Intention – Setting an intention for your day helps you to feel like you’re getting things done and that you have a purpose. Many people feel as though they lose purpose when they lose their work title, so ensuring that you’re working towards your own purpose daily helps ward off those negative feelings — even if your intention for the day is to allow yourself to relax and watch TV without leaving the house! Just don’t make that your intention too many days in a row and make sure to do some squats during commercials for movement.
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 Lindsey Paoli. Lindsey Paoli is a Marriage and Family Therapist completing her post-graduate licensing internship in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is married and has a 6-month-old son and 18-month-old daughter. She owns a private wellness-focused therapy practice where her focus is helping people navigate relationships and life transitions with the understanding that physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand.
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?
Growing up, I had always wanted to be a psychiatrist. I was constantly reading and was especially interested in what I’d look back on now as really dark, deep books about the complications of the human experience that were probably not appropriate for my age. I was obsessed with “Silence of the Lambs” and was fascinated by Clarice Starling’s ability to understand and read people and navigate human behavior; I knew I wanted to be able to understand people in that same way.
My youngest brother started exhibiting behavioral problems when he was about 4. He was kicked out of preschool and then sent to doctors and therapists and that began a long and stressful time for my family as he was put on one prescription after the other and was constantly under evaluation and seen as a problem kid in schools and at home. He was miserable, my family was miserable, and I started losing faith in the same profession that I’d so admired. I started seeing psychiatrists as hacks and pill pushers who didn’t actually care to put the time in understanding the root problem, but instead wanted to be quick fixers.
In my freshman year of college, my brother was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at the age of 12. The diagnosable age for most disorders in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual — 5 is eighteen, but during the nineties, earlier diagnosis and medication of Bipolar Disorder was being experimented with. We were told that he’d have to start yet another process for identifying the right medication. For him, this involved an inpatient hospitalization as he was healthily dosed off of all current medications (for his previous diagnosis of ADHD) and then monitored as new ones were introduced. We were also told he would need to be medicated the rest of his life in order to be stable, which still stands true with Bipolar Disorder. I was so fed up with what was a really painful reality for my family, and I felt like there were underlying issues that needed to be discussed rather than simply have a medication be considered a fix-all. I changed my major from psychology to sociology, then nursing, and then Hotel Management just as a means to hurry up and graduate and be done with following a dream in an industry I’d lost all hope in.
In the meantime, I had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety myself at the age of 18 and was really struggling. I refused the antidepressants I was prescribed and therapists I had been recommended to see because of my experience and a lot of misinformation surrounding my brother’s circumstances. Naturally, when anxiety and depression aren’t treated they tend to escalate in severity, and by the time I was thirty mine were overwhelming and affecting nearly every aspect of my life. I was in an unhealthy relationship (they all were, and one had already led me to divorce) and we had decided to try couples’ therapy. We didn’t make it past the first session as a couple but something about the therapist made me ask to stay and keep seeing her on my own.
Going and learning more about myself and my unhealthy coping strategies suddenly started changing everything — like coming out of a dark fog. And like magic, GOOD things started replacing the bad. Almost immediately, I met the man of my dreams, and he encouraged me to quit my thriving job in Hotel Management on the Strip because I hated it, and encouraged me to find a job that actually made me happy. I decided to go back to school and get my Masters to become a Marriage and Family Therapist to help other individuals and families who may misunderstand or mistrust the mental health industry like I did for so long. I want to help overcome the same stigma that I faced, because I know that had I gone to a therapist instead of fighting when I was diagnosed, I would have prevented so much suffering over the next 12 years.
I work to find ways to incorporate healthy thinking into a healthy lifestyle — because at the end of the day THAT is, I think the best way to understand the complications of the human condition. I’m by no means anti-medication but I don’t think a magic pill can be the only solution without the incorporation of empathy and all-around healthy choices. (BTW, my brother is now almost 30 and is being treated by a new psychiatrist who doesn’t believe he has Bipolar Disorder at all; they are starting over with an entirely new treatment plan that I have a lot of hope in.)
