Despite the relaxing and fun images that the word “retirement” calls up - sitting on a beach, traveling with your spouse, spending one’s mornings golfing or gardening - this phase of life isn’t always what prospective retirees expect.
There are potential financial issues for one, which we’ve talked about at length on this blog and for which life settlements can sometimes be a helpful solution. But what about emotional issues? How do we go about solving those more subtle, complex problems?
One thing that can make it hard for people to deal with the emotional issues of retirement is that it’s often very hard for us to talk openly about them, even with our spouses or close friends. We might feel ashamed, or needy, or as if we’re burdening others with our problems.
Of course, this shouldn’t be the case. Just as I’d want to know if one of my family members was going through a difficult time, so would my family want to know if I was having trouble adjusting to a new situation like retirement.
The other thing that can make these issues particularly insidious is that we humans are experts at denial. We may pretend to ourselves that everything is fine, or that we’re just having a bad day, when the truth is that we’re just not happy.
The good news? A lot of the time, these emotional issues can be resolved fairly easily. Remember, however, that if you think you might be suffering from depression or another serious illness, lots of help is available - all you need to do is seek it out.
Are you having difficulty adjusting to your new retirement lifestyle? Here are 3 signs that retirement is stressing you out, and what to do about it.
- You’ve felt irritable and/or anxious for an extended period of time.
When you retire, the structure and purpose that you’ve lived with for years suddenly change. You don’t have to wake up at 7 anymore. You don’t have to work late. You don’t have to send your suits to the dry cleaners anymore.
Sometimes, this change can set off intense feelings of irritability or anxiety. When the boundaries we’re accustomed to have suddenly shifted, it can be nerve-wracking, even scary. One way to alleviate this stress is to give yourself a routine that you stick to, even if it seems arbitrary. You could even pick up a regular volunteer position at a nonprofit you care about, so that you know someone is counting on you to be at “work” at a certain time on certain days.
- You feel like you’re “not yourself” anymore.
For people who have come to identify themselves with their jobs, retirement can be a rude awakening. Suddenly, you realize that you’ve actually got a self that’s entirely separate from your career - and now you’ve got the time to figure out who that self is.
The best way to manage this admittedly huge transformation is to embrace the chance to do some soul searching. Try out new activities or hobbies, read books you’d ordinarily never picked up, try meditation or another spiritual practice. You may find that you’re more comfortable with this new version of yourself than you ever thought possible.
- You find it hard to maintain a sense of purpose.
Just as the structure you lived with for so long has suddenly changed, so too has the purpose of your days. You’re no longer heading to work, ready to tackle the problems of the day.
Nearly everyone goes through a stage of feeling purposeless shortly after retiring. Volunteering is one way to help alleviate this feeling - taking on the role of foster grandparent, for example, can be extremely meaningful. You could also consider taking on other responsibilities with family, like babysitting a grandchild or helping with the school carpool.
However, if you still feel like you’re just going through the motions after months, or you find these feelings getting worse, it may be time to talk to a professional. This could be a sign that you’re suffering from depression, a very common problem among seniors.
Retirement can be an exciting and fulfilling time of life, but it almost always includes a stressful adjustment period. Being honest with yourself about your expectations and knowing how you can alleviate these stresses can help you transition into a happy, healthy retirement.