As I was preparing to retire, I believed that leaving the world of work and its associated career demands meant that I would leave stress behind. Not so. Postworksavvy has discovered that retirement brings its own sources of stress.
Retirement life decisions demand managerial skills similar to those used at work. Setting priorities, controlling finances, managing relationships, problem solving and dealing with unforeseen challenges require decisions. The new lifestyle in retirement means new life arrangements — and these new arrangements can lead to stress.
It’s a different type of stress in retirement but it’s still stress.
photo courtesy of Pedro Riberio Simoes
Sources of Retirement Stress
Time Management — Retirement is a significant transition in terms of how time is used. Too many choices about how to spend the day is the source of most of my retirement stress. Moving from a well-defined, scheduled lifestyle to a lifestyle with endless options has been a challenge. Sometimes I find myself flitting from one activity to another and feeling frustrated that I don’t have enough time to really focus and smell the roses. I have to set priorities for each day, make sure that the priorities are achievable, and then use self-discipline to stick to may plans.
Other people may find themselves struggling with too much time to fill. The days seem endless and repetitive. It may feel that life has lost its purpose. They describe feelings of useless and aimlessness.
Many people leave demanding careers and take on the equally demanding task of caring for aging parents or caring for a sick or disabled spouse/partner. Family responsibility may also involve taking care of grandchildren, having adult children move back home, or supporting adult children who lose jobs or decide to change careers.
The tensions involved with family responsibility are considerable and inevitably lead to stress for the caregiver.
Lack of money is a common source of worry once regular employment income stops. Financial worries top the list of sources of stress for many retirees.
There are lots of lifestyle options for retirement spending — travel, vacations, hobbies, a second home, gifts to children or to charities.
This blogger is not a financial expert but knows that balancing expenditures with revenue is necessary in any budget — whether it’s a business or a household. If income from pensions and investments is insufficient for lifestyle expectations, then adjustments to increase income or reduce spending need to happen. Each reader’s unique circumstances will determine the options that might be available.
Aging inevitably brings new health challenges. Older bodies are tired; older bodies have more aches; joints don’t move as easily; fractures happen because of unanticipated falls; and every injury takes longer to heal. The top chronic health concerns include heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and depression.
Health worries also come from changes in partner’s health status which will cause anxiety for both people in the relationship.
Stress in retirement may also come from grief. Loss of a partner, a parent, a child, or any loved family member or close friend will trigger grief and the stress associated with grief.
As we grow older, it is certain that our schedules will include memorial services and funerals for people who are close to us. Each of these events may also trigger personal fears about death which looms closer with each passing year.
Finally, stress can come from habitual negative thinking and unnecessary worries. Routinely expecting that life situations will be difficult leads to a gloomy outlook. It’s important to remember that most things go right rather than going wrong. ‘Awfullizing’ doesn’t pay — it just adds to your stress.
Symptoms of Stress
Common symptoms of stress include moodiness, general unhappiness, procrastinating and neglecting responsibilities. Stress may also cause over-eating or loss of appetite. You may sleep too much or too little. You may also resort to using excessive alcohol or drugs.
Strategies to deal with retirement stress
Dealing with retirement stress starts with using the executive skills learned at work for self-management.
- Control stress — experiment with new techniques for responding to stress including meditation, hobbies, exercise and other diversions. Eat sensibly and adopt routines that are calming.
- Plan ahead — allow enough time to complete scheduled tasks and activities and don’t over-schedule the precious days.
- Avoid stressful situations — you don’t have to attend those some family events or social activities that you suck away your energy.
- Look for the positives — sometimes it is difficult to turn life’s lemons into lemonade but there are always benefits and ways to learn about yourself as you deal with your worries. Switch gears when you find yourself thinking negatively.
- Learn to laugh at yourself mistakes — stress often comes from silly things you have done or have forgotten. Laughing instead of worrying about a missed appointment will be better for your health and for your disposition.
- Honour relationships. Tell people you love how much they mean to you. Show them you care. Apologize when you are wrong. Talk things over with people you trust and get their advice. Forgive the small hurts.
- Say ‘No’. Protect yourself by saying ‘no’ as often as possible — whether it is to unnecessary spending decisions or unnecessary time commitments.
- Relax. Go slow. Breathe. Enjoy the gifts of every day. Keep a gratitude list. Hug yourself.
Keeping stress in check during retirement involves focus on personal priorities. Abandoning the expectation that retirement will be stress free has helped me to take positive steps to cope with the usual stressors of daily life. I don’t always succeed but taking a realistic and common sense approach has helped.
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