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Haha honestly, I am still new in my field, so my own journey is probably the most interesting. But I’m definitely working on new and exciting stories with several clients — especially couples.
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?
During my student internship I had hit a wall with one of the first clients I’d ever started seeing. I began dreading seeing him because I didn’t know which direction to take him in and I felt like the session was going to be a dud. I was nine months pregnant and got so nervous and anxious driving to my office that I set myself into false labor. The contractions stopped as I calmed down on my way to the hospital — I was less nervous about having my first baby than having an uncomfortable session with this client! I have since learned that my energy carries the session, so it is important for me to prepare myself mentally to be as calm and welcoming as possible. But also, it is the client’s responsibility to do the work, so if we hit a wall I’ve learned to explore what is stopping the client from moving forward rather than blaming myself.
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?
Meeting my husband changed the trajectory of my life. I don’t know why I felt like I needed someone’s permission to switch careers, it was something I’d been toying around with for a couple of years but somehow knew I’d never get around to actually doing. And having him tell me to take the time to redirect my life towards something I was passionate about — despite already being good at what I was doing — made me have to rethink everything I was already telling myself about my own worth. That’s why, now, it’s such an important mission for me to help others through those big, scary life transitions.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Burnout is a huge and well-known issue in my field as a mental health professional, so a large part of my schooling and training was centered around learning to anticipate that it’s not a matter of if burnout will happen, but when. Learning healthy boundaries is an absolute must as a therapist, and the irony is that we teach it every day yet many of us are so driven to help as many as we can that we tend to struggle with it still on our own.
I entered into Private Practice to have complete control over the amount of time I would dedicate to clients, knowing I wanted to have a family and be able to prioritize time with my children. I currently only work 3 days and I have a very strict phone, email, and social media policy with my clients to ensure that my time in the office is for work and my time out of it is for whatever else I need to accomplish. It is just as important for me to uphold those strict time standards for my sanity and for my family’s well being as it is to model healthy and reasonable boundaries to clients who struggle with it themselves.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
All of my best experiences in working for others came from atmospheres that truly fostered a diverse and collaborative culture. Being a good leader comes just as much from your ability to influence as it does in being able to learn and grow from those around you, perhaps under you, and especially those who are unlike you.
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?
I think it is so important to recognize that though retirement can be an exciting time, the drastic change can be incredibly overwhelming and stressful. Although we work our entire lives looking forward to retirement, actually reaching that goal sometimes is not as satisfying as some may plan for.
Our roles in the workplace often provide a large part of our identity for decades. Once that occupation is no longer there to help others understand who we are by “what we do”, some struggle to rediscover or create new identity and meaning. Additionally, while it can be exciting to not be required to get up and go to work every day, it can be difficult to have too much freedom and flexibility, realizing for the first time that the responsibilities of your day to day are solely up to you. And finally, retirement can become an unwelcome reminder that a whole phase of the life cycle has been completed, bringing us that much closer to the inevitable. Reaching retirement is by no means any indication of the length or quality of life to follow, but for many it can still stir up difficult feelings associated with being confronted with the realities of our temporary existence.
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.
In my practice, I specialize in helping clients to navigate life’s biggest and most challenging transitions, and retirement certainly falls into that category! I think it is so important to keep our mental health in the forefront of planning for large life changes, because when we don’t we are more likely to experience unravel.
I use the acronym MIND to teach my clients to prioritize their mental health regularly: Movement, Intention, Nourishment, and Deep connections.
Movement — Our mind is linked to our physical health and our physical health is linked to our minds. Ten to twenty minutes of regular exercise daily helps your body and brain to function the way they were intended and ensures daily release of feel good hormones. It’s even better if you can complete your movement outdoors!
Intention- Setting an intention for your day helps you to feel like you’re getting things done and that you have a purpose. Many people feel as though they lose purpose when they lose their work title, so ensuring that you’re working towards your own purpose daily helps ward off those negative feelings — even if your intention for the day is to allow yourself to relax and watch TV without leaving the house! Just don’t make that your intention too many days in a row and make sure to do some squats during commercials for movement.
