Finding Direction After Retirement
While many of us look forward to the days ahead for retirement, it can look very different for each person, and sometimes you find yourself at a loose end. Each person’s expectations vary, and it can be an exciting time of freedom to do everything you’ve wanted to get to for a while. For others, it’s all about taking things a little slower and changing their working life’s pace.
For whatever reasons you decide to retire and whatever you choose to fill your days with, it’s without a doubt a significant change in your life, especially if you haven’t been slowly working towards it by gradually dropping workdays.
At any stage, anything that is significantly different from what your norm has been for many years impacts your day-to-day and can be challenging. Some of you will experience a loss of purpose and a lack of routine challenging to adjust to.
As you read ahead, you will discover ways to find direction and motivation while gaining a better understanding of the feelings of loss that may arise when you leap into retirement.
Why So Stressful – The Surprising Side-Effect of Retirement
It’s hard to believe that retirement is stressful, especially after many years of working hard to provide for your family and yourself. The thought of spending more time with loved ones is delightful, but for some reason, Life is busier than ever for some of you, and you feel pretty satisfied with your daily routine. For others, you’re learning to define yourself simply by being rather than defining your role as a leader, achiever or provider for your family.
Over time it can become stressful because you’re grieving the loss of what life was for you in the past. It’s essential to remember that any challenges you face during this time are just an adjustment, and you’re still learning to switch off. We recommend working through these adjustments by:
- Acknowledging your feelings and understand that they are ok.
- Set new goals and be energised by them.
- Refocus your energy on the good parts of this change.
- Create a new routine.
It’s essential to remember that while it can feel like a time of stress initially, which you were unlikely to be expecting, it’s also a time when you have the freedom to:
- Play – Get involved in your local golf club, book group, travelling or dancing. The possibilities are endless.
- Learn – Just because you’ve retired, it doesn’t mean you need to stop learning. Keep your mind active by joining your local U3A, learning an instrument or language, or even take up a course.
- Socialise – Catch up with friends you haven’t seen for a while and meet them for coffee, fishing, or walking regularly.
- Creative – Join your local craft club or men’s club and learn a new skill.
Many Men Are Challenged by Retirement – Loss of Identity
While anyone can feel the pinch of change with retirement, Mensline Australia brings our attention to the fact that men can find it quite the challenge because they think they have lost their identity in some roles in their life.
These feelings of loss can include independence, achieving and the feeling of being useful for others. However, rather than seeing this as a burden, Mensline suggests that you can embrace other roles that are no less important in retirement – being a good partner, part of the community, a grandparent, and engaging in new interests and experiences.
Learning to make an effort to stay in touch with others, seek out new roles, engage in community activities and staying physically active can help improve your overall experience and give you strategies to cope with this significant change.
Explore what gives you purpose
Having purpose is really important for mental wellbeing. It gives you a reason to get up in the morning and makes your days feel meaningful. There a lot of ways to feel you have purpose – just because you’re not going to your day job any more doesn’t mean you can’t have purpose in your life.
You feel like you have purpose when you do what’s called ‘purposeful activities’. Purposeful activities help you feel like you’re contributing something to the world, whether that contribution is just for you, for your family, friends, community or the broader population. What counts as a purposeful activity will be different for everyone.
Finding your purpose can be fun! If you’re not sure what gives you purpose now that you’re not at work, try some different things to see how they make you feel. A few ideas include:
Stretch your creative muscles
Whether it’s painting, drawing, dancing, writing or building – find a creative activity that brings you joy. You might love the challenge of picking up a new skill, or return to a hobby you loved when you were a child. Many retirees have found creativity and their inner child with adult colouring books. Creative activities can allow you to access the state of ‘flow’, where time seems to stop and your full concentration is absorbed by what you’re doing.
Spend time with kids and/or grandkids
Retired teachers might like to steer clear of little ones for a while, but some retirees find spending time with young people to be rejuvenating. If you’ve got young family members, finding activities that you can do together might provide you with a new perspective.
Volunteer your time and skills, or even just your smile
Volunteering is a way you can find purpose by being of help to others. Volunteering can take many forms: from using your skills to help run a non-profit organisation, to assisting fundraising events for a local school or simply visiting the residents of a nursing home to brighten their day with a friendly chat. There are a lot of ways to volunteer your time and expertise. You might contact a local organisation that takes volunteers to offer up your skills, or visit our Volunteering page for helpful links.
Get into the garden
Gardening can be good for your mental and physical health. Whether you’ve got rolling acres, raised garden beds or just a few pot plants on the veranda, finding your green thumb is a great way to work on a project where your progress is visible over time. If you don’t have a space to garden in at home, you might find a community garden near you to work in.
Stay connected with the outside world
Connection with others, be they your family and friends, with the community, with pets, or with nature, is a vital part of the human experience. Developing healthy relationships with others can lower levels of anxiety and depression, and raise self-esteem.
When you retire from work, you might feel like you’ve lost a lot of connection all at once. Finding ways to connect with others beyond work can be an important way to promote your mental wellbeing. If you’re stuck with where to start when it comes to socialising, try some of these tips:
- reconnect with old friends using social media
- make a weekly date to see a loved one or friend for a meal or a cup of tea and a chat
- visit the local library or community centre and ask what regular activities they run
- join a casual sports team, chess club or attend regular exercise classes (i.e. yoga)
- join a creative or hands-on activity group like a craft group, choir or men’s shed
- take part in cultural activities by attending festivals, plays or concerts
- if you belong to a place of worship or want to explore your spirituality, attend events or services at your place of worship.
Connection doesn’t have to just be with people. You might find a broader sense of connection by getting out and about in nature, or by spending time with a pet.
We have a page dedicated to the benefits of Being Social. For helpful links on online communities or nearby events / communities visit our Be+Social page.
The bottom line is that no matter how much planning you do, you will have feelings and emotions when the time comes to retire. Moving forward with a plan can certainly help with the transition, and we highly recommend it. However, we also believe that by giving yourself time to adjust and the flexibility of time, there will be much time to embrace this transition and live the life you want to live moving forward.