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Share It With Dr. Sherry

Grudgingly giving up remote work. Plus: worrying about aging alone.

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You’ve seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of Care for the Caregiver: Surviving the Emotional Roller Coaster, help the casts on the Real Housewives of Atlanta and the hit show Braxton Family Values manage the stressors of life. Now it’s your turn to engage with her about real life issues. Girl, we’re grown. Let’s talk about it. Click here to send your questions for Dr. Sherry.

Grudgingly Giving Up Remote Work

Q: “I’m a bookkeeper who has been working remotely since March 2020. Our company leadership directed all employees to return to the workplace after Labor Day. I’m stressed just thinking about it. Having a year at home during this pandemic, in my safe space, without constant interruptions and social demands, has been a real blessing, even in the midst of crisis. I don’t look forward to the endless meetings, the pettiness, the racism or the pressure to fit in and make others comfortable. I am still struggling with all the social injustices and the death of so many people from COVID. How do I deal with this?

A: Sister friend, please know that you are not alone! The idea of returning to the in-person work setting creates considerable stress and anxiety for many women. This past year has been traumatic with the number of overwhelming deaths, the repeated witnessing of social injustice on the news and social media and the overall loss of a sense of normalcy as we once knew it. If you place all of that on top of the endless meetings, the pettiness, the racism and/or the pressure to fit in and make others comfortable, it is quite understandable why you, or anyone else, would not want to leave the safety of home. Home has become a safe zone compared to what one may face in the work setting. However, for most women, the reality is that they need their job. Or, as some would say, they need their “coins.”

If you must return to an in-person setting, start preparing mentally now! Decide what you can and cannot control. Unfortunately, the workplace reflects society with the same issues. You may not be able to avoid or control many of the issues on your job, but you can control your response. Remember, you are returning to work to do a job, not to debate societal problems or to become Ms. Congeniality. Be cordial and professional without getting caught up in what others think about you. Become and/or stay emotionally grounded by establishing a self-care routine to reduce stress and anxiety. Self-care may look different for everyone but may include taking walks, meditating, praying, exercising or having a “do-nothing” day. While the idea of returning to the office may sound unappealing, the good thing is that you will be able to return home at the end of your workday!  

Worried About Aging Alone

Q: “I’m 62, and I’m planning to retire from my job as a radiology technician. The nurses, physician assistants and others at the medical imaging complex where I work are like family. But when I leave for the day, it’s just me. I’m divorced, and my son is deployed overseas with his family. Both my sisters, who are married, are out of state. I’m anxious about aging alone. When geriatric patients come in, often with a spouse, I watch and wonder, Who will care for me if I get ill? How do I deal with what’s next?

A: The fear of growing old alone has become one of the top sources of anxiety for women over 60! Like yourself, many women’s fear is not related to needing someone to care for them financially, but physically and/or emotionally. You have family that may be willing to be there if you need them. Many women are not married, never had children and/or have no family members. They, too, are independent and have significant anxiety about aging alone. For them, idealized images of aging while surrounded by a spouse, children, grandchildren and other loved ones is only a storybook! The reality is your loved ones may not be there in the way you want or need them. Adjusting your expectations and preparing for the possibility that the aging process may look different than you had hoped can reduce your anxiety.

Not having a spouse or family members around does not mean you will be alone as you age. You have the power to establish what your aging process looks like by being proactive now. Create and utilize support systems such as friends, church or community/social organizations. It is important to develop friendships where you can trust others enough to ask for help and share your fears, concerns and needs. Relationships take time to cultivate and should be mutually beneficial. Once established, you may be surprised how much you have in common.

Another important thing for you to do now is get your affairs in order! Do you have a living will? Power of attorney? Having these in place ensures that your personal wishes and desires are carried out. These are some things that you can do now while you are well and/or can make your own decisions. Aging is a privilege not granted to everyone … do so wisely!

Click here to send your questions for Dr. Sherry.