“5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement”, with Carrie Mead & Beau Henderson
Be prepared to experience a sense of loss with this transition. Although this may be an exciting and much anticipated change, it is still a change and with change comes feelings of uncertainty. Know that what feels uncertain now will soon enough be your new ‘normal’.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement” I had the pleasure of interviewing Carrie Mead. Carrie Mead is a Professional Life Coach and Reiki practitioner with a Masters in Counseling. Carrie owns Curiosity Life Coaching and she works with motivated and introspective men and women to help them define, create and enact on their life’s mission. Carrie combines the action-oriented tasks of life coaching with the rejuvenating practice of Reiki to offer her clients a holistic approach to mind-body-spirit development. Connecting authentically and compassionately forms the basis of all of Carrie’s personal and professional relationships.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
My entire career has been steeped in helping others. I began as a top-level Executive Assistant in the United Kingdom. Although this may not seem like a traditional helping profession, in fact, it is. I continued in this line of work serving C-suite executives for many years before pursuing my Masters in Counseling. Upon graduating, I worked as a mental health therapist in both public and private settings until I came to this next juncture in my life as a Professional Life Coach. Life coaching melds together many of my personal and professional experiences in a meaningful way. As a coach, I assist my clients in identifying, clarifying and reaching their goals through value alignment. Coaching with a counseling background forms the foundation for the powerful work we do together. I relish the opportunity to create a safe space for personal empowerment, confidence and authenticity to flourish within the client.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I am always amazed by my clients; how they adapt in difficult situations, how they prepare for sessions, how they overcome fears and what they remember about a session. Quite often clients will say to me something like this: “This weekend I was going to abuse alcohol but then I heard your voice in my head. I recalled what we talked about and I decided to make a smarter choice.” This story has been echoed many times and I am in awe of the authentic, compassionate and empowering relationships we enter into as coaches. I once had a client say, “I thought about killing myself and I couldn’t think of anyone who would care but you. I could not do that to you.” That’s humbling and beautiful to me.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
In the beginning of my coaching and counseling career, I became fixated on having the ‘right’ materials (i.e. handouts, charts and homework assignments) for my clients. I would spend countless hours preparing materials for the clients to have. I realized that these materials were compensating for my authenticity as their coach. What people really crave, and deserve, is the coach’s full attention in the moment of the session. I learned that I did not have to ‘do’ anything or prepare the ‘perfect’ words for them, I just needed to be there with them as the witness and companion in their struggle. From this place of authenticity, candor and truthfulness wonderful things unfold.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am eternally grateful for my first boss, Phil Newby. I was hired as Phil’s executive assistant when he was managing the property department of very large UK based travel company. I had just arrived in England from America and I had no true secretarial skills. I was a temporary employee on Phil’s team in a customer service role for a few weeks when this job vacancy arose. Phil did not hesitate to hire me and give me a chance to prove myself. I recall him telling me that someone in his life had taken a chance on him and he would therefore take a chance on me. The notion of ‘paying it forward’ was planted within me at that moment and has lived within me since that moment. I worked for Phil for a while and then he encouraged me to move on and do something more meaningful with my life’s work. I heeded his advice and I am proud to say that we remain friends to this day, more than 20 years later!
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
As a professional life coach it’s important to surround yourself with other like-minded professionals with whom you can discuss clients, learn new skills and call upon for comfort after a tough session. A career-based support system defends against burnout by allowing us to rest, process and re-shape our perspectives together within the safety of professional community.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
A fantastic work culture is created when leaders are attuned to the employee’s needs, personal situations and career aspirations. A leader who knows the ‘why’ of her team members will be able to authentically connect with her employees and in turn the employees will feel valued, seen and heard. This then creates forward momentum for the greatest good of the team, company and the employee.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In some cases, retirement can reduce health, and in others it can improve health. From your point of view or experience, what are a few of the reasons that retirement can reduce one’s health?
