Retirement is a confusing concept. We’re told it’s the goal. It’s the time when we finally get to kick back and live as we choose. However, generally speaking, people don’t retire until they are in the range of senior citizenship. That’s quite a paradox, huh? The dominant narrative seems to be advising us to put off our individuality until we’re older.
It’s no wonder that retirement anxiety is a thing. People, as they near accepted retirement age, feel concerned, worried, and yes… confused. Of course, there is a large financial component at play. But the emotional aspect of this life blueprint cannot be overstated. How do we keep anxiety at bay?
In a recent study, at least 20 percent of those participating said they would delay retirement. The top reason for this was anxiety. Some of the top reasons for their anxiety include financial factors like insufficient savings, cost of living, and the overall economy. Not surprising, right? Well, two other huge factors behind retirement anxiety were:
- Being categorized as “old” and thus treated that way
- Losing a sense of identity because they no longer work
This sobering reality leads us to some of the challenges people face upon retiring:
- Having a lot more time to do things but a lot less money, too
- Having more time but less energy
- Health issues
- Feeling guilty about accepting money (pension, Social Security, etc.) for not working
- Being unable to transition from the life-long routine of working
- Feeling isolated without job-related social interactions
- Suddenly being around your spouse (and possibly, your kids) all day, every day
- Searching for meaning and a feeling of usefulness
As you can see, there are practical concerns like money and health. But most of the anxiety people feel around retirement is usually tied to emotions and identity. Again, how do we keep such anxiety at bay?
5 Ways to Keep Anxiety At Bay When You Are Nervous For Retirement
- Be Organized/Plan Ahead
Do not leave details to chance. Talk with a financial advisor. Get an annual physical. Make lists. Make plans. You’ll feel less lost when you’re active, informed, and motivated.
- Get More Comfortable With Change
You’ve gone through transitions before. Graduations, job changes, relationships, and loss — all of them (and more) require you to adapt and evolve. Retirement can be similar if you adjust your mindset. See it as an opportunity.
- Communicate With the Others in Your Life
If you live with a spouse or family members, talk in advance about the upcoming changes. Make it a team effort and reduce the element of surprise. Manage expectations for yourself and others in your life.
- Be Proactive About Your Health
Aging does not automatically mean poor health. On the contrary, a commitment to daily self-care can help you maintain the energy you desire to enjoy this new phase of life. Safeguard your sleep patterns, eating habits, and physical activity routines. And don’t forget stress management!
- Change Your Perception
The idea of retirement is the butt of jokes by stand-up comics but you do not have to buy what’s being sold. This is a time when you can, for example:
- Make new social connections
- Develop new interests and hobbies
- Reconnect with your partner and reimagine your relationship
- Set new goals and find new purpose in your life
For younger readers, retirement may seem far off but there’s something major you can do now.
Don’t let your job define you now. I’ve worked with many clients who have worked so much and defined themselves so deeply around their career that they did not develop enough outside interests or relationships that they need in retirement. Keep your life rich, varied, diverse, and balanced. When you reach “retirement age,” the changes will be less daunting.
And keep in mind, retirement anxiety does not have to be managed alone. If you feel stuck, I’m here to talk and help don’t hesitate to reach out for life transitions counseling or anxiety therapy.
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Therapy for Men is a practice led by Dr. Rick Pomfret which offers counseling and psychotherapy services tailored to the needs of men. Their services encompass anxiety therapy, depression therapy, relationship therapy, men’s issues and support for those navigating life transitions or divorce. With offices in San Francisco and Corte Madera, Therapy4Men provides convenient access to mental health care for men in the Bay Area and online across California.