chose to ignore the warning. A couple of days later I had a bad experience at the dentist, and once again, my reaction was totally over the top. Another warning I failed to register as ominous and out of character. I have always been an exercise freak and could not go to sleep at night if my IWatch had not registered that I had completed 10000 steps. This week I never achieved my target once, but it failed to register in my brain. I usually do at least five yoga classes per week, but last week I only did one. Unusual? Yes. Did I reflect on this phenomenon? No.

Eventually, my mood and lack of energy and enthusiasm forced me to sit down and reflect what was happening. I found that I was behaving uncharacteristically. I was emotionally depleted. I had no energy. My thoughts were pessimistic, negative. Where was that person who usually wakes up in the morning singing one or another song from the 60s? Where was that person who could normally outpace a fellow yoga practitioner? Where was that person who was usually enthusiastic and full of energy? Where was that person who bopped around the house to rock and roll music while doing her chores?

I’ll tell you what happened. I allowed myself to be sucked in by negativity. I allowed myself to believe I was worthless, useless, hopeless. I believed the future was hopeless. Sure, my husband and I had just retired, and sure we were both living under lockdown restrictions. I had to have a long, hard talk to myself – just because I was no longer earning, just because I was no longer at the hub of a socially affirming life, I was still a person of value. While I was no longer an active participant, the wisdom I had accrued over the years still had value and relevance.

To anyone who has had a similar experience, I urge you to take some time to reflect and become conscious of how you got where you are and why. Once you become aware of the mechanisms that dragged you down, you can adapt and change. If you have no consciousness, you will never be able to effect change. Without being aware of the process, I allowed my ever-darkening mood to isolate me from all the things that had given me pleasure in the past- exercise, dancing, listening to music, gardening, reading. Now, with awareness, I can reengage those pursuits which I know have given me pleasure before, and I can mindfully and purposefully begin to get my life back on track. I have also opted to remove myself from the company of doomsayers and pessimists. I have done everything possible to ensure that my retirement years be free of financial worries. I am blessed with good health and a great support system. I didn’t reckon on the effects of Covid-19 but am sure that the resilience I have shown over the years will now stand me in good stead. I have to be watchful that when I start straying off the path, I immediately engage in corrective measures to bring me back on track. For that to happen, I need to continually practise mindfulness – one of the greatest techniques to manage the angst of 21st-century living.

The purpose of sharing my story with you was to emphasise how important it is to keep tabs on your mental health. We have all been preoccupied with avoiding the Corona virus at all costs but we may have neglected our mental health in the process. Living in lockdown, separated from friends and family can cause extreme stress which builds up insidiously. Unless you develop the capacity to constantly monitor your thoughts, emotions and behaviours you may not even be aware of the increasing stress levels until they become totally debilitating. If you have ever been treated for anxiety and depression, you should be especially mindful of your current vulnerability. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you start feeling overwhelmed.

Shape up your inner strength

We’re in the midst of winter, and with cold nights and temperatures dipping below freezing in the early mornings, it takes some effort getting out from under our warm duvets and cosy pyjamas. And with nowhere really to go while we wait out the peak of the corona virus, it’s becoming hard to find the stamina and endurance to face each day with gratitude and joy.

We’re half-way through this year and it has been a tough one so far. And the next six months will potentially be even harder. It helps me to know that we’re all here to support one another and that we can reach out for help when we need a boost.

I have been feeling ‘less-than’ resilient for the past couple of weeks and realised that I needed to check-in with myself. I feel so fortunate that I was able to attend an online course presented by Gabi Lowe and Pippa Shaper from the Resilience Factory. They teach that resilience is the “powerful ability to survive, thrive and grow in the face of stress, change and adversity,” and say that it’s about “becoming a human being, rather than a human doing.”

I love the concept of being a human, rather than just doing all the time. For me, this translates into making space for reflection and self-care. Reflection in itself is self-care, because you allow time for being quiet and checking in with what’s going on in your heart. You give yourself permission to just be, instead of do; and you give yourself the okay to slow down and be still. It’s an emotional healing process.

