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Bad habits and the need for New Year’s resolutions

NIAGARA, Wis. — It occurred to me today that I am halfway through my fifth year of retirement; I retired on May 31, 2016, which was 28 years from the very day I had begun my career at the hospital. My hiring had been the best birthday gift I could have ever asked for, and by the time I retired, I felt the same way. So, obviously the timing was right on both ends of the spectrum.

While I was working, the nature of my job kept me on track. It required me to set a schedule, meet multiple weekly deadlines, keep appointments, and push myself to set and reach new goals every year. The biggest challenge was the sheer volume of work. Thankfully, I was a very organized person who thrived on a routine and a schedule, so I was able to meet what may have seemed like a fairly stringent set of job requirements.

The first challenge of retirement was what to do with myself in the absence of deadlines. I know it sounds crazy, but I really missed the structure of my workplace. The workload had required me to be strict with my time management and to juggle multiple balls at one time. There was no leeway to skip a task I did not enjoy and move on to one that was more satisfying — both had to be accomplished on time. I set about making a list of projects at home that I had never had time to do while I was working. My days were busy, for a while, as I cleaned cupboards, closets, drawers and file cabinets. With everything newly organized, it took my husband and I awhile to easily find things as we instinctively sought items in their “old place.” By the time I got through all of those special projects, my life had begun to settle itself into a monthly rhythm.

I have to admit that I rather enjoyed acquiring the attitude that “if it did not get done today, there was always tomorrow.” That led to some pretty unproductive days. For a while, I told myself that is OK. I am retired, after all, and isn’t that part of retirement? Lately, however, I have noticed that procrastination has begun to rear its ugly head — a trait that was never part of my vocabulary when I was working. Procrastination has ushered in boredom, which has introduced some bad eating habits. I have to admit that COVID-19 has not helped the tendency to overeat. So now I must face the fact that I have developed some unhealthy habits that, at this age especially, do not bode well for my future.

Just as I decided to set some firm New Year’s resolutions, a couple of interesting articles hit my inbox on just that very subject. It turns out that there is some psychological science behind setting those resolutions. So, I decided to share what I have learned with you just in case, like me, you have developed some less than desirable habits in this phase of life.

— Choose a very specific goal. A goal to lose weight, for example, is not specific enough. Instead, decide upon the number of pounds you need to lose in order to reach your goal weight. If the number is so large it seems overwhelming, and thus unattainable, break the weight loss into 10-pound increments. By breaking the weight loss goal into smaller blocks, you will also have multiple smaller successes along the way to reaching the ultimate goal thus helping you to feel encouraged.

— Focus on one goal at a time. Whenever we decide to change a habit — even a positive one — it requires a shift in behavior as well as a mental shift. Too many resolutions will split our focus in too many directions; pretty soon we are not accomplishing anything. Single-tasking, as opposed to multi-tasking, increases productivity. As we concentrate on, and finish, one task at a time we are more motivated to move on to the next task at hand. Also, each task gets our full attention, and we are able to complete it quicker and, in many instances, better.

— Put time into planning just what steps you will need to take to accomplish the goal you have set for yourself. Along with the steps you will take, decide why you want to make the change and ways you keep yourself on track when you are tempted to deviate from the plan. Write this plan down. This step will give you an opportunity to decide in advance what you will do when you are faced with the temptation to stray from your plan. The plan will allow you to anticipate the pitfalls and figure out the compensations for them in advance, and you will be much less likely to give up on your goal.

— Start with small steps. Taking on too much too quickly is a common reason why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. Beginning an unsustainably restrictive diet, for example, requires radically altering prior behavior and is a surefire way to derail your plans. Instead, focus on taking small, incremental steps on your way to reaching your goal. If eating healthier is your goal, focus on replacing some of your favorite less healthy foods with more nutritious choices. Personally, I have a terrible time avoiding my favorite coffee shop. If I pass it on my way to an appointment, I turn into it without even thinking. So, I am going to take a different route to my appointments from now on, and only allow myself two coffee drinks per month. Other strategies will include using a smaller dinner plate to encourage smaller portions and eating more vegetables. Eventually, I will move to a day of fasting each week.

— Avoid setting the same goal every year — especially if you have failed several times in the past. If you do choose to repeat a goal, honestly evaluate what worked in the past and what failed along with an honest evaluation of each success and failure. Once you can honestly identify the pitfalls, you can avoid them this time around.

— Remember that change is a process that takes time. The unhealthy habit you are trying to break took years to develop, so it will not be broken overnight or even in a month. In fact, it may take a conscious effort for a year or more to stay on track.

