There are millions of people heading towards retirement, and a significant number of them report feelings of anxiety. But isn’t retirement supposed to be a time to which we all look forward, when we can finally relax and do what we want?
As it turns out, there are many who just don’t see it that way. Financial considerations can certainly cause some concern for those approaching retirement. However, “retirement anxiety” tends to surface when individuals are asked to visualize how the rest of their lives might look. How will you spend your days? Who will you spend them with? Where will you live? These questions can cause even the most thoughtful amongst us to experience some anxiety.
While it is important to acknowledge that leaving behind all the things that you spent your life building can be tough, it is paramount to regard your retirement years as being a time of possibility as opposed to a time of loss. Many of us can’t even remember a time in our life when we weren’t working, so some measure of trepidation can be expected when we leave it behind. Some of the work “benefits” we leave behind include; a paycheck, friends, structured days, status, and a sense of utility or purpose. These work “benefits” often become such a large part of who we are, that letting them go can lead to anxiety and sleepless nights.
According to Richard P. Johnson, author of The New Retirement, “In order to achieve successful transition from work to a new retirement lifestyle, we must shift our view of ourselves, and redefine who we are, reframe ourselves; we must undergo a career/life reorientation”. He goes on to say “we must let go of our previous definition of ourselves and begin crafting a new definition that serves us in this new life we are carving for ourselves.” An unhealthy resolution to this challenge leads to feelings of uselessness, boredom and anxiety.
So, what’s the cure for retirement anxiety?
The cure is to develop a working plan that focuses on what matters to us most. We need to start thinking seriously about our retirement about five years before we expect to leave the workforce. Here are some questions to consider when creating your own personal retirement plan.
- Have you considered how to disengage from your old self-concept to a new one that will allow you to embrace this new stage of life?
- Have you considered how to replace work functions such as your sense of fulfillment, structure, social contact, sense of fulfillment etc?
- How will you engage your mind outside of work?
- Do you have leisure activities that motivate, relax, and entertain you?
- Consider your important relationships. Have you involved your spouse in your planning? Do you have adult child responsibilities, eldercare responsibilities? How will you stay engaged with friends?
- Are you financially prepared?
- Do you have a positive attitude about retirement?
- Have you considered putting some of your new lifestyle plan into practice before leaving the workplace?
For many retirees, leaving the workplace is a daunting thought. The best antidote to relieve the anxiety associated with this change is to begin to redefine yourself well before you leave your work. Consider finding new ways to gauge your happiness. Learn to replicate the things you love about your work in different ways. The cure to retirement anxiety follows thorough introspection, and the belief that retirement is not an ending, but rather the start of a new chapter in your life.