In the United States, according to the Social Security Administration, the age of full retirement is around 67 years old. This said, there are no rules that state that you have to retire at 67 or you cannot retire before 67. In fact, you can retire as early as 62 years of age and still receive Social Security retirement — however, your benefits will be lower than if you wait for your “full retirement” age.
Whether you have already retired or you are thinking about retiring soon, you may be wondering how you can cope with the dramatic shift that comes with it. Think about it, we spend so much of our lives working and only having time to ourselves during the evening and on weekends. And some of us get even less time than that if we are working multiple jobs or very taxing jobs that come with long hours.
So, what are you going to do with all of your newfound time in retirement? While some people may look at this question as the beginning of an exciting time where they can finally delve into the hobbies that they have always wanted to try, others find it terrifying. After all, they’ve spent so long not having enough time for themselves they may even feel like they don’t even know what they want to do. This is one of the largest challenges that come with retirement — more on these challenges later — and for many people, even thinking about this can bring a lot of stress and anxiety into their lives.
Today, we’re going to dive into what impacts retirement has on our mental health, as well as how to cope with feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression in retirement.
How Does Retirement Impact Our Mental Health?
Every person is going to experience retirement (and the transition from working to being retired) differently. This is natural as we all experience the world around us very differently. However, one thing that is very common for people of all ages, backgrounds, and life experiences is retirement depression or anxiety.
This is a common occurrence because retirement is a large change for us. So much of our lives are spent working or in school that figuring out what to do with all of the time we have in retirement can be extremely stressful for a lot of people. This dramatic shift can cause us to become anxious, depressed, or simply stressed out and can make it challenging to have a fun and relaxing retirement.
Another thing to keep in mind is that because most of us spend so much of our time in professional settings, it can be hard to find areas to socialize or interact with others after retirement. We may no longer see people from our offices, have no reason to go out and work at the local coffee shop for the day, or even lose contact with family and friends who are still working and do not have the time to go out and socialize. This lack of social interaction can bring up feelings of loneliness and isolation which can, in turn, lead to depression.
What Challenges Come with Retirement?
As mentioned above, everyone will face their own challenges and advantages as they retire. However, if you are getting ready to retire yourself (or you have just retired and are wondering how you can mitigate some of the stress and anxieties that you are feeling), here are some of the most common challenges that come with retirement.
- Feeling anxious about not having enough activities to fill your day.
- Having “too much” free time and not knowing how to spend it.
- Feeling less useful or less confident about what you can and are doing.
- Feeling isolated or lonely due to a decrease in social interaction.
- Not knowing how to shut off “work mode” or not knowing how to relax.
- Adjusting to a new normal and a new routine — whether alone or with a spouse or other family member or friend who has also retired or is otherwise at home with you.
How to Cope with Stress, Depression, or Anxiety in Retirement
Now, without further ado, let’s jump into a few ways that you can cope with any newfound stress, anxiety, or depression that has come up in retirement.
This first coping option is actually for those of you who are beginning the retirement process but have not finished retiring yet. This is because it is about making your transition from work into retirement a bit more manageable (rather than stopping work abruptly).
The unfortunate truth is that a lot of people may not have the choice to make a gradual transition, but if you do have the option, this can make managing your retirement much easier on you. The idea is to gradually transition from working eight (or more) hours a day to not necessarily having anything to do all day at home.
There are a couple ways that you can approach this coping option. One option is to ask if you can transition from full-time to part-time at your job a few months before you will retire. Now, not all jobs are going to be open to this, but it may be a good idea to ask. Another option is to join a volunteering or mentoring organization that allows you to continue operating in your field, even in retirement. And the final option is to plan some at-home projects that you can spend your time working on. Maybe you want to start a garden. Perhaps there are some home renovations you have been meaning to do for years.
Take Care of Your Body
If you are feeling down or stressed out, getting your body moving can do wonders. When we exercise, our brains release endorphins which can ease feelings of depression. Additionally, exercise can be a great way to spend time with others. Whether you want to go out for a walk with your friends or join a gym or dance class, there are tons of ways to get some exercise as well as social interaction in your day.
We’ve touched on this a few times already, but for a lot of us, the transition from the constant social interaction that comes with working a job to the isolation of our homes can be a troubling shift. Because of this, it is essential to stay social. Maybe you have friends or family that are also retired that you can hang out with, or you decide to join a volunteer group or class. These are all good options and help keep you from isolating yourself (whether intentionally or unintentionally).
As humans, we love structure. We like patterns, routines, and predictability. No longer having a job to go to eight hours a day can leave a large gap in our daily routines that can be challenging to fill. However, if you create a schedule for yourself — that includes activities, classes, social events, spending time with friends and loved ones, and anything else you want to do in your day, week, or month — you can create that structure for yourself.
Pick Up a New Hobby
We’ve brushed on this option a bit earlier as well. But if you are unsure what to do with your time, it can be a great time to pick up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try. Maybe you want to pick up knitting or sewing. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try painting or gardening. Perhaps you love cooking, but you’ve never had the time to really get into it. A hobby is a great way to spend your time doing something that brings you joy and makes you feel productive during the day.
Talk to Someone About It
Our final coping mechanism is to talk about it. Sometimes people have a hard time understanding what they are feeling until they try to describe it in words. And sometimes, simply understanding what is going on is not enough to make changes and cope healthily. Talking to a therapist can be a great way to gain a better understanding of your own feelings as well as find out what the best way to cope with your situation is for you.
If you are feeling anxious or stressed about retirement or you are experiencing retirement depression, please do not hesitate to reach out to us today at Love Heal Grow to talk to a therapist.