From the Archives: Fall 2006 Issue of Lupus Now Magazine
Pay Back: Leaving Work Because of Lupus Need Not Mean Empty Days
by Emily Wojcik
For most of us, giving up our 9 to 5 routine might sound like a gift: Who wouldn't like more free time? When complications from lupus force you to stop working, however, time can feel more like a punishment than a reward. In addition to lost wages, early "retirees" may feel lost without the structured socializing of the workplace. This often leads to depression and boredom, according to MetLife's recent Civic Ventures Survey. Coping with health problems can make these issues even worse.
Fortunately, leaving a job doesn't have to mean dropping out of life. Here are some ways to avoid the early-retirement blues -- without overtaxing your body.
Volunteering is a great way to structure your days and maintain social connections-and there's an opportunity for every interest. Love pets? Animal shelters often need volunteers to walk dogs, play with cats, and work in the reception area. Check your telephone directory for the local animal shelter or humane society or contact the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) at www.aspca.org for a list of shelters across the country, or call 212-876-7700.
If you're more of a people person, try area elementary schools for tutoring or reading programs, or call an area nursing home-they often welcome volunteers to spend time with elderly residents. And don't forget your local Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) chapter, where you can surely lend a hand. Contact the national office at lupus.org or call 202-349-1155 for a directory of all chapters.
Most organizations require a commitment of a few hours per month, so if your symptoms are too severe for extended activity consider "virtual volunteering." If you have a computer, you can provide online aid to those in need. Consider becoming an E-mentor with the nonprofit organization www.Icouldbe.org, which links underserved teens to mentors who provide career advice and educational help. The United Nations Online Volunteering Service (www.onlinevolunteering.org) will also link you to organizations that aid developing countries.
And don't forget your telephone! Eldercare Locator (www.eldercare.gov or 1-800-677-1116) has a list of agencies on aging that need volunteers to make "reassurance" calls to persons who are homebound or elderly.
Learn Something New
Free time also offers a great opportunity to expand your horizons. Try that gentle yoga class you've been eyeing, join a local book club, or take up a new hobby. Many colleges and universities offer continuing education classes for reduced fees on subjects ranging from cooking and photography to massage therapy and auto mechanics. Stretch your creative side even more by learning to play a musical instrument-most instructors will come to your home. Or share your experiences on a "blog." These online journals are the perfect place to post your feelings about anything, from your favorite sports team to the frustrations of a bad flare. To get started, go to www.blogster.com or www.blogger.com for easy, step-by-step instructions.
Don't forget why you stopped working in the first place: to take care of yourself. Pay attention to the things that are most important to you. Just because you've said goodbye to a job doesn't mean forgetting the friends you made there: Set up a monthly lunch date with your old work buddies. Get back in touch with family-try designating an hour every few days for a little one-on-one phone time.
Your days are only as fulfilling as you make them. By paying attention to your emotional, physical, and intellectual needs you can ensure that your early retirement is not an ending, but rife with unexpected opportunities.
Find more places to volunteer at VolunteerMatch, www.volunteermatch.org or 415-241-6868.
Go back to school without leaving home by finding online courses and degree programs at www.worldwidelearn.com. (This site only provides links to classes and programs, it does not offer the courses.)