Stressful Retirement?

When you think of stress and what causes it, you first think of the workplace, don’t you? Other stressors come to mind such as family, financial, or health issues. But what many people don’t even realize is that retirement is right up there on the list of top stressful situations.

Retirement, for those not yet retired, is seen as a highly sought after goal and something to be enjoyed immensely without a care in the world. The reality of retirement can be a bit different.

Any change in lifestyle can cause stress, good or bad, until adjustments are made. Retirement is a huge change in lifestyle. The daily routine changes dramatically and can feel like “drifting” until new routines are in place. Whether the job was seen as a positive or negative experience, it still contained elements of a support system, including social support. If a retiree’s social group outside of the office is not strong, they will now find the need to get closer to friends and family.

Big decisions have to be made about staying put versus selling the family home. Should they move to a different state, either closer or farther away from the grandchildren? Try a permanent sunny location? Downsize and have 2 homes in different locations? Buy an RV and travel? Move to a retirement community? These tough decisions are enough to cause anyone stress.

Financial issues in retirement can be stressful. Retirees may have financially planned for retirement, but will they have enough money to do what they want to do, help their children, and perhaps fund some of the grandkids’ college education? What if there’s an economic recession?

Another big cause for stress in retirement is health issues, including sleep problems. Many people don’t sleep well as they get older and if they worry about it, the stress increases. Add to that the worry about a spouse or life-long friend’s failing health and their own health problem. Quality of life becomes a concern as well as how to finance medical problems and the potential need for a nursing home.

Retirement means more time to do what they want, including watching the news and reading the paper. As retired people spend more time with the media, they tend to worry more about the crime and violence in the world, the state of the economy, etc.

Ways to cope with stress in retirement are many. Before dealing with the stress, the retiree needs to first identify what is causing it. If it’s from taking in too much of the news, then they should greatly limit their exposure and do other things to occupy their time, such as reading a book or working on a craft project. If poor sleep is the issue, short cat naps are acceptable and can help recharge the batteries. It may be too late to start a financial plan, but it can certainly help to see a financial planner to put everything into perspective. This can relieve the stress and worry of imagined future events. The big change in lifestyle is a temporary stressor and should go away once a new routine becomes comfortable. Retires have some important lifestyle decisions to make, but if the path they take doesn’t bring them satisfaction, it’s perfectly okay to change course again.

Other ways to cope with retirement stress include learning how to relax by listening to music, trying yoga, practicing deep breathing, getting regular exercise, using muscle relaxation techniques, and getting involved in a new and stimulating project.

There are many stressful issues facing retirees today, but some of them are just temporary and will go away once new support measures and comfortable routines are in place. Just as it is important to learn how to cope with workplace stress, retired people need to learn to cope with any retirement stress to enjoy this new phase of their life.

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