Retirement Blues: how to cope with the changes when you stop working

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For many people, the highlight of their working life might well be the day they retire. It certainly seems to be the pinnacle most people work towards. Financial plans are keyed around this momentous date. Years are counted down, then months – and emotions see-saw between trepidation and excitement. Once you retire you will be free to do as you please. It will be like a long holiday and you will be very happy. Except…

The novelty tends to wear off after about three to six months. There are days when you might be bored, and certainly days when you will miss the busyness of the office and the company of your colleagues. Not to mention the affirmation of identity that position and contribution can bring. You might slip into anxiety, loneliness, and unhealthy coping strategies such as eating too much, or finding comfort in alcohol.

However, there are many ways to cope with retirement, and to even make it a most enjoyable stretch of your life. Always be aware that remaining active and involved is key to overcoming any feelings of uselessness and depression. Hints and tips abound, but it is vital that you begin to take the steps to happiness right from the start.

Ways to beat the blues in retirement

Recognise and manage the emotions associated with the change

Accept that you are going to have certain emotions that need to be managed. This doesn’t mean they must be ignored or suppressed. You will find that all these feelings will be transitory. Talk about your feelings, consider advice, write a journal, refocus your energy on the positive aspects of your retirement and on things you can control. Re-purpose your worktime strategies to fit your new lifestyle.

Embrace change

Change brings new experiences and new challenges. Respond to this with positiveness and intention. Accepting change helps you to transition without resentment or feelings of helplessness. Retirement is just a new part of your journey through life, and you now have a range of opportunities that you can explore. Being open to change requires an open mind, confidence, and a whole new vision of the future.

Give yourself time to think things through

The great thing about retirement is that you have time to think about things. You are perfectly entitled to take your time regarding decisions about moving forward. Will you develop any well-loved hobbies? Will you learn to do something new – like cooking or enjoying a daily swim? Will you take up art? After years in the workplace, you finally have time to experiment with what you really want. You can try out new ideas, find new friends, take an educational course in a subject that interests you. This is an exciting time to find new purpose and the right balance of activities that will bring that purpose to fruition.

Set small goals in achievable time

Setting goals is vitally important, but don’t try and do too many things at once. This can be disheartening. Working on goals can give you a sense of purpose, but you must be able to attain what you aspire to – and the best way to do that, is to ration yourself, so that progress is seen and celebrated. Successful accomplishment will give you a sense of achievement – and nothing is more motivating than that. Set a structure to your day for working on your goals. This way you will make consistent progress which will determine your ultimate success.

Strengthen friendships and social connections

Consider how you will stay socially connected once you leave work. Often our strongest attachments are through our working days. Staying socially connected with colleagues can have a huge impact on your mental health and happiness. But we are never too old to make new friendships – join a club, or more than one, and also be active in getting people together for various events. Make sure birthdays, anniversaries, etc, are always celebrated. Keep interested in other people’s lives.

Find a part-time job

This is one of the best ways to relieve the retirement blues. You might work from home or actually commute to a place of work where you may work shorter hours than a full-time job. You could even start your own business – an activity that is sure to keep you focused and busy. As well as providing purpose, part-time employment can also supplement your income, and keep you socially engaged without the draining demands of full-time work.

Voluntary work can be both satisfying and truly effective in making one feel that contribution has been made to a worthy cause, adding meaning and a sense of accomplishment.

Learn something new

Keeping your brain active and constantly challenged is crucially important. Whether you want to learn to play a musical instrument, speak a second language, or complete a degree – you will find that adult education classes are a great way to expand your mind, develop new interests, and set fresh goals for yourself. Learn a new skill, play new games, puzzles, or sports. The more active you keep your brain, the better you’ll protect yourself from cognitive decline or memory problems.

Look after your health

Get enough sleep. This is key to good health. Lack of sleep can exacerbate stress and anxiety. Along with this, comes the importance of eating a balanced, nutritious diet as you age. Good food in good company is a salve to most forms of depression or loneliness! Make it an entrenched part of your retirement programme.


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