Danielle McCarthy

Retirement Life

Don’t be embarrassed if you’re struggling with retirement

Don’t be embarrassed if you’re struggling with retirement

Megan Giles, Retirement Transition Consultant, supports those approaching retirement to successfully transition and create a retirement they will love to live!

Not everyone finds the transition into retirement easy. The adaptation to a different pace of life can be quite a shock. You wonder what are you supposed to do with all of this time - there are so many hours between waking and going to bed!

The most troubling thing is that you can’t make sense of why you are struggling. You are smart, competent and well-read. You’ve solved marketing disasters, IT system crashes and navigated government bureaucracy with aplomb. But for some reason you just can’t adapt to life in retirement. What makes it worse is that everyone else around you seems to be breezing through. Jim from next door is forever harking on about how fabulous the local volunteer community is, and Nancy never fails to marvel at ‘how she ever had time for work with life being as full as it is now’.

As a result your self-confidence and sense of self-worth take a beating. You find yourself avoiding social events because you dread being asked ‘so what have you been up to?’ You cannot find a single thing of interest to reply with. Not only that, but people recognise you as The Person Who Has It All Together. To admit that you are ‘failing’ would be to mortifying -retirement is a problematic for other people, not you.

Research demonstrates that 25 per cent of retirees experience a decrease in their sense of wellbeing during the transition into retirement. The interesting thing is that many are reluctant to talk about it. People don’t want to be perceived as weak or unable to cope. After all, everyone is supposed to revel in retirement.

This pressure can be increased because retirement signals a time for making decisions that may shape the remainder of one’s life in terms of meaning, well-being, and life satisfaction. It can feel like there is mounting pressure to ‘get it right’.

If you are in this position I truly empathise with you, and I urge you not to be embarrassed if retirement is not panning out as you anticipated.

This struggle is completely normal during any change and there is psychological reasoning for it.

Retirement and the change process

There are two parts to any change experience. Firstly the physical change – for example and as it relates to retirement, a person changes from going to work one day to staying at home the next.  The second part is the emotion response to this change –making sense of the new routine and processing new information.

When else have you experienced change?

Think back to your working days. When did you experience change there? Perhaps you and your team had to move offices. Consider how everyone reacted to the news and the roles that team members took on. I bet there were ‘naysayers’ who were convinced the move was going to be a bad thing, there were those who struggled because they needed to find a new coffee shop or adapt their route to work. Hopefully there were also a couple of people who were excited by the prospect.

What you can see is that despite everyone in the team experiencing the same change, there were many different reactions to it. It is part of human nature – we all respond differently to change.

The same is true for retirement. Some will adapt quickly and others will take more time. In line with this, feelings that are a completely normal part of the change process include:

  • Shock
  • Frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Lost
  • Irrelevant
  • Out of sync

If any of these feelings sound familiar, rest assured that you are not alone. There are plenty of people who have navigated a journey similar to yours.

What is important is that you recognise the emotions you are experiencing, but don’t wallow in them. The goal is to get to a position where you feel empowered, intrigued about the possibilities, content and energised when you think about retirement.

Taking action if you are struggling in retirement

If you are feeling stuck but ready to create a retirement that you will love to live, here are six steps to propel you forwards:

  • Congratulate yourself for recognising that you are struggling. Once you can articulate this you can start moving forward. This is a powerful first step.
  • Speak with your significant other. Sit down and talk about the challenges that retirement might be throwing at you. Be open about how you are feeling – don’t assume the other knows. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved
  • Articulate your fears. We can catastrophise ideas in our heads and it’s not until we see them on paper that we realise that they are not as problematic as we thought. For each genuine fear, create an action to prevent it becoming a reality
  • Create a routine. Without creating a hectic schedule, have something to do each day while you become accustomed to less demands on your time. Make a ritual of your daily activities such as going to a café for your morning coffee, and ensure you leave the house each day even if it is only for a loaf of bread
  • Seek professional help should you require it via your GP, a psychologist, counsellor or retirement expert.
  • Finally, celebrate your bravery for admitting you are struggling but most importantly for having taken action

And remember – “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations” (unknown).