Not Happy About Retirement
Not Happy About Retirement
Dear Tacit,

Last week, you gave some suggestions for moving into the retirement stage of life.  But I seem to be struggling with some depression as I make this change.  Any pointers?

Signed: Not Happy About Retirement

Dear Not Happy About Retirement,

Dealing with depression after retiring can be challenging – retirement often brings significant life changes, and it is normal to feel some depression as you work through these adjustments. Here are some strategies that may help you cope with the low energy, low motivation, sadness and/or depression that you might experience during this transitional phase:

Acknowledge your feelings: Don’t deny what the emotions you are experiencing (to yourself or to others).  Recognize that it’s normal to have mixed feelings after retiring – these might include sadness, loss, and uncertainty. Allow yourself to feel and process these emotions, without self criticism or judgment (find ways to be compassionate and kind towards yourself).

Seek support: Talk to friends and family about your feelings. (These conversations have to happen regularly – not just once).  A support system (someone who listens and validates – they may not have many answers, but they are there for you to vent to) can provide understanding, empathy, and encouragement during this period of change.  And that’s what you are needing!

Stay socially engaged: Retirement can lead to a decrease in social interactions, which may contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Stay connected with your friends; forge new relationships (join clubs or organizations); and participate in activities that interest you (you might have to explore what these could be, for a short while – that’s expected).

Set new goals: Retirement doesn’t mean your life stops.  It’s an opportunity to explore new interests and set meaningful goals. Engage in hobbies, volunteer work, or educational pursuits that can give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment. We all need to feel like our choices give our life value in some way.

Maintain a routine: For years, you have followed a “flow” (times you got up, a rhythm to when you did certain things in your day, etc) – and the retirement years are no different.  Establishing a daily routine can help provide structure and stability during this transition. Include activities you enjoy and that contribute to your healthy self care regime (for both your emotional and physical wellbeing) – like exercise, reading, spending time in nature, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, tai-chi or yoga.

Avoid excessive alcohol or substance use: Coping with depression by turning to alcohol or substances may provide temporary relief, but it can exacerbate the problem in the long run. Seek healthier coping mechanisms instead.  These might include connection with others, exercise/time in nature, healthy distractions that bring you a sense of satisfaction, etc.

Focus on gratitude: Practice gratitude by acknowledging the positive aspects of retirement and your life in general. Make an intentional effort to share your appreciation of these positives with others (especially if they are part of what you are grateful for).  Counting your blessings and focusing on what you are thankful for can help shift your perspective and improve your mood. (Research shows us that the positive boost we experience from a regular gratitude practice can have lasting effects in our brains for up to 3 months.)

Consider professional help: If your depression becomes overwhelming and starts interfering with your daily life, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. They can provide specialized guidance and support specifically tailored to your needs.

Above all else, be patient with yourself.  It takes time to adjust to a new life stage like retirement. Give yourself permission to take it one step at a time and be kind to yourself as you navigate this change.  Remember that it’s okay to ask for help and that seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness. It shows that you are facing the feelings that you are having – not trying to stuff them down/away. Taking care of your mental health is essential for overall well-being during the beginning of your retirement and beyond.

Take Care!

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