Retirement can reduce one’s health if the retiree becomes isolated from social relationships. In my experience, social isolation is the number one difficulty that retirees face. We were created to be relational beings. We were meant to be in contact with other people but in many cases retirees become isolated when their career ends. This can happen due to poor health, difficulty with transportation or limited finances. This can also happen when the retiree no longer knows him or herself outside of their work persona. When the retiree feels isolated or confused, depression can quickly take hold. And, when depression is severe, the retiree feels hopeless, apathetic, sad and stuck. It is a terrible cycle.
Can you share with our readers 5 things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
1) Become a Mentor
Retirement is the ideal time for a person to become a mentor. Throughout the retiree’s life, he or she has gained knowledge, insight and first-hand experiences that helped them develop into the person they are now. The retiree has also overcome many challenges and made a few errors along the way. Mentoring is the ideal way for the retiree to embrace the benefits that come with age and experience such as humility, wisdom and discernment. Mentoring opportunities may exist within a place of worship, a school, a hospital or within his or her previous place of work. Consider this, when someone retires from the position he or she held for 25 years, the retiree takes all of their acquired wisdom with them. If someone inexperienced is hired to fill this role, major gaps will exist. Therefore, mentoring new employees or students within the retiree’s field of expertise is a wonderful way to give purpose to the retiree’s new life. Mentoring also sets the stage for success for the next generation of workers.
2) Realign and Redefine Life Mission and Values
Retirement is a huge transition for the retiree and his or her spouse. During this time, the retiree will benefit from, firstly, acknowledging that this change is happening and secondly, that it may not go as smoothly as hoped. Being prepared and knowing it’s ‘normal’ to feel a variety of emotions during this time will make for a milder transitional period. Working with a skilled coach or therapist can provide insight, and more importantly, help the retiree acknowledge that the future will be different than the past. Additionally, the retire may be surprised by feelings of sadness, apathy or boredom even though she or he was looking forward to this change. Because the retiree may go through a grief process in this time, a skilled coach can provide the assistance needed to gain valuable perspective throughout this change. A skilled transitions coach will also help the retiree realign their values with this new version of themselves. Throughout this process, the retiree can also develop a value aligned mission and purpose for this next stage of life. Counseling or coaching during retirement can be a great investment of time and energy with a high value return as the retiree is laying the foundation for this next stage of life.
Retirement often provides a feeling that time is abundant rather than lacking. One way to fill this void and improve mood is to volunteer for an organization that fits within your skills, values and passions. The freedom inherent in retirement means that the retiree can finally spend time doing exactly what he or she loves without the demands of a 9–5 job. I once worked with a retired gentleman who had a passion for football and for the local NFL team. In his retirement, he volunteered his time by giving tours around the local stadium. This was the perfect act of service for him; he loved the sport, the team, the city and he loved sharing his knowledge with eager school kids and tourists alike. He never suffered depression, apathy or boredom because he was constantly immersed in his volunteer work. It brought him great joy and he made many new friends along the way.
4) Keep an Active Mind
When a retiree transitions from working full-time to retirement, the lack of activity can have dire effects on cognitive function. Without the bustle and need for reading, preparing, presenting etc. the retiree can easily fall into a sedentary lifestyle which involves copious amounts of watching TV and trolling the internet. One way to sharpen his or her cognitive and mental health is to actively engage in recreational activities such as reading, completing puzzles and playing strategy-based board games like chess, Scrabble or Chinese checkers. Keeping an active mind reduces the risks of developing depressive symptoms because cognitive health is an important factor in mental health. These types of games can be played in person or online with people across the world. Either way, connecting in meaningful person-centered relationships while stretching the mind is an awesome way to stay healthy in retirement. The retiree may use a website such as Meetup to find teammates with whom to play or she or he may find local chess or Mahjong tournaments through their local senior center.
