When Retirement is Not the Golden Years You Expected
Is retirement different than you imagined? If so, you’re not alone. Newly retired people often find themselves with time that they don’t know what to do with. As you work to redefine your life and find a new purpose, you might even be second guessing your decision to retire or even experiencing post-retirement depression. These feelings are common, and the uncertainty of a major life change can often bring unexpected feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Many people suffer from post-retirement depression. In fact, studies show that retired people are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression than those who chose to continue working (referenced Journal of Population Aging). This can be extremely frustrating, especially considering the fact that many people retire to escape the stress and obligations of working life. Not to worry though, if you’re retired and struggling to acclimate to this new lifestyle, there are some easy ways to help avoid depression in retirement.
Understand why you feel this way.
With retirement there is a sense of loss. Often retired people feel a lack of purpose. You also miss the mental and intellectual stimulation that occurs when we work. We are stimulating different parts of our brain. It is important to define your feelings and pinpoint what it is that has you feeling down so you can face it head on. This requires self-reflection. Start by writing down your thoughts and looking for patterns.
Establish a routine.
The working life is full of established routines. You got up, got ready, went to work, checked your voicemails and emails as well as attended set meetings. Pulling the structure of a routine out of your life can cause a little bit of shock and discomfort. Many retired people feel as if they “wasted” the day and have trouble accounting for their time. This sense of waste can trigger post-retirement depression. Developing a set schedule helps keep you focused and accomplished. Start with a list of daily tasks and goals then cross them off as you go.
Find a day and time for weekly tasks like grocery shopping, doing the laundry, paying the bills, or visiting the grandkids.
Redefine your purpose to avoid post-retirement depression.
Individually, you might be struggling to redefine your sense of self, your values, and your priorities. Retirement is a sudden change and prior to retirement you might not have had the time to consider the impacts it would have on you and your life. Sometimes the pressure to “enjoy” retirement makes it even harder because you can feel undue stress by not being as “happy” as you think you should be. It is okay to not be excited- I am officially giving you permission! Give yourself space to consider what’s most important for you, and use this extra time in your life to indulge in what you love.
Volunteer, pick up a hobby, or consider going back to work.
No, this doesn’t mean you should go back to a high pressure, full-time job. Consider doing something you always wanted to try without the pressure of a paycheck. Use your time to pursue your passions. This will give you a sense of purpose, stimulation mentally, and feel like you have value – all good for self-esteem!
Redefine your role.
Dynamics with those you live with are changing. Maybe you are around your spouse and family more than you’re used too, and it can be too much “togetherness.” Increase meaningful socialization with others. Branch out and meet new people who share similar interests.
Do what makes you happy.
Many find rest and relaxation boring and unfulfilling. Be active, take a class, get a pet. Do something you look forward to and not what you feel obligated to do.
Recognize Emotional factors that contribute to post-retirement depression.
Retiring may be a symbol of aging and evoke fear that you have lived your best years and now you are facing the aging process, disease and even face death. Think of the reasons you retired. Maybe you just need a new adventure to look forward to. Plan something fun as a way to reframe your situation.
Seeking the help of a counsellor that understands the emotional impact of retiring t is important. They are a neutral sounding board that can assist you in redefining your new sense of self.