Retirement might be something you’re looking forward to, whether you’re excited for adventure or looking forward to lots of relaxing. But are you prepared for it mentally and emotionally?
Giving up work, transforming life as you know it, changing routines, spending more time with your partner – these are all aspects that contribute to retirement being a mammoth shift in lifestyle. So how can you ensure that you have a happy retirement? And not fall into some of the emotional downsides that might be lurking around the corner?
So having been desperate to give it all up and just relax and enjoy life, boredom can be a bit of a surprise. It’s an unwanted but very common visitor. It might not strike immediately, and in fact might not strike at all. But if you’re used to living a busy working life, all the ‘spare’ time you’ve suddenly got is going to take some getting used to.
It’s important to head it off before it starts; before you find yourself delving into the cocktail cabinet at lunchtime and playing loud records all day to stave it off! Consider taking up new and engaging activities; something that you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time, perhaps?
Could you learn an instrument? Or get reacquainted with one you used to play? What about joining local walking groups, or getting to grips with that craft or painting you’ve always fancied trying.
If you’re looking to keep the grey matter engaged, and you’ve got knowledge to share, how about volunteering as a business consultant or tutor. Lots of ways to keep the brain busy.
Work is often a sociable space as well as a professional one. You build friendships there and you communicate daily – often not just in the office but as part of a social scene too. Being at home alone, or just with your better half for days on end can begin to feel lonely and isolating.
To combat this, firstly ensure you strengthen and maintain your existing friendships. Meet up with your old work friends for lunches, or at the weekend. Have them over for a barbecue. You’re also never too old to explore and nurture new friendships. Joining clubs for things you have an interest in can easily lead to new friends and a sense of community.
Feelings of isolation can lead to depression, so it’s important to ensure you engage with other people – whether that’s regular phone calls to friends and family, walking the dog and having chats in the park, or just having a mooch round the local shops. All these things – and more – will keep you feeling connected with the universe at large.
Loss of identity
Retiring from your profession can feel like losing a part of your identity. Especially if you’ve been in the same career for decades or even your whole life. It’s very normal to question, who am I?
The short answer is – whoever you want to be. You can be that person, retired. Or you can build a whole new identity by trying out some new experiences.
Focus on the parts of you that have continued to exist regardless of a profession status. You might still be a grandparent, spouse, parent, artist, or gardener… that’s all still very much a part of who you are. None of these things have changed.
Retirement is also an opportunity to find new ways to define yourself. Engaging in new hobbies and nurturing interests you’ve always had but may not have dedicated yourself to is part of the beauty of retiring. This will help you build a new sense of ‘you.’
Decline in self-confidence and self-esteem
You may feel a sense of uselessness after leaving work, as though you don’t have a purpose anymore which can lead to a drop in self-confidence. Studies have continuously shown that self-esteem and happiness is at its highest in our lives at around the age of 60. So you want to take that into your retirement!
Exercise is great for raising self-confidence. It helps release endorphins which alleviate stress and improve your overall sense of well-being.
There’s a lot to be said for ‘look good, feel good’ too. Slobbing about in comfy clothes after decades of office wear might be a relief. But don’t do it every day. Some days, look sharp, stand tall, and you’ll feel instantly better. As Elizabeth Taylor famously said, ‘Put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together’!
Nothing makes you feel better than helping other people either, so get out and do some volunteering. Whether it’s the local community garden, a charity shop, or another community project, you’ll keep busy, feel worthwhile, and meet new friends while you’re at it.
Overwhelmed with time
Not knowing how to spend your time can be overwhelming, especially when it feels it’s stretched out in front of you.
One of the ways to avoid this ahead of retiring is to consider transitioning into your retirement. You could discuss with your work about going part-time for a while before going straight into retiring.
Equally, if that isn’t possible, consider a part time job when you initially retire from your profession.
This way you’re not being flung from 100mph down to zero in one go. You can adjust to having more days off and learning how you like to fill those days.
Planning for emotions is a beneficial way to avoid feeling overwhelmed. We often plan a budget for our retirement or where we might live, for example, but it’s rare for people to plan for their mental health and their extra time.
Contemplate what hobbies you want to invest in when you get to retirement. What projects have you always wanted to do but never felt you had the time? Knowing these things ahead of retirement can stop you feeling overwhelmed and lost in all the time you have.
Finally… enjoy it!
Retiring is your time to do whatever it is that you love. Whether it’s seeing family, going travelling, spending more time on your hobby, or learning a new skill. Don’t let the emotional pitfalls of shifting to this new routine ruin the time that you’ve worked hard for. Happy days!