Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sixty And Me: When Injury Strikes After 60, Will You Give Up or Get Going?

(Note: For more great articles and advice from Sixty and Me, go to http://sixtyandme.com.)

My knee hurts. I don’t know what I did in dance class last night, what awkward move I made to stress the darn thing, but bottom line is – it hurts.

As I tape it up before going to sleep, I grumble about it, which, of course, does no good whatsoever. I wake up in a foul mood, trudge down the stairs with a slight limp, still grousing.

But when I sit with my morning cup of tea, seeing the brightness of a new day, hearing the birds sing, I shake myself. What am I doing? I know better than to be complaining, moaning, and groaning.

I know, from umpteen studies and scientific research, that what we think has almost immediate impact on how we feel, how our bodies function. And the worst possible thing I can do, relative to my knee, is feed my body pessimistic thoughts.

How You View Your Injury Impacts How Fast You Heal

A recent study done specifically on 60-and-older individuals found that how people think about their aches and pains shows up in how quickly and well they heal – or don’t.

Those who think pessimistically tend to experience decreased mobility and greater likelihood of more disabilities. Those who think optimistically experience better mobility and a decreased likelihood of further disabilities. What you think, matters.

Ann McGowan is a stellar example of one who thinks optimistically about her aches and pains. A National Senior Games champion, who at 93 won a silver medal for the long jump and a bronze medal for shot put and discus, Ann persevered despite her back surgery and a recent mastectomy.
She sees no reason to stop doing what she has enjoyed for over 40 years. Had Ann thought that back surgery or a mastectomy were permanent obstacles or that they spelled the end of the sports road for her, she would never have gone on to win these – and many other- – medals.

But most importantly, she would have needlessly deprived herself of her passion.

How can we think optimistically about our aches and pains? Here are two easy ways:

#1: Temporary or Permanent Injury?

Let’s take my knee as an example. Is it a temporary or permanent injury? I can look at it either way.
I can say to myself, “Well, it’s not the first time I’ve done something unfortunate in class, or stumbled, or tripped, or in some other way hurt my knee. I’ve always recovered. It may take more or less time, but when I do the things I know to do – physical therapy, tape my knees, use ointments, take it easy, stretch more – my knee heals.”

Or, I can say to myself, “Well, so much for dance class. That’s over. I can’t dance with a bum knee, that’s for sure. It’s my own darn fault, trying to do things older people shouldn’t even consider.”
With that, I don’t do any of the healing things I would have if I had looked at my knee as a temporary hurt. I accept the permanence of the hurt, and with that, my body gets this message: “Don’t bother trying to heal. We’re done.”

Thinking optimistically about aches and pains is to think of them as temporary, not permanent. Just like a child who falls down and skins her knee doesn’t think of the injury as permanent. She simply gets up and keeps on going. Kids know – we know – the body heals.

#2: Bump in the Road, or the Whole Road?

I can look at my knee and think, “Well now, that was interesting. Fortunately, I have another knee, plus the rest of my body that’s doing pretty OK. Maybe I can work with my dance instructor, so we don’t stress my knee while it’s healing, put some emphasis on the other things I need to learn.”
And with that thought, I’ve categorized my knee injury as simply a bump in my dance road, not the definitive end to that particular journey.

Or, I can think, “Oh, no! I’m over 60, it’s all downhill from here. My knee is the first to go, next it’ll be a hip – or two,” and that’s it. I don’t expend any thought, effort, or energy in actually helping my knee heal, I abandon it – literally.

My body, obedient servant to my mind, responds with, “As you wish,” and sure enough, I would lose more mobility and be prone to further disabilities as the above study showed.

Don’t let your aches and pains turn into permanent misery or put a stop to whatever it is that you love doing. Think of them as temporary, a mere bump in the road, and you’ll be back on your happy way soon enough.

What kind of injuries have you experienced that took a long time to heal? What motivation techniques worked for you to get back on your feet after an injury? Have you had to readjust your life after an injury? How did that affect you? Let’s discuss the things we do to adjust when healing from an injury.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Don't Play The Comparison Game This Thanksgiving—Be Thankful For Who You Are

With Thanksgiving, our attention turns to all those people and things for which we are grateful. A wonderful tradition, indeed. However, there’s a sneaky little devil that sometimes gets in the way of our ability to truly appreciate . . . and that is, comparison.

Uh-huh. Comparing your 10-year-old dirty car to your neighbor’s sparkly clean new one. Groan. Or your not-even-remotely-in-shape body to the ripped, buff, sleek body working out on the elliptical next to yours; you’ve barely figured out how to coordinate your arms and legs. Or comparing your toddler’s wobbly steps to your sister’s same-age toddler’s zipping around the room.

Need I go on? Take inventory sometime of just how many times a day you compare yourself or your life to someone else’s self or life, and – more importantly – find yourself wanting. You may be (unpleasantly) surprised at how often you judge yourself to be defective. Not good enough. Swift enough. Smart enough. Thin enough. Rich enough. Talented enough.  Every time you ding yourself with a “less than” comparison, you hurt yourself. You send an unfortunate message to your entire being that you can’t, that you aren’t. Whatever it is, you don’t measure up. Your body and mind take that message quite literally, and with that, you make it more difficult for your body-mind to accomplish whatever it is you desire.

One of the most powerful messages you can give yourself is “I’m good enough.” Not perfect, but not deficient either. Simply good enough. Ah . . . sweet relief! Because from a position of “good enough,” you can appreciate yourself, and your life, as it is. You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else to figure out if you’re good enough, you can adopt it as your basic stance. Try it! Say “I’m good enough” to yourself often as you go about your day, and you’ll feel more confidence flow through you, which in turn, allows your body-mind to function at its current best.

