Keys to Adjusting to the Stress of Retirement

Often, retirement is referred to as the Golden Years. Retirement can be a pleasant time of life. That said, adjusting to retirement can prove to be a stressful experience for some people. In this article, we discuss adjusting to retirement and associated stress.

Reasons Why Retirement Can Be Stressful

Many of us spend years picturing a truly idyllic retirement. If thoughtful, people undertake financial planning for retirement. However, those individuals often overlook the psychological impact of retiring from the workaday world.

At the outset, escaping the daily grind and things like workplace politics or a difficult boss can be a great relief. Nonetheless, many newly minted retirees find that the novelty of being on “permanent vacation” begins to wear off after a few months. Like many retirees, you may miss the sense of identity, meaning, and purpose that came with your job, the structure it gave your days, or the social aspect of having co-workers and colleagues.

Instead of feeling free, relaxed, and fulfilled, you may find yourself bored, aimless, and isolated. You may grieve the loss of your old life and feel stressed about how you will fill your days. You may be worried about the toll that being at home all day is taking on your relationship with your spouse or partner. Some relatively new retirees experience emotional or mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

The truth is that no matter how much you have looked forward to your Golden Years and retirement, retiring from work is a significant life change that can bring stress. Some research studies link retirement to a decline in health for some people. One ongoing study found that retired people, especially those in the first year of retirement, are about 40 percent more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke than those who continue to work.

While some difficulties adjusting to retirement can be linked to how much you enjoyed your job (it’s less of a challenge to give up a job you hated), there are steps you can take to cope with the common challenges of retirement. Whether you’re already retired and struggling with the change, planning to make the transition soon, or facing a forced or early retirement, there are healthy ways to adjust to this new chapter in your life and ensure your retirement is happy, rewarding, and with a limited amount of stress.

Common Challenges of Retirement That Cause Stress

Whatever your particular circumstances, retirement changes your life. Some changes are for the better, others are unexpected, and others are difficult. The reality is that all types of retirement-related changes – good, bad, or even somewhat indifferent – can result in stress.

In addition, your outlook on life can influence how well you handle the transition from work to retirement. If you tend to have a positive, optimistic viewpoint, you’ll likely handle the change better than if you’re prone to worrying about changes in your life.

Some of the most frequently occurring challenges faced by retirees that can result in stress include:

  • Struggling to turn off the switch associated with the work mode. It can make it difficult for you to relax, especially in the early weeks or months of retirement. Stress can become persistent.
  • Feeling anxious at having more time on your hands. This can be aggravated by having less money to spend.
  • Finding it difficult to fill extra hours during the day that you now have with meaningful activity.
  • Losing your sense of identity. If you are no longer a doctor, teacher, designer, salesperson, electrician, or driver, who are you?
  • Feeling isolated without the social interaction of being around your co-workers. A feeling of social isolation represents a key reason why many individuals consider the possibility of moving to an assisted living community.
  • Experiencing a decline in how useful, important, or self-confident you feel.
  • Adjusting your routine or maintaining your independence now that you’re at home with your spouse during the day or not living at home alone all day if you are not married or partnered or if your significant other has died.
  • Some retirees even feel guilty about receiving money from a pension without directly working for it.

Managing Retirement Stress

The mere fact that you no longer work when you retire does not mean your life will be free from stress. While workplace stress can take a serious toll on your physical, emotional, and mental health, especially if you lack job satisfaction, damaging stressors also follow many people into retirement.

You may worry about managing financially on a fixed income, coping with potentially declining health, or adapting to a different relationship with your spouse now that you’re at home more often. The loss of identity, routine, and goals can also impact a recent retiree’s sense of self-worth. It can also leave you feeling rudderless. In addition, the shift from the workaday world to retirement can even lead to anxiety and depression.

Whatever challenges you may face in retirement, there are healthy ways to ease the stress and anxiety associated with retirement, better cope with change, and improve your mood, outlook, and overall well-being. These strategies include:

  • Adopt a relaxation practice. Regularly practicing a relaxation technique can be useful in reducing retirement stress. These include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, yoga, or tai chi. These practices can also help ease anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure, and improve overall well-being.
  • Get active. Physical exercise is a very effective way to boost your mood and relieve tension and stress. Regular exercise can also assist you in feeling more relaxed and positive as you age. Even with some limitations in mobility, there are ways for you to reap the benefits of regular exercise. Aim for 30 minutes of activity on most days to exercise to reduce stress and for other benefits.
  • Practice gratitude. The Mayo Clinic makes note that practicing gratitude can sound simplistic. This particularly can be the case if you are amidst a major life change like retirement. You can accomplish this by taking a moment to appreciate the small things in life, whether it’s a phone call from a friend, a moving piece of music, or the feeling of the sun on your face.
  • Spend time in nature. Spending time in green spaces and out of doors can relieve stress and deepen your sense of well-being. Try hiking, fishing, camping, or simply going for a walk.
  • Break the worry habit. Chronic worrying is a mental habit that you can learn how to break. By challenging your anxious thoughts and learning to accept uncertainty in life, you can go a long way to calm your anxious mind, look at life in a more balanced way, and reduce the time you spend worrying.

In conclusion, considering some of the strategies mentioned in this article can lower retirement-related stress. You will be able to craft a foundation for a retirement in which you experience less stress and more joy.