5) Engage in novel and new experiences
Another way to eliminate risk factors for developing depression and anxiety in retirement is to engage in novel activities. The process of engaging in unique activities creates new neural pathways and increases neuroplasticity within the brain. Without neuroplasticity our brains become stuck and unable to develop as they should. Retirees have access to a variety of classes and experiences through their local senior centers, community colleges, libraries, gyms and places of worship. Retirees may consider the following activities: learning to play an instrument, joining a choir, taking a photography class, improving their tennis skills or attending bus tours to new cities. I once worked with a retiree who joined a local church group on a trip to Washington DC’s National Cathedral. Although this gentleman had lived in this area his entire life, he had never been to the cathedral. He was amazed by the architecture, he made new friends and he continued to research this national treasure long after the trip was over. These types of ‘wow’ moments not only build neuroplasticity but they lift mood and encourage a curiosity about life that is important for a healthy mind.
In your experience, what are 3 or 4 things that people wish someone told them before they retired?
- Be prepared to experience a sense of loss with this transition. Although this may be an exciting and much anticipated change, it is still a change and with change comes feelings of uncertainty. Know that what feels uncertain now will soon enough be your new ‘normal’.
- It will take time to establish a new routine and way of life. Allow for this process to unfold naturally and do not rush it in order stay in your comfort zone. Personal growth happens when we leave our comfort zone. Allow whatever feelings and thoughts to arise knowing they are impermanent and non-threatening (although your mind may tell you otherwise).
- You will discover a new relationship with your spouse or life-partner. You may be spending a significant amount of time together compared to the previous decades. Although this time is often referred to as your golden years many partners have drifted apart or purposely avoided each other to circumvent conflict. In retirement, challenges in your marriage may arise that have been submerged for a long time. Seeking either individual or couples’ therapy can be extremely beneficial at this time. Through this process of rediscovery, deep loving connections can reemerge.
- It is not uncommon to enter retirement with little knowledge of who you are. You may have lost sight of your own identity outside of your profession or, most likely, you have changed quite a bit between the ages of 22 and 68! Make time to reconnect with yourself, your dreams, your passions and your life’s purpose. Allow for quite time in prayer, meditation or outdoors to get to know yourself again.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
I absolutely love the book The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. This book spoke deep truth and wisdom into me. I recommend this book for anyone going through a significant transition in life. Gary is a master at explaining the difference between our soul and our ego. As retirees enter this new age, they may be leaving behind a lot of ego-driven decision making (i.e. securing a pay raise, buying the newest sports car or sending their children to elite schools) and they may be entering a time of soulful decision making (i.e. ‘what legacy do I want to leave behind’, ‘how do I want to be remembered’, ‘what are my spiritual gifts and how do I share them’, ‘is my relationship with God in right-standing’). This book illustrated and confirmed my own intuition on this subject and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to go under the surface of everyday musings.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to see people being authentic and truthful on social media. I tire of seeing the deception of the ‘perfect life’ portrayed in my news feed every day. If people were honest with one another about the easy and difficult moments in life, everyone would benefit. According to research, most people feel worse after interacting on social media although they engage on social media with the intention of feeling better about themselves! It’s an interesting paradox. I am not opposed to social media and I do not think denial will solve the problem. I would like us to develop a new way of relating to social media in an effort to promote authenticity and compassion rather than judgment and comparison.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I live by the quote “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” This is an important mantra and reminder that keeps me focused on what is important in life and it keeps me mindful of how easily I can become distracted by the ‘small stuff’. Another version of this quote is “Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.” I am amazed by how far I have come in releasing the power of fear and distraction simply by reminding myself that most of the stressors in my life are the ‘small stuff.’ When I recognize this, it is easy to realign my behaviors and attitudes with my broader goals.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
I would love to share a conversation with Warren Buffett. Aside from his incredible business acumen, I would love to know about his personal journey toward philanthropy. It’s reported that 99% of his assets will go towards charitable endeavors throughout his life and death. That’s a tremendous and bold proclamation and I am curious about how he got there. What an incredible example of the basic principle of “love thy neighbor.”
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I would love to connect the your readers via LinkedIn @carriecmead; Instagram @curiositylifecoachingandreiki or Facebook: @curiositylifecoachingandreiki
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!