Protecting your emotional health in retirement is not always as straight forward as it may seem. In fact, new retirees are particularly vulnerable to depression, as leaving work for an unstructured life of leisure can diminish your confidence and sense of purpose. Often there is also a sense of disillusion when the long-held dream of retirement isn’t as exciting or fulfilling as you expected.
However, you can nurture your emotional health just as you nurture your physical wellbeing, and there are a few simple strategies you can use to remain positive and protect yourself from the impact of depression during the challenging transition into retirement.
Author of So You Think You Are Ready to Retire, Barry Lavalley says that while people are familiar with the emotional upheaval of a midlife crisis, the transition of retirement can cause just as much emotional turmoil.
“Both men and women can experience feelings of inadequacy, irrelevancy or depression that follow the decision to leave work,” says Mr LaValley.
“This is mostly dependent on how they see themselves and whether they define their value by the work they do.”
1. Communicate with loved ones
Your relationship with your friends and family – particularly your partner – will shift considerably once you retire.
This is partly due to your own shift in identity and partly due to the fact that you have a different concept of time now that work is no longer a priority. You may also feel your own conflicting emotions about your new situation, so it helps if you can talk openly and honestly with your family and friends, letting them know what you find challenging about retirement.
Remember that listening is also an important element of communication, so listen to others – especially your partner – to understand their perspective.
2. Build a network
While you were working you had a network of coworkers, and you also had a sense of purpose that gave you the motivation to work through each day. Now you need to build a new network of neighbours, travel buddies, fellow volunteers so you can remain engaged and motivated every day.
3. Create a routine
Retirement can seem like a luxury at first, waking up in the morning and knowing you have no real reason to get out of bed. But this frame of mind can actually become quite insidious quickly, as humans need a sense of purpose for our mental and emotional health. Establish a simple and flexible routine for yourself so you have a reason to get out of bed each morning and you have a few essential tasks to complete and achieve each day.
A routine will also keep you organised and focused – once you start letting simple tasks slide, your motivation will be sapped and you will struggle to show initiative for larger adventures.
4. Stay decisive!
Indecisiveness can become an insidious habit that undermines your daily routine and your overall confidence.
It can also be a sign that you are not completely happy with some of your major decisions – for example if you have decided to drive around Australia in a campervan, yet you keep stalling on decisions related to your preparation, then perhaps you are not really so committed to the road trip! Stay true to yourself and commit to a life plan you will truly find fulfilling.
Your emotional health in retirement is tied closely to your sense of purpose and personal confidence, so you need to ensure you have developed a new sense of purpose in retirement. It is natural to feel a little lost and unfocused upon retirement, but if this feeling continues to the point where you feel that you are struggling to bring some shape to your life after retirement, talk to your partner or a doctor.