— Get support. Change is easier to make if you have someone working on it with you. Now, my husband was blessed with a metabolism of a teenager and “slim genes.” He will help me stay on track if I ask him, but I know from past experience that it is hard for him to remind me because calorie intake is not an issue for him. Find a friend with a similar challenge and tackle the problem together.

— Renew your motivation by making a list of what you have to gain by sticking to your new habit. Each time you are tempted to throw in the towel with resignation, read your list to remind yourself why you need to keep going.

— Consider keeping a Resolution Journal for those times when you falter on the way to fulfilling your goal. Jot down what made you go off track and the reasons why you are working toward your goal in the first place. Remind yourself of the benefits. Tweak your goal as needed to help yourself stay on track.

— Accept the fact that you will falter along the way because the path to reaching your goal is never a straight line free from obstacles and temptations. Forgive yourself and get back on the path to success — do not throw in the towel and relapse to your old ways. Write down what derailed you so you can watch out for it in the future.

After reading these tips, I feel better equipped to make some changes in 2021. I hope they help you as well so we can all be on the road to a healthier and happier retirement. Let’s check in next year to see how we did!

——

NURSING HOMES

The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus are not being published to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the elderly population, daily life in the senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

All living facilities have closed their doors to public visitation, and the activity calendars have been modified to allow for one-to-one room visits only and individualized activities to keep residents engaged and active as much as possible while remaining within the health and safety guidelines provided by state health experts.

Group games are being substituted with individualized activities that residents can do in their respective rooms. Staff are providing supplies as well as “overhead announcement bingo and trivia” games and “hallway games” that can be played in individual rooms or by sitting within individual room doorways.

YouTube and DVDs are being utilized to provide religious services. A big dose of gratitude and appreciation goes out to all senior care staff for their creativity, caring and perseverance through a difficult situation.

All senior centers also have been closed to any center-based activity. Until they reopen, no information is being published that talks about activities typically available at these centers. While some have reopened with limited seating, meals do continue to be delivered.

Some centers also are preparing meals to be picked up. Menus are printed below for those centers that are either preparing takeout or providing home-delivered meals. Questions can be directed to the individual centers at the numbers listed here.

SENIOR CENTERS

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

The Amasa Center is a curbside pick-up-only kitchen for now. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Spaghetti, green beans, garlic bread and lettuce salad.

Wednesday: Ham, baked potato, peas and corn relish.

Thursday: Pork roast, mashed potatoes, carrots and coleslaw.

Note: All meals served with milk, bread and butter, fruit and dessert.

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy and corn.

Tuesday: Beef stroganoff, noodles and peas.

Wednesday: Cabbage rolls.

Thursday: Barbecue ribs, baked potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk or juice and fruit.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain

906-239-0278

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Swedish meatballs, noodles and broccoli.

Tuesday: Au gratin potatoes with ham, cauliflower and dinner roll.

Wednesday: Smothered pork chops and mashed potatoes.

Thursday: Tuna salad sandwich, coleslaw and string cheese.

Friday: Cheese omelet, oatmeal and spiced peaches.

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk, juice, or no beverage.

For more information, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256

Felch Center

906-246-3559

Now open with limited seating from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and carrots.

Tuesday: Barbecue chicken, potatoes and green beans.

Wednesday: Pizza, salad, peaches.

Note: All meals served with skim milk or juice.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Sub sandwich with lettuce, tomato and onion, three-bean salad and fruit.

Tuesday: Baked fish, oven roasted potatoes, spinach and fruit.

Wednesday: Hot turkey sandwich, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and fruit.

Thursday: Crispy chicken, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, dark green salad and fruit.

Friday: Pizza casserole, dark green salad, bread sticks and fruit.

Note: All meals served with whole grain bread and butter and milk.

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980

For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week –

Monday: Chicken alfredo, noodles, green beans and garlic bread.

Tuesday: Philly casserole, carrots and roll.

Wednesday: Barbecue beef, scalloped potatoes and baked beans.

Thursday: Cheese ravioli, broccoli and breadsticks.

Norway Center

Director: Michelle DeSimone

906-563-8716

The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick-up — those picking up must call ahead and wear a mask. Menu for the week —

Monday: Baked cod, scalloped potatoes, spinach, fruit, juice and dessert.

Tuesday: Lasagna, winter blend vegetables, garlic bread, fruit, juice and dessert.

Wednesday: Chicken pot pie, mixed vegetables, biscuit, fruit, juice and dessert.

Thursday: Turkey burger on a bun, sour cream and onion potato wedges, carrots and onions, fruit, juice and dessert.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, green beans and bread.

Wednesday: Chicken noodles soup and grilled cheese sandwich.

Thursday: Meatloaf, potato wedges, carrots and bread.

All meals served with fruit and choice of skim milk or juice.

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