It’s also a challenging process. If you, like me, have been so busy doing, instead of being, it may be time to slow down. And slowing down means taking time out, it means self-nurturing and being kind to yourself.

I have always found that spending time in nature is the best tonic for fatigue and boosting my energy levels. My favourite place to go is the bush. It grounds me, and just being in the natural surroundings of the bushveld calms my mind and lets me exhale all my worries and stress. I use the time to switch of my electronic devices and take a complete break from screen-time. For now, I’ll settle for a long, candle-lit bath and managing my diary more mindfully.

Self-care builds your resilience, and we all need a good dollop of inner strength right now. I want to encourage you to build up your strength, resilience and stamina for the last six months of 2020. Care for your body and your mind, take time to nurture yourself and prioritise times of stillness and calm.

You may not be able to travel to your favourite place, but try having lunch outside, do your morning exercises on the outside patio rather than indoors, take a stroll around your neighbourhood, or simply just take in the scents, colours and shapes of nature itself. Give yourself permission to soak in a hot long bath, have an afternoon nap, or just be still and let your favourite music flow through you.

Emotions need Motion

As we mourn the world we knew, I find solace knowing that we are in this together. And that our grief is a necessary process to adapt to our changed lives.

I wish I had valued the little things in life more. I know it’s often the small things we take for granted, but I miss having coffee with my friends and really connecting face to face with the people I love. We all grieve differently: my grief feels like a deep gaping hole in my chest, others may cry silent tears of despair and some express their sadness openly. We must remember to honour how other people are grieving – even though it’s different to how we’re grieving.

Connecting with grief is not a linear process and different personality types experience and voice their grief differently. It’s important to grieve, to give yourself – and others – the space to mourn. We don’t have to fix each other, the best we can do for now, is to listen and to be there for each other.

Here’s how I am trying to adapt through my process of grief:

  1. Meditating daily.
    I meditate every morning and at the moment, I am following the 21 Day Meditation Experience led by Deepak Chopra and hosted by Oprah Winfrey entitled Hope in Uncertain Times. Click here to access the meditation.
  2. Exercise.
    I run up and down my driveway just to keep my body moving and my mind energised.
  3. Staying connected.
    I make time to chat to friends on Zoom. I’ve even turned these chats into coffee dates – or even better, sharing a glass of virtual wine.
  4. Ground myself in the Present.
    When my thoughts start spiraling down, I remind myself to stay present by breathing in for four seconds, hold my breath for four seconds and then breathing out for four seconds. Negative thoughts of worst-case scenarios do not serve me – so I center myself through this simple exercise.
  5. And lastly, I limit my intake of bad news. I am very selective of which news items on COVID-19 I expose myself to and am very careful of information overloading.

Remember that grief is a necessary process for us to adapt to changed circumstances. Let it move through you and out the other side.

Connecting to grief – making space for a new reality

Our world has changed, and our lives have been turned upside-down. Things aren’t the same as they used to be. Adapting to a new normal is not easy – it’s because most of us don’t like change. Our customs, our habits and our schedules are disrupted, and it feels unsettling. A sense of sadness has enveloped our world. It’s a collective sadness as we mourn the way the world has changed and worry about the many challenges that still lie ahead.

I am an eternal optimist and as much as I want to shout out to the world that we have to hold on to hope, and that we have to keep trying to live our best lives, I do believe that we have to give attention to the sorrow that we are feeling. The world is grieving, and it’s a powerful emotion – it’s a shared grief and it feels overwhelming.

Today I want to ask you to grieve. Grief is an essential part of healing and we have to give ourselves time to express and feel our emotions, bring them out in the open, and work through our feelings of loss and despair. You don’t have to be strong; you don’t have to pretend that what you’re feeling is not important. Because what you are feeling is valid. It’s real, and it’s raw and it’s uncomfortable.

