Don’t stay idle, continue, or perhaps develop a hobby, something that brings joy into your life and you look forward to it. We’re meant to be productive parts of society, our minds constantly seek challenges, puzzles to solve and obstacles to overcome. Retirement does not equate idleness. Find a hobby or activity that you can do independently or as a part of a team. Doing so will not only bring fulfillment and joy but would also provide a double reward, that of socializing.
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 Ekaterina Musok, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Substance Abuse Professional (SAP). Ekaterina Musok is the Founder and Lead Therapist for Freedom Counseling LLC, a Tampa Bay based private practice. Ekaterina Musok, LCSW, SAP assists individuals and families who struggle with poor communication, anxiety, depression, feelings of low self-esteem and self-doubt as well as life transitional challenges such divorce, grief and chronic illness. Ekaterina’s passion is to help her clients identify their goals, achieve their purpose and realize their true identity.
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?
Counseling is my second career. I always knew I wanted to help people but didn’t know the means of making it a reality. I was especially interested in observing individuals’ struggles, their mental blocks preventing them from choosing and changing their lives. Psychotherapy was the missing piece I needed in order to understand human behavior and why they act the way they do.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I cannot pinpoint one particular story as there have been quite a few throughout the years, however, perhaps that most amazing experience that I have had since I started my private practice is to be a firsthand witness and observe the transformation that occurs in my clients’ lives. It is truly a privilege to be able to guide and assist individuals who are trying their very best to better their lives and address problematic thoughts, behaviors or trauma that have hindered them for too long.
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?
When I first started running therapy groups, which was quite early in my career, I was terrified that I would forget a client’s name or even worse, call a client by the wrong name. Of course, this did occur once or twice, but thankfully my clients were understanding which in turn allowed us to build on that experience and continue the therapeutic process. I have learned that as long as my clients are able to discern that I’m genuine and truly care about their well-being, they are willing to overlook natural, small missteps.
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?
In my case, my husband kept motivating me to continue to push through. There were quite a few instances during Grad School when I was ready to throw in the towel and call it quits, however, he kept reminding me of my own words, dreams and goals. This was very helpful at the time as it allowed me to see the big picture, and not focus on the short-term, painful inconvenience I was experiencing at that time.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Burnout in my profession occurs quite frequently. Many individuals quit social work and/or counseling because of burnout. There are many reasons why this occurs, some of which include high case loads, low, or relatively low salaries compared to other professions requiring similar schooling, no work-life balance due to emotional distress while working with highly sensitive cases, and many others of course. Self-care is often mentioned between colleagues when we try to encourage one another to take a break and preserve our own mental health but it’s always a struggle as we tend to put clients’ needs above our own. I personally love traveling, and so I have made the very conscious decision to take a trip every few months in order to decompress and avoid burnout.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Perhaps the most important advice would be to trust their employees and not micromanage. As long as employees have been vetted and are meeting the mutually agreed upon goals, micromanagement should not be in the picture. Managers need to learn to have fun in the workplace which in turn would positively impact their employees. There is nothing worse than having an always grumpy and stressed out leader which in turn would put his/her subordinates on edge and create a toxic atmosphere.
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?
When people feel that they no longer have a purpose in life, that their skills and abilities are no longer needed or wanted, it can negative affect their mental health which in turn can affect their physical well-being. It is a known fact that depression is strongly associated with increased risk of cardiac disease as well as increased risk of death due to a heart attack. When feelings of hopelessness and helplessness begin to occur, when individuals feel cut off from their social circle, excluded of their dreaded, but familiarly known, perhaps slightly annoying cycle of daily responsibilities and feeling of belonging, their years of retirement can produce a rather negative compared to a positive experience. The famous psychologist Erik Erikson explained this period as the final, 8th stage in the human psychological development — Older Adult: integrity vs despair. This psychological development brings a deep, sometimes scary question that retirees must answer- Have they lived meaningful lives?. For those able to look back and make sense of their lifespan, of their decisions and responses to family, occupational and environmental stimuli, their overall psychological well-being would align with the “integrity stage” in Erikson’s theory. However, individuals with regrets, those who feel their lives have been unfulfilled due to poor choices, severely damaged relationships or unaccomplished goals, would experience a deep crisis more closely associated with the “despair stage” Erikson describes.
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.
• Don’t stay idle, continue, or perhaps develop a hobby, something that brings joy into your life and you look forward to it. We’re meant to be productive parts of society, our minds constantly seek challenges, puzzles to solve and obstacles to overcome. Retirement does not equate idleness. Find a hobby or activity that you can do independently or as a part of a team. Doing so will not only bring fulfillment and joy but would also provide a double reward, that of socializing.
• Continue to exercise — for some, this would be joining the local gym (I see quite of few retirees in mine!), for others it may be swimming, or it could be something simple such as going for a brief walk in the neighborhood. Research has shown that physical activity positively impacts our mental health. A 20–30 minute exercise can improve not only your physical health but also mental health.
• Remain social — there’s no need to completely cut off ties with former colleagues. Retirement is finally providing you with the time to attend events with family and friends. Take advantage of it. Find time to associate and stay in touch. Technology these days is a great tool to stay connected, however, seeing each other in-person is preferable.
• Travel — You no longer have to limit yourself with the dreaded 1 to 2 weeks vacation time that your supervisor approved after months of negotiating. Many retirees dream about this period. Take advantage and be creative. Did you wanted to move to Florida after retirement, or perhaps you wanted to take the grandchildren to the National Parks or DisneyLand? You not only have the time now but hopefully, the means to plan and execute a fantastic family vacation with your loved ones.
• Seek Counseling — if you feel that feelings of hopelessness and helplessness are becoming an anchor in your life, you are not alone. Many individuals experience a sense of loss during their retirement years, many more experience depression. You can always seek help by turning to a mental health professional. Depression is a real and serious condition that retirees may not be able to overcome even when they have tried their best. Know that help is available and is within reach.
In your experience, what are 3 or 4 things that people wish someone told them before they retired?
That people need to have a specific financial plan in place prior to retirement. Many believe that their Social Security checks or 401Ks will be able to sustain them just to be surprised later. That they may find themselves isolated especially if they live far away from family members. That medical bills can add up quickly and Medicare does not always cover the bill.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
I love reading and have many examples that I could give, but perhaps a book that really made an impression on me is “All the Light that We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr. There’s a quote that has stayed with me since I read it “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever”.
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. :-)
There are many elderly individuals who live in nursing homes throughout the country. At the same time, there are so many animals in shelters waiting for their forever homes. Perhaps, a good idea would be to coordinate an interaction between the two so they don’t feel lonely or abandoned.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Get busy living, or get busy dying” from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. We only have a limited time on this planet and it’s up to us to be the best we can be with the abilities we posses. This includes helping ourselves develop into the human beings we’re meant to be as well as help others in their time of need.
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’ve always wanted to meet Queen Elizabeth.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
My Private Practice is both on Facebook (Freedom Counseling LLC) and Instagram (@freedomcounseling).
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
About the author:
Beau Henderson, editor of Rich Retirement Letter and CEO of RichLife Advisors LLC, is a best-selling author, national tv/radio resource, and retirement coach/advisor, with over 17 years’ experience. Beau is a pioneer in the strategy based new model of holistic retirement planning. He can be followed on Facebook here or on Instagram here