Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough – We work to live then someday we earn the ability to just live without having to work. In our careers, we continue year after year until we reach the “goal” of retiring. Different circumstances present different ages and scenarios of being able to retire, but either way, it means not going to work anymore. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, retirement has many attractions with pros to quality of life, but it also presents challenges some people never even considered and would perceive as cons. Many of us equate to age 65 as being that golden number to reach to never have to work again, but sometimes when that day comes, living it out is much different than we imagined. Of course, if you had a job you disliked or that treated you poorly, retiring is all great. However, a lot of retirement concepts have a lot to do with mental health.
Here’s how….. When we think of retirement, we envision traveling, cooking recipes we finally have time to make, volunteering, seeing friends we haven’t had time to see in a long time, sleeping in, staying up late, and just being able to do anything at any time that you want to. No more alarm clocks. No more 9 to 5.
The problem is that life goes from structure with a daily routine and agenda to having free time and
more choices to make with less pressure of when to get things done. It sounds luxurious, but only to a
certain degree. At first, the onset of this freedom does feel nice, but this tends to be the initial period of
de-stressing and recovering from years of go-go-go. Over time you can come to miss waking up for a
reason, having somewhere to be, interacting with others, and having your days follow a timeline of
events. You now have to fill your calendar and intentionally set your own schedule and make plans to
see people and do things.
Instead of feeling free, you can come to feel depressed, isolated, and even anxious. You can become
stressed about trying to fill your days and upset that you don’t have a “purpose” or “plan” for each day.
Studies have shown that in the first year of retirement, you are 40% more likely to have a heart attack or
stroke due to these issues. There is a sense of losing your identity. Your entire routine has changed.
It is important to acknowledge these feelings, understand that they’re very common, and seek help
when needed. Take time to re-define your identity, make new goals, and seek your social network. You
could get a pet, volunteer, find part-time work, learn something new, nurture your hobbies and
interests, and engage in physical activity. We need to keep our minds and bodies active even if it means
reading or walking more. Every day is a gift and retirement is a well deserved gift, but don’t take for
granted who you are and what you mean to others even if your days are different. Retirement is the
next chapter, so fill the pages with memories and plans you are making with this new lifestyle you have