Today I also want to remind you to be brave. Don’t ignore the pain that you are feeling. Don’t bury your emotions and pretend that they don’t exist. Working through grief is one of the bravest things you will ever do. And you have to. You cannot bury these feelings for them to resurface later on. For when they do resurface, they hold more power.

Recognise your emotions, allow yourself to feel them, name them and talk about them. This process makes space for adapting – it makes space for hope, faith and love.

In this newsletter, I share some of the things that I miss, and a couple of tips on how I am trying to adapt. We’ve also received some wonderful ideas from our clients on how they are adapting in lockdown. Also included are links to articles and a a powerful podcast with David Kessler and Brené Brown on Grief and finding meaning.

Today I am grieving with you, but I do find comfort knowing that I’m not grieving alone, and that together we are making space for renewed hope and meaning.

Stand Up

Research shows that sitting for long periods increases the risk of developing serious illnesses such as various types of cancer, heart disease and type 2 Diabetes.

It seems that, in terms of its impact on our health, sitting is indeed the new smoking!

Retirementor, Joni Peddie, suggests an easy way to alleviate the long periods spent sitting.

From healthy resolutions to healthy habits

The new year is a perfect time to reflect on your habits and click that refresh button to start anew. Retiremeant™ doesn’t mean slowing down; instead, it’s a fresh start to live your second chapter to the fullest, and your health and vitality lie at the very centre of your being.

Resolutions are tricky. You may have the determination to become fitter and healthier but find it difficult to make big changes all at once. A fitness routine that works for others may not be a perfect fit for you. So, instead of making health a resolution, why not start by adopting new health habits that inspire you?

My health goal is to run a 10km race in April this year. It’s a big goal with a firm deadline! Luckily, I love running, so a daily run isn’t a chore for me. The difficult part is sticking with my habit.

To keep me motivated, I chose an accountability partner: a virtual running coach combined with my trusty Apple watch. My running coach supports me via email, sending me a daily fitness programme based on my progress, and, in turn, I send it the training data direct from my Apple watch. It’s quite remarkable if you know how to use it – it tracks your run, speed, heart rate and even the number of calories burnt.

I love the Apple watch slogan – Find what moves you. With health goals, it’s important to find something you enjoy doing. It may not be running; it could be walking, dancing, yoga or cycling. Then add a drop of motivation. Why not find your own accountability partner? Perhaps someone who enjoys the same activities you do? Or who belongs to the same club? Your accountability partner is someone who inspires you to stick to your health habit and joins you in this journey.

Creating and sticking to new habits can be challenging, but you simply have to put in the work to get results. It helps to have a positive emotional response to the activity – it must feel good and make you excited to do more. So, make your health habits easy, make them fun and make sure you celebrate your successes along the way.

Although the 10km run is my end goal, I am delighted every day as my Apple watch delivers my progress reports. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, recommends having a habit tracker. In my case, it’s my watch, but you could, for example, cross off your calendar every day you stick to your health habit. It’s a visual reminder of your progress and extraordinary satisfying to record your success as you go.

And should you ever wake up in the morning, wondering if you could just skip your health habits for one day, infuse yourself with some inspiration and reflect on the words of fitness guru, Marsha Doble: I have to exercise in the morning before my brain figures out what I’m doing.”

Map your own ageing journey

It can take a health crisis to remind us that we have more control over our health than we may think … and then to take those steps to ensure we stay well for as long as we can.

Research¹ shows that globally, people are living longer, but not better. In fact, the gap between their longevity and their wellness averages 10 years. So, it is more important than ever that we recognise our own power in determining how we age.

My 82-year old father has always been an example of healthy ageing. As testimony to his physical resilience, he celebrated his 80th birthday by hiking the five-day Whale Trail in De Hoop Reserve along with his long-standing hiking buddies.

It was therefore a matter of concern for us that he has been experiencing a few months of feeling unwell. Despite urgings from his family members, he resisted attempts to get him to the doctor. Whatever the excuse, it was clear that he was nervous about what the doctor might discover.