Nourishment — Yes, what you eat has a massive impact on both your body and your mind — so don’t use retirement as an opportunity to give up your healthy eating. You’ll regret it about a week in because you’ll feel so sluggish! But more importantly, now that you are solely on your own time, how can you ensure that your days and weeks are still being filled working towards goals and opportunities to feed your own desires? Take this opportunity to feed your soul with trips you’ve wanted to take, or extra time with family that you felt you lacked, or signing up to learn new hobbies that you’ve always wanted to try.
Deep Connections — You may be looking forward to no longer having to see some of the idiots you despise in the office, but make sure you don’t take cherishing your alone time too far. We are tribal creatures inherently, and we are wired for connection and community. Be sure that you are spending quality time with people you love or finding new people to create fulfilling relationships with.
And finally, in order to optimize the MIND Method, be sure that you are functioning on a routine of some sort. Have a set wake up time (that might be way later than you were required when working), create weekly appointments, and ensure that you are achieving each of the MIND steps on a daily basis. No longer being forced into routine may sound like fun, but as humans we function better by creating regular healthy habits. In fact, our brain so frequently works to create shortcuts for us, that without a regular routine to benefit your health your brain can create a habitual path towards negative thinking and worthlessness if you lounge around the house too long.
In your experience, what are 3 or 4 things that people wish someone told them before they retired?
1. Be fully prepared financially. Prepare with a financial planner and make necessary changes to your lifestyle before taking the official leap so you can tweak the necessary edits and know what will work for you long term and what will not.
2. Be sure you have a plan for what to do with your time. Time off is great in the short term, but it can be daunting after the initial fun wears out.
3. This applies to any life change, but do NOT ever do it “just because it’s time” or because you feel it is the expectation. Make sure YOU are ready. If you still enjoy work and know you have a few years left in you, stick around and live out your best work life! And yes, those people DO exist.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
YES! The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It talks about how efficient our brain is in creating shortcuts for us and how that is a power that can be hacked to work for us or, if left untapped, can work against us. It is a book that has nothing to do with therapy per se, but explains in easy to understand terms how quickly a negative mindset for example could potentially lead to things like depression or anxiety. It’s a helpful reference for me to explain to clients how Positive Psychology or Cognitive Behavior Therapy work without having to get too technical.
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’m already working very hard to help people better understand the benefits of therapy and create education and approachability to understand a lot of misconceptions and stigma surrounding the idea of going to therapy. The movement of acknowledging mental health struggles is becoming more and more acceptable, and is in fact almost becoming normalized in society. Yet, so few people are talking about the next step — and that is to help create tools to overcome the epidemic of anxiety, depression and addiction we are currently facing. Although it is true that most people will struggle with mental health at some point in their life, it does not HAVE to be the case. Going to therapy as you begin to notice troubles in yourself or your relationships can be a preventative measure to help prepare you with appropriate techniques to cope with difficulties that only get worse with time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Nothing changes if nothing changes.” It is not only one of my favorite quotes to remind clients who are hesitant to make positive steps forward, but one that I like to remind myself of constantly. Although change is often uncomfortable, it is absolutely necessary for growth. It can become easy to sit in the comfort of consistency, but especially when the consistent day to day is no longer serving us, we sometimes need to push through the discomfort of making one step at a time in a new direction.
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 😊
Wow, that’s tough. But right now, I’d say Brene Brown. Not only did her talk on Vulnerability change the trajectory of my own therapy when I was struggling with perfectionism but she inspired me to want to join the field and continue spreading big bold messages about understanding our own self- worth. (In my case, accepting that therapy can help you to be your best self). She has gone from a researcher and social worker (both not fun or openly talked about areas) and made her work broadly understood and accepted by millions and that’s absolutely something I both admire and aspire to.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I am most active on Instagram @lindsey_paoli or you can find me on Facebook under my private practice’s name @fundamentalhealthlv .
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!