What Is Retirement Anxiety and How Can You Cope?

After all those years of hard work, you’re finally done. You no longer have to clock in or dress up or commute in rush-hour traffic. Maybe it all feels incredibly freeing and limitless. And yet, despite how rewarding and exciting this time can feel, many people also experience retirement anxiety during this new chapter. 

Coping with new change can be challenging, even if the change is planned and positive. Change disrupts our normal homeostasis and often makes us reflect inwards, and that interference can feel uncomfortable. Here are some tips to help you manage. 

What Is Retirement Anxiety?

Retirement anxiety can refer to a cluster of stress symptoms that may emerge soon after retirement. For example, you might feel worried about finances, what to do with all your free time, or how to cope with other stressors occurring around the same time. 

Some common retirement anxiety symptoms include:

  • Feeling like you don’t know how to “turn off” your work mode.
  • Feeling as if you have lost a sense of purpose or identity.
  • Feeling directionless without a sense of routine.
  • Guilt about being able to retire (especially if other loved ones must work).
  • Concerns about aging or mortality.
  • Insecurity about your relevance or importance in society.
  • Worries about money and having enough money to last you for the rest of your life.

Experiencing these symptoms is relatively typical, especially at the beginning of retirement. However, as you adjust to your new life, they should reduce in their intensity.  

But in some cases, retirement may have serious adverse effects on your mental health. For instance, your anxiety may be so debilitating that it exacerbates severe depression, social isolation, substance use, or other harmful consequences.

How Can You Cope with Retirement Anxiety?

Identifying your retirement anxiety is one step towards increased self-awareness. But it’s essential to make action-based steps towards improving your situation. Learning how to cope with your stress can make you feel significantly better.

Embrace Your Emotions

The first few weeks of retirement may feel euphoric and even a bit surreal. Once the initial novelty wears off, you might feel depressed, anxious, or guilty. That’s because retirement, in many ways, can mimic stages of grief, and that experience often surprises people. 

Instead of suppressing or denying those emotions, aim to accept them. They are what they are, and they are normal responses to coping with change.

Establish New Routines

Work provides an inherent sense of structure and discipline, and many people lose some of that during retirement. It can be helpful to try to start scheduling events and activities in advance. 

Take it one step further by waking up at the same time every morning and committing to specific tasks throughout the week. For example, you might decide to volunteer at the library every Monday and see a friend for lunch every Wednesday. It’s okay to be flexible, but try to prioritize keeping yourself somewhat busy and accountable.

Create New Goals

What do you want to pursue at this phase in your life? Do you want to learn a new language? Travel across the country? Write a book?

No matter how large or small, goals help us feel motivated and fulfilled. They are essential for both our physical and emotional well-being. Start identifying a few 30-day, 90-day, and 1-year goals. Write them down and consider the steps you need to take to achieve them.

Stay Connected 

Social support is essential during all phases of life. However, people may be more likely to encounter social isolation during retirement, and isolation is associated with numerous health risks, including cognitive decline, heart disease, and weakened immunity. 

If your social ties were limited to work, it’s time to consider making new friends or reconnecting with