Managing Retirement Stress

Perhaps you read the title of this piece and thought “I need to read this.” Or maybe you scratched your head and said out loud “What? Retirement is supposed to be stress free!”

As much as we’d all like stress to be an experience we can leave behind in our hectic, working life, it’s not that simple. A surprising 56% of folks literally lose sleep because they are stressed out just thinking about retirement.

Here’s a little more sobering news:

When measured in terms of 43 stress-inducing life events, retirement ranks number 10! Research indicates that is more stress than the changed health of a family member or one’s personal financial situation. But why? Often because it’s not just about exiting the workplace. It’s about the many concurrent changes that accompany doing so. Things like creating a new daily routine, struggling with a post-work identity, missing the social life and connections built in the workplace, a frightening health diagnosis, or even a late in life divorce from a long-time spouse.

Social worker Robert Laura who counsels retirees explains that, “Many of these things are difficult to deal with. But it’s also why we should be teaching people about resilience and positive psychology instead of just asset allocation and stock market returns.”

I couldn’t agree more. Please read on.

Manage Your Retirement Stress

If you are experiencing retirement stress, the first thing you can do for yourself is to accept that this stress is normal.

I know, if you buy into what all of the ads suggest, you may think there is something “wrong” with you.  There isn’t, so please let that go! Then reach for tactics you can put into place every day that will help to relieve your stress so that you can enjoy your retirement:

  • Ask “What do I want this stage in my life to be about?”

Listen to “what comes up” for you and focus on the feelings and experiences you want to have instead of the “things.”

  • Tap into the expertise you need

This is no time to be a lone ranger. Engage or reengage with a financial planner, your health care provider and others who can help you get foundational matters in shape.

  • Allow yourself time to adapt

Retirement is a big change in every respect. Respect that and give yourself the latitude to experiment with new habits and routines. You will learn about yourself in the process.

  • Try new things

Being retired is a new experience. Dip your toe in the water and do something different. Or do as one of my friends did – she picked up a long-abandoned interest with great gusto. For her it was playing the banjo!

  • Embrace the great outdoors

You’ve heard it before because it is true: you’ll get an immediate mood boost when you spend time in natural surroundings.

  • Get moving!

Same here: exercise of any kind has a positive impact on your sense of well-being as well as your physical health. Remember those experts I mentioned? Your health plan likely includes FREE access to gyms and other resources. Take the first step and see where it leads…

  • Make some plans

Staring at a blank calendar or one strewn with doctor appointments can make anyone’s stress soar! Be sure to intentionally add coffee dates, museum visits, golf outings, or whatever floats your boat.

Most of all, remind yourself that you can manage retirement stress, especially if you keep in mind that retirement is a work in progress that takes time to perfect!


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