The early morning vibe is such a cool thing in Toronto. For those of us whose circadian rhythms are such that each day begins around 6 am, the time before the morning rush is an almost sacred experience. There are walkers, wheelchair riders, and bike riders alike some dressed in exercise gear while others seem prepared for work in an office. Early risers are on the streets before major shops open, and they even begin before the hammering sounds of local construction projects.

When I opted for early semi-retirement, I entered a commercial lease arrangement in a clinical office space closer to home. Well, actually, the space was not yet a clinical space, but minor renovations and retrofits soon converted it into comfortable therapeutic offices. After more than two decades driving in excess of thirty kilometers one way per day, it just made better sense to have the option to “walk to work” on the days that I decided to hang my shingle on the door. I had for a short period also entered into a month by month rental unit in Etobicoke that served me well while I transitioned from part-time employment to semi-retirement with part-time clinical hours in my private practice.

Colleagues who had ventured into private work many years before me had advised that it takes close to five years to grow a healthy practice. I thank those colleagues for this sage advice, and affirm that practices, like gardens take time to grow and flourish. My clients include a wonderful mix of individuals and couples seeking mental health counselling and wellness services. My daily walk to and from my office allows me to integrate my own commitment to a walking-wellness strategy in a sustainable way. Society has been talking about ways for people to manage the hustle and bustle of the “concrete jungle” for years. Walking was always a viable option for people who happen to live closer to the urban core. Yet, for most, it is an impractical solution due to the rising cost of housing and types of dwelling units available in downtown neighbourhoods.

I am really enjoying my new lifestyle, even though this transition has not always been easy for me. I am relearning that productive work is possible without the constant chaos or catastrophizing associated with public sector social work where caseloads are high and the pace is hectic. In private practice, the numbers of clients seen per shift and the pace at which sessions are conducted are both really in my own control. It is lonelier by nature, but in general, private clinical work is far saner and more conducive to living a healthier lifestyle. Of course, unexpected cancellations can be problematical, but clients understand late cancellation policies and really appreciate when cancellation fees are waived.

A segment of skilled and experienced clinical social workers have always offered private options after years of services in the community. I found this option to be an excellent way to transition to retirement, as my own clinical repertoire remains relevant and helpful to many seeking quality mental health care on a private basis. Enjoying the environment perks, such as walking to work with like-minded early risers is definitely a plus and highly recommended to those individuals seeking sustainable wellness strategies at the start of each day as well. The mild weather in Toronto is really so short-lived, and as such making the most of lovely mornings is a really simple idea that yields so many health benefits.

I salute my fellow early risers by saying, “top of the morning to y’a” and have a great day!

Lisa Romano-Dwyer PhD, RSW

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