You’re not the only one!
Retirement is a big deal, for some it comes voluntarily and for others it does not.
You would think that those that have planned their retirement meticulously for years would be able to sail into their golden year’s anxiety and depression free. For some, this is the case, but for others, retirement can seem like a tidal wave coming all too quickly, washing over you with a myriad of complex emotions including joy, relief, confusion, regret, sadness and shock.
For those who have become casualties of their company’s down-sizing, developed a career-ending disability, or experienced continued failed attempts to get back into the workforce after a period of absence, retirement can hit you even harder - like a ton of bricks.
It’s a Myth That Retirement is Stress-Free
Did you know that retirement is rated as one of the top 10 most stressful life events on the Homes and Rahe Stress Scale? Number 9 is marital reconciliation – both seem on the surface to be events that lead to a sense of peace and happiness, but looks can be deceiving!
Just at a time when you thought you were thrilled to leave your working days behind and have more time to move about life freely spending time with friends, traveling, or just getting more time in for hobbies and grand kids you suddenly feel anxious, begin to worry about what's to come or start losing sleep over the matter.
Retirement Isn’t Always a Choice
If you've been laid off or become disabled the worry and fear can be tenfold, you may not be ready financially or emotionally to leave work behind. You may have wanted to save more, get your ducks in a row, or you simply enjoyed your working life routine.
Suddenly, with retirement looming over you, there's a wave of emotions you can't explain. You could be experiencing anxiety or depression surrounding retirement. If you are, you should know that you're not alone.
Additional Worries in the Retirement Years Can Include:
Financial concerns – that you haven’t saved enough money to last the rest of your life, still having a mortgage or rental payments, still providing support for grown children (all too common!), health care bills eating away at your savings.
Caregiving stress for yourself and/or a significant other.
Social isolation or conflict with family members.
Medical costs during retirement.
Lack of stable income.
Fear of being bored.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety and depression are unfortunately not just for the young.
Anxiety tends to cause a person powerful feelings of stress, apprehension, worry, fear, and even dread. What makes the difference between a normal fear or worry and an anxiety disorder is that it these feelings are more the norm and quickly become disruptive to your life.
Here Are Common Signs of Anxiety in Retirement
Are you overly concerned about a person/place/event/safety?
Are you avoiding social or once enjoyable situations?
Are you struggling with excessive worry or fear about the future, your health or your loved ones’ safety?
Are you experiencing disrupted sleep or sleep loss?
Are you feeling tense, weak, or shaky?
Have you become overly occupied with the need for a strict routine, and if the routine is disrupted you panic?
Are you self-medicating with prescription pills, drugs or alcohol?
Are you constantly checking your financial accounts?
Are you worrying more than usual about your health?
Why Does Retirement Cause Anxiety?
Retirement is an enormous change; it's not just an event that will take place and pass but a lifestyle change that can require monumental decisions.
Anxiety can be triggered by any number or events or situations and retirement is just one of them. If retirement is coming up for you and you feel like anxiety is escalating, you're definitely not alone.
On top of this, you may feel ashamed to admit you’re feeling anxious, since our culture paints retirement as a time in life where your worries are supposed to disappear and be replaced with a carefree life of leisure!
The Good News
“When it comes to retirement, the anxiety can be worse than the reality. At least that’s how retirees and pre-retirees in four countries — the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia felt, according to a research report from Malvern, Penn.-based investment management giant Vanguard Inc. In both the U.S. and Canada, 65% of recent retirees each felt highly satisfied with their financial situations compared with 53% of pre-retirees in the U.S. and 46% in Canada. In the U.K., 78% of recent retirees were highly satisfied with their financial situations, compared with 52% of pre-retirees.” (Marketwatch.com)
And even though boredom in retirement is a major concern — studies show that once a person retires that fear usually disappears. For people under 34, boredom is one of top three concerns about preparing for retirement. When you ask retirees, only 6 percent said they were worried about being bored. In fact, most retirees seem to be pretty satisfied.
The idea of retirement is difficult for many; there are many factors to consider. In fact, "A new poll conducted in October by the Associated Press and LifeGoesStrong.com found that 73% of Baby Boomers now plan to work past retirement, and 53% said they don’t feel comfortable that they’ll ever be able to afford a comfortable retirement."(anxiety-treatments.com)
What To Do Now
Anxiety is a feeling that many people have at one time or another, regardless of age. It is the hope that you will be able to spend time enjoying your later years, reveling in your accomplishments, and looking forward to a more relaxing phase of life.
Research shows that the prevalence of anxiety disorders actually declines between midlife and late adulthood. But what's interesting is that anxiety disorders are still the most common mental health issue older adults are facing (www.anxiety.org)
Anxiety, Left Untreated, Can Lead to Depression
If left untreated, the incessant worry and disruption to daily life that anxiety causes can lead to depression. Fortunately, anxiety is a treatable disorder. If you're experiencing life-disrupting anxiety symptoms surrounding your retirement, there are many things you can do to begin moving in the right direction. Focusing your energy on transitioning into or through retirement successfully should be your main goal.
When thinking about the transition, try focusing on these steps:
1: The ending - If retirement is upon you focus on how you'll get ready for it. Believe it or not, many people do not take much time to plan and think about the retirement years, so when they finally arrive it can feel like a shock.
Take some time to explore how retirement will affect your finances, your daily routine, and the balance of free time you may have for hobbies or new activities. How will the change affect others in your home? Instead of focusing on whether or not you have made the right decision or whether the timing was right, focus on the situation as it is and how best to deal with it now.
2: The period of uncertainty - If you've already entered retirement whether voluntarily or involuntarily, there will be a period of adjustment and uncertainty. You'll have to figure out the new lay of the land and get used to how life will be day to day now. In time and with support you'll settle into your new routine.
And don't forget that retirement doesn't mean you can never work again. You can still volunteer or work part time hours from home or in person - the possibilities are endless!
3: Your new beginning – Remember that all changes require time to get used to, and retirement is increasingly being approached not as an ending, but as a new beginning. And you don’t need to navigate this life change alone. Share your feelings with family, friends, and a counselor if you need coaching to make your retirement years fulfilling ones.
Retirement doesn't have to cause you anxiety, there are always options to help you overcome not just anxiety about retirement but any anxiety issues you may be experiencing. If you're ready to get help from a qualified anxiety disorder specialist, please don't hesitate to make an appointment today.