Of course, the inevitable day arrived when the ongoing feeling of something “not right” overcame his reluctance, and he went for the necessary tests and booked his appointment with the doctor. He was subsequently referred to an oncologist and has had one consultation with her.

I expected to see a rise in my father’s anxiety. After all, his test results are not what we all hope for when we anxiously await results: a clear bill of health. His attitude, in fact, suggests relief, and therein lies the lesson.

Knowing where you stand – be it regarding your health, your finances, your job – is so empowering, even if it is not where you want to be. It’s far better than living in that limbo of uncertainty, imagining what the reality COULD be, or suppressing feelings of fear that find their way to the surface when the pressure is on. I liken it to a ball bobbing on the water – you can push it down underwater with as much force as you can apply, but it will shoot up somewhere else.

Secondly, the doctor to whom he was referred was just the right person. Factual in her approach, she was nevertheless empathetic and positive.

We all have a choice – to take control of our journey into ageing, or to abdicate, and hope that everything will just work itself out.

But a reality check is that, if you have reasonably good health up to age 65 or 70, you have dodged one of the chronic illnesses that often prove fatal: heart failure, stroke, lung disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia.

So, you may be looking forward to robust health for a good few years yet, and it becomes even more crucial that you take control of your health. You want to enjoy the next chapter, so don’t succumb to the notion that ageing equals ill health. Yes, there will be progressive problems as you age, and ultimately, some kind of disability and the need for care. But take control now to reduce the possibility of having to manage a chronic condition earlier than necessary.

Regular health checks, regular exercise and healthy eating are a given. Cut out smoking, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Forgive, yourself first, and then others and the world for not being perfect. And let go of what does not serve you and the world.

MD and author, Sam Harrington captures this in his recommendation: “Study and embrace aging and chronic illness. Take control of your final chapter. Be there when it happens.”

¹The Global Burden of Disease Study 2017

To live fully, choose amplitude, not age, to define you

“Breathe deeply, put your shoulders back, and allow your body to take up space.”

This is how renowned choreographer, Twyla Tharp, defines amplitude. With age, she says, “we start to retreat, retract, become protective, secluded and start to ossify.”

With her mantra that age is not the enemy, but stagnation is as her motivation, Twyla has captured her positive message in a new book entitled: Keep It Moving: lessons for the rest of your life.

Hailed as one of the great choreographers of our age, Twyla, at 78, continues to choreograph at the American Ballet Theatre, and continues to redefine ageing with it. “Don’t accept the rumour that the body becomes less,” she protests. “It becomes different, hopefully more.”

She acknowledges that a career as a professional dancer is short lived, with 35 years of age signalling the end. “Ageing is the last taboo,” she claims. “We will do everything we can to deny that we have turned the corner. I knew that I would have to confront and wrestle with this issue of ageing, or I would be stopped … and I am not interested in being stopped; I worked too long and too hard for that.”

Twyla rejects the notion that we should feel guilty for ageing, or try to deny it to be a full human being. “You’re just not attractive as you used to be,” she says, “I’m different from what I used to be. Age is a change, not a disease, so be curious and don’t be afraid.”

“I wrote this book to help others believe that you are constantly evolving,” she explains. “We have had the notion of stagnation laid on us by our culture.” She encourages each of us to bring our physical intelligence to bear, especially as we age, so that we are reminded constantly to be in motion.

How do we do this, you ask. Twyla says that it is optimism that she looks for in a dancer – “you can do it, and if you can’t now, you will” – and it is the same attitude that will allow us to ‘keep moving’.

Twyla recommends making a pledge rather than setting goals. “A goal is something that you can accomplish,” according to Twyla. “A pledge, however, is something that you are working constantly towards that will never be finished.” The implications of this distinction is that you will always be drawn forward into a new adventure when you have made a pledge.

You can watch Twyla’s interview by clicking here.