If you really want to rock your world, try thinking “You’re good enough” of others as well: your wobbly toddler, your husband with his affinity for clothes that never match, your whiny neighbor. “You’re good enough” takes you out of the world of comparison and negative judgment, freeing you up to enjoy and be grateful for others as they are.

Now you can truly celebrate Thanksgiving, reveling in the “good enough” in yourself, your life, and all those around you. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sixty and Me: Why Saying “I Can” Can Make You a Winner in Your 60s

A friend and I were watching the Wimbledon finals on TV, clapping and cheering through every match. After the tournament, she leaned in to me and said, “Oh, how I wish I could play tennis. It’s such a great sport.”

“So, find a teacher and take lessons,” I said.

“Oh, I can’t.” Off my questioning look, she said simply, “I’m too old.”

“You’re 70, what’s the big deal?”

“That’s just it. I’m 70. I can’t.” She then took her now-depressed self off to the kitchen for some ice-cream therapy. I wasn’t about to let her leave it at that.

“You’re 70, not dead.”

“But my knees hurt sometimes, and I can’t move as fast as I used to. What’s the point? I’ll probably just end up hurting myself.”

“But what if you didn’t? What if you just had fun? You’ll never know unless you try.”

Age Is Not the Issue

We stop ourselves from attempting things we would love to do, or be or experience, because we believe the misconception that our age forbids it. But there’s very little that our age truly keeps us from doing.

Maybe you won’t be able to reach a professional level – or anywhere near professional level – but who cares? If you want to do it, if it puts a song in your heart, what difference does it make that your knees creak and your wrinkles have wrinkles of their own?

Where would Nell Painter be today, at 76, if she’d told herself, “I can’t” when her dream of being an artist took hold at 64? She certainly wouldn’t be displaying her paintings in galleries – and successfully selling them.

Nell didn’t let her age stop her, even when she enrolled in the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and found herself side by side with students in their late teens.

Plus, she was learning painting from scratch, mind you, because Nell’s career had been as a History Professor at Princeton University, the furthest thing from an artistic endeavor.

Transform Your “I Can’t” into “I Can”

So, how do you get there? How do you transform that pesky “I can’t” into a fruitful “I can” attitude?
For one, appreciate what you have. Be grateful for whatever physicality you possess, be grateful for whatever mental capacity you have, be grateful for the abundant resources that you can put to work for you.

Research shows that managers who appreciate their employees and express gratitude to them, experience a 50% increase in employee performance. You are the manager of yourself. Think about it.

If you express gratitude for, and appreciate whatever faculties you currently have, just like those workers, you’ll likely see a substantial increase in your performance.

What You Think, You Become

Appreciate yourself and chances are good you’ll become more capable. Think of yourself as old and incapable, and guess what? Chances are good you’ll decline, becoming ever more incapable.

My friend found a seniors’ tennis club with a tennis coach who volunteered her time to teach these tennis hopefuls the basics of the game. The coach was mindful of the members’ different physical abilities and functionality and helped them figure out how to work around their various issues.

No, there are no budding Serena Williamses in the bunch, but the members love to play and have fun together, my friend included. She’s now a very vocal advocate of the “I can” attitude.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Give Savings A Shot

Why does it seem a penny earned is a penny spent? Why is putting your money aside such a drag?

It is. But savings is something best appreciated over the long haul. If you look at your savings all the time to see how they’re coming along – you’re like the kid who pulls up his radishes every week to look at the roots. For quite a while, those roots are gonna look pretty pathetic. Instead, open a number of savings accounts – one for emergencies, one for retirement (even if you’re just 20), and one  for fun stuff. Have goals for each – take pride in meeting those goals. And every so often, spend your entire “fun” account – having fun. It’ll make your long term savings much easier to accomplish. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

A Lesson From A True Super Hero—Who's Only Four Years Old!

Photo From The Perine Family

As you think about Halloween, and whatever plans you have for yourself and/or for your family, inevitably, part of your thinking revolves around “So, who will I go as this year?” It’s fun to adopt a persona for a night or two, and express an aspect of ourselves that rarely gets trotted out into public view. You know, like Little Bo Peep (really?!) or a character from Black Panther or the Avengers. Personally, I’ve always favored Elvira Mistress of the Dark – such fun to truly not be me!

Wonder Woman and Bat Man are ever popular choices – we do so love to be the hero/heroine we dream of in our most fantastical moments. But what do you do with your hero-self? Other than prance around in a costume for a night? Usually, nothing. OK, no big deal. However, there is a hero among us who chooses to actually BE the superhero whose cape he dons – and that’s Austin, a four year old boy in Alabama.

Austin has a mission, and not one that he reserves for Halloween. Almost every day, Austin puts on his cape, and uses his allowance to buy chicken sandwiches for the homeless in Mobile. Austin goes among them with his dad close by, and distributes the food. His mission? To show love. When Austin tried to run away from home to experience an adventure, his dad decided to give Austin a different sort of adventure, and talked to him about homelessness and what it meant – which ended up in Austin wanting to see homeless people and how they lived for himself.

His dad wasn’t sure if this was a great idea, but he thought “OK,” and off they went. The result? Austin wanted to make the people he saw, happy, and asked his dad if he could give them some food. Thus a superhero who really lives up to his cape, was born.

What will you do with your Halloween persona? Will you be inspired to take on some mission, some purpose, some kindness you might otherwise not think of? If a four-year-old can be inspired to show love to strangers, in a decidedly respectful and meaningful way, why can’t we?

I may have to give up Elvira. Given my predilection for showing love by appreciating and giving praise, I’m thinking Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother might be a good choice. Although, that scary black wig sure was fun!

Photo: The Perine Family