You’ve made it to your big goal. You’re retired and life is going to be grand. After all, you spent years grinding, planning and sacrificing for the big moment. You put in the work with your employer and with your family. Perhaps you put your kids through college and gave decades of loyal service to your job. It’s finally time to live life on your own terms.
But now that you’ve “made it,” you’re almost wondering if this is it. Is this the life you’ve been waiting 30 or 40 years to achieve? Should there be more? Or was it all a farce?
If you’re having these thoughts, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Post-achievement depression is common for people who’ve made it to the finish line. Even Michael Jordan lamented that after winning three basketball championships, he was struggling to stay motivated.
If you feel like retirement blues are getting the best of you, here are some ways to beat the funk and actually enjoy the second act of your life.
Figure Out What’s Bothering You
This is a good place to start. You may need to talk with a friend or a counselor to help you get to the bottom of the issue. You could be saddened by the prospect of being bored, having an empty nest, or lacking a sense of purpose.
Different people have different reasons for experiencing post-retirement blues. Once you pinpoint your particular problem and related triggers, you will be better equipped to handle them better.
Keep a Journal
Journaling is a therapeutic activity that has been proven to decrease anxiety and depression for many people. Having a consistent outlet for your retirement-induced sadness can help you remain introspective and self-aware, and may bring self-healing.
In your journal time, attempt to be vulnerable and candid about your concerns and when you feel the most fearful. Putting these thoughts in writing may help you find a solution and could even take the “sting” out of your most pressing anxieties.
Make a Plan
If you find that your depression is triggered by thoughts on such issues as money problems or being far from family, that’s a good thing. Why? Well, now you know exactly where that nagging feeling of sadness is coming from. You can make plans to address those concerns.
Although it may not be realistic to move closer to family or fix your money issues immediately, just creating a plan of action could be helpful, no matter how out of range the perceived solution to your problems may be. Create goals in the areas that concern you. You’d be surprised at how much you could accomplish just by making note of your aspirations and creating a proactive plan to change your situation.
It sounds counterintuitive, but it works. When you take the focus off yourself and on to a person or cause you care about, you’re more likely to appreciate what you have and where you are in life.
For one, you might find that your problems are not as pronounced or significant in light of serious problems that others are facing. Secondly, you may be able to find purpose by being of service despite your own struggles.
Acts of kindness can boost your mood and help you realize that there is more to life than your own problems.
You may be used to a state of constant grinding and harried schedules. It’s ok to relish downtime. Give yourself permission to rest and do nothing. It’s what retirement is for!
Be at peace if you wake up later or tend to do less throughout the day. A life of leisure can be incredibly fulfilling if you don’t accept the guilt that can sometimes be associated with it. Remember, you worked hard for many years in anticipation of this season. Take advantage of it!
Take on a Hobby
You may find that you can only rest so much. That’s fine, too. Adding a hobby to your routine can be a good way to break the monotony of your days. Think about something you always wanted to do but never had the time before.
Hobbies are nice because there’s no pressure to follow through if you don’t want to. You can also explore many different ones if you find that something’s not working out for you.
Start a Second Career
Just like a hobby, a second career can give you something else to look forward to without the intense obligation of a full-time job. Working part-time or as a consultant are very viable options that retirees are taking advantage of these days.
You can work in a field you’re familiar with or take on something entirely new. The great thing is that you can be creative and flexible with your work options in retirement.
Learn a New Skill
If you decide to start a second career thatrequires a new skill set, you’ve got plenty of options. From free MBA’s online to an abundance of eCourses. There’s almost nothing you can’t learn nowadays.
You can take a course at a local community college, online, or just follow tutorials on YouTube to learn something new. Fortunately, we live in a time where information abounds and resources are plentiful for anyone desiring to pick up a newfound expertise.
Not only does physical activity keep you healthy, it can also have a revitalizing effect on your mind, too. Exercise has been known to ease depression and anxiety due to the release of chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, which all work together to boost your mood.
Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous or extremely rigorous to work against depression and sadness. Maintaining a habit of light activity, like brisk walking, can be effective in boosting your mood and increasing your energy levels.
Join a Community
Support groups are an incredibly effective method for coping with retirement blues. Many times, isolation can make you think that you are the only one feeling the way that you do. However, if you plug into a community of people in a similar stage of life, you might find that what you are experiencing is prevalent among retiree populations.
If possible, join a community of like-minded people who can talk you through difficult times and act as support and accountability during your retirement journey.
Retirement blues are more common than you think. No matter how you might feel, just remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out to friends and family members for help and resources so that you can enjoy the retirement you’ve been waiting for your entire life. You earned it!
Aja McClanahan is a freelance writer and owner of www.principlesofincrease.com/.