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You are hereHome › 12 Steps to Preventing Retirement Depression
12 Steps to Preventing Retirement Depression
12 Steps to Preventing Retirement Depression
Everyone knows it’s important to plan for retirement financially, but how about preparing for the psychological and social changes that come with this major life transition? With all the congratulations and parties and gifts, some people feel pressure to feel positive about retirement, even if their true feelings are ambivalent or negative.
In my therapy practice, some clients describe retirement as being like a mirage—it looks great from a distance but ends up being a letdown. It’s understandable. Retirement can trigger the loss of old roles, routines, rituals and relationships that give us our identity, self-esteem and structure.
Retirees often discuss being bored or lonely and feeling negative about aging. They may also experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, which can lead to alcohol or prescription drug abuse. Relationship stress is also common at this phase of life as partners adjust to the changes in daily schedules, amount of time spent together and division of labor at home.
With some careful thought and planning, though, new retirees can continue to find stimulation, opportunity, growth and development in life. Here are the 12 steps I recommend to my clients for successful, happy retirements:
- Honor your feelings. Accept your feelings about retirement, whatever they may be. Retirement is a life transition that brings both opportunity and loss. Feelings are waves of energy that pass through the body and are normal responses to your experiences. If your feelings are overwhelming, practice deep breathing, meditation and journaling—or share them with others who will listen without judgment (like a good friend, trusted religious advisor or professional therapist).
- Think positively. Train yourself to identify the good parts of this period of change, rather than focusing on the losses. Do this by practicing gratitude, perhaps even by keeping a gratitude journal.
- Discover the power of intention. As in sports psychology, positive visualization increases the likelihood of success. We largely create our own realities through our thoughts and intentions, so clarify your intentions for your golden years by writing out your retirement goals and objectives.
- Create your vision. Ask yourself, “If I had a magic wand, what would I want?” Aim high. This is your own life story—and you are both the protagonist and the author. Think out of the box and give yourself permission to do what is right for you personally, rather than what is expected of you.
- Implement structure. For many, being freed from the 9-to-5 workday is both a blessing and a curse. Not having structure to your day to your day can be daunting and may exacerbate depression. It is important to develop rituals, such as a time to wake up and start your day, an exercise regimen, regular mealtimes and designated times for household responsibilities, leisure activities, socialization and sleep.
- Be active. Experts say being active is the best way to combat boredom and retirement depression. Consider making art, gardening, cooking, taking classes, travel, part-time work, attending a retreat or workshop, playing sports, walking your dog and so on. Keep yourself sharp by staying current with the news and technology and doing puzzles.
- Be of service. Volunteer, tutor or care for somebody in need. Giving your time and sharing your resources and wisdom is an inlet for positive self-esteem and self-worth.
- Develop your identity. Understand that you are more than your former job title. Embrace your new identify through all your other roles. Remember, you are only as old as you feel—and, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey, most baby boomers report feeling nine years younger than their actual age.
- Nurture your support network. Let go of negative or toxic relationships; establish and nurture positive ones. Connect with other retirees, as well as others who are in different places in their lives so you get a balance of the support, validation and stimulation you need. Participating in social groups, religious communities or other organizations can increase your sense of belonging and being connected to others.
- Promote health. Changes in lifestyle and routine can throw a wrench in your diet and sleep. Too much idle time and increased socialization time can be a trigger for over-drinking. Make sure you are eating properly, getting enough rest, seeing your doctor and dentist regularly, exercising and not abusing substances.
- Identify a retirement hero. Recognize people who are spending their retirement the way you would like to spend yours. Talk to them and learn from their experiences by asking what worked for them, and what didn’t, during this transition.
- Appreciate that progress is not linear. We all go through setbacks such as illness, negative feelings or relationship challenges. It’s how we respond to those setbacks that determines awhether we grow and move forward or continue to cycle or stagnate. If you find yourself in a dip in mood about retirement, understand your feelings are normal, and rework these concepts to get back on track.
If you would like support in implementing these strategies, consider partnering with a friend or seeking life-coaching or counseling services. Finally, consider accessing support and retirement resources through your local community centers or organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
By: Joyce Marter
Joyce is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and owner of Urban Balance, an insurance-friendly counseling practice with over 40 therapists and five locations in Chicagoland. She was selected by Crain's Chicago Business for the "40 Under 40" list of 2010. Marter received her Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern University and was awarded Distinguished Alumni of the Year in 2008. She currently serves as the Vice President of the Board of the Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association. Marter has been consulted as a psychological expert on television, radio and in publications such as The Wall Street Journal and U.S. News.
May 17th, 2012