The beauty about retiring early, at last we have time to look after ourselves. It sounds good in theory, but does this actually translate into practice?
A couple of things encouraged me to write this post:
Least important was my March 2021 early retirement costs and targets post, when I realised that I've had a foot injury for a year and done nothing about it. That's crazy, to have a problem for a year and not take care of it is pretty stupid. What if it was something more sinister, perhaps a lump that could be cancerous, would I have similarly ignored it? I hope the answer is that I wouldn't.
Something far more important came from a YouTube vanlife channel I follow. Their friend, and fellow vanlife YouTuber, recently took her own life. I didn't know her, yet it had quite an effect on me. What appeared to be a wonderful life from the outside masked a mental struggle beneath. How many other people are similarly struggling? It's tremendously sad and should remind us to not only make time to look after ourselves, but to check up on others too. Also to remember that not all injury and illness is physical or visible, mental health is equally important and probably harder to identify and comprehend.
When I worked, my employer paid for me to have regular medical assessments. I recall saying to Sally that we should continue this in early retirement, even though we'd have to pay for it ourselves. The likelihood is that as we age, we're more at risk, for example, to certain cancers. Have we had a medical since? No, we haven't. Heck, I haven't even been to the dentist in over 4 years. If a health issue is developing, it's better to find out and get treatment earlier. It seems I'm failing to take the time and to spend the money to look after myself as well as I could and should.
As to Coronavirus, I've been cautious and followed the lockdown, distancing and mask wearing rules. So far, so good, I hope I'm not tempting fate. But like everyone else, my life has been on hold - 14 months (and still counting) where I've not been able to do the things I want. I'm 51 now, and worry about how many truly active years I have, perhaps another 10 or a few more? 14 plus months is a sizeable chunk to see disappear, and that scares me. While I can't stop the march of time, I can make time to take care of myself to extend my active years as long as possible - that is within my control.
One of the things I love about early retirement is having time to do the things I want, while I'm still young(ish), fit and healthy. So long as I focus on:
not falling into the trap of watching other people doing things instead of doing them myself. If I have an idea, I need to make myself do it.
keeping myself fit and healthy to a). be able to do these things, and b). be able to do them for as long as possible.
Diet is an important part of the equation. I believe my vegan diet works well, helping me eat a diet that's high in fresh produce and low in unhealthy fats, pre-packaged and processed foods. Sugar is my nemesis, mostly in chocolate, I hate how addictive it is. At least no alcohol means no headaches, I like that!
I keep fit, mainly running, but also cycling and skiing (if you're interested, you can see my exercise posts here). Being a runner is a double edged sword though, it's agonising to know that as each year passes I'll likely get slower - will I ever get another personal best time? That's a tough dose of reality to swallow! While I can't stop time, I can allocate time to look after myself and give myself the best chance to delay the slowdown, so that I can enjoy my hard earned early retirement life to the fullest.
The truth is that making the time to look after ourselves is super important. That means paying attention to our diet, our fitness and health. In fact, this isn't only an early retirement thing, it applies just as much in normal age retirement or still in our working years - being busy at work mustn't be an excuse. When I think about the knock on effects of not maintaining our health and fitness, there's probably little else that's more important.