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Adjusting to Retirement: Handling the Stress and Anxiety

0 2 years ago

Why is retirement so stressful?

Many of us spend years picturing our ideal retirement—whether it’s traveling the world, spending more time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies such as painting, gardening, cooking, playing golf, or fishing, or simply enjoying the freedom to relax and take it easy for a change. But while we tend to give lots of thought to planning for the financial aspects of retirement, we often overlook the psychological impact of retiring from work.

Initially, escaping the daily grind and a long commute, workplace politics, or a difficult boss, for example, can seem like a great relief. However, many new retirees find that after a few months the novelty of being on “permanent vacation” starts to wear off. 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.

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

The truth is that no matter how much you’ve been looking forward to it, retiring from work is a major life change that can bring stress as well as benefits. In fact, some studies have linked retirement to a decline in health. 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 keep working.

While some difficulties adjusting to retirement can be linked to how much you enjoyed your job (it’s less of a wrench 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 both happy and rewarding.

The challenges of retirement

Whatever your circumstances, ending your working life changes things—some for the better, others in unexpected or even difficult ways. If your job was physically draining, unfulfilling, or left you feeling burned out, for example, retiring can feel like a great burden has been lifted. But if you enjoyed your work, found it gratifying, and built your social life around your career, retirement can present sterner challenges. Things can be especially tough if you made sacrifices in your personal or family life for the sake of your job, were forced to retire before you felt ready, or have health issues that limit what you’re now able to do.

Similarly, your outlook on life can also 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 or struggle to cope with uncertainty in life.


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