My area of expertise is loss (although my practice is by no means limited to this). When we think of loss we tend to think of the death of a loved one, but loss can occur in many aspects of our life. This week I’m going to focus on retirement.
Retirement is a time when most of us will dream of reaching. Not having to set the alarm, escaping from the stresses of work and office politics etc. For others they might secretly dread it, and retirement might even have been forced on them.
For many people, their career forms part of their identity. When you go to work every day you know what your responsibilities are and how you contribute to the whole. After retiring, some people struggle to figure out their new purpose because their sense of self has mostly be formed from their occupation.
If you’re like most people you have some sort of daily work routine. You probably wake up at the same time for work, drive the same route to and from the office, and say hello to the same people every day. Getting used to a new life at home can be difficult, even while you’re simultaneously thrilled to spend more time at home.
Going to work means you see the same people each and every day. You build relationships with everyone you work with even if you aren’t close friends. You might even miss seeing the barista where you get your morning coffee or the receptionist who always greets you with a smile. You might not interact with as many people during your day-to-day activities after retirement and that can be tough for some people to adjust to. On the other hand you might have worked alone, so it might be tough to get used to interacting with more people after you retire.
Some retirees feel bored because they aren’t using their brains in the same way they did at work. Conversely they might feel more tired because they are using their minds in different ways.
If you sat behind a desk for years you might be thrilled to retire and have more free time to golf or go for walks. If you worked a physically demanding job, such as construction, you might be excited to sit around reading books and relax while fishing. Whether you are more dormant or more active it’s a change in a familiar pattern of behaviour.
Changes in your financial status can be difficult also. Whether you have more or less money after retiring you have to learn to live within different means.
One, many or all of these adjustments can lead to people struggling to cope, and suffering symptoms of grief, with a whole range of mixed emotions.
So what can help?
First, give yourself some time
Understand that this will be a process. Your transition into retirement won't happen overnight, and your emotions may shift from one day to the next.
Create a routine
Without creating a hectic schedule, have something to do each day while you become accustomed to less demands on your time. Make a ritual of your daily activities such as going to a café for your morning coffee, and ensure you leave the house each day even if it is only for a loaf of bread.
Talk about it
Sit down and talk about the challenges that retirement might be throwing at you. Be open about how you are feeling – don’t assume the other knows. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved.
Numerous studies have shown that friendship, even if it's just with one confidant reduces stress. Make it a point to connect regularly with friends, and join groups or take classes in subjects you're interested in, which will lead to new friends. Men may especially find this helpful since they tend to form alliances based on shared interests and activities rather than relationships.
Not only will getting active increase mood-boosting, stress-relieving chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin, it'll also increase your overall health and help ward off illnesses. You don't have to run a marathon, just a brisk walk will do!
Write down a list of things you want to do and things you have always wanted to do, or only just thought you'd like to do and then identify ways you can achieve those goals.
Not only will you be keeping active, but studies have also suggested that volunteering increases self-confidence, combats depression and decreases anxiety. Visit www.gavowales.org.uk/volunteering to find out what volunteering opportunities are available in your area.
Consider speaking to your GP or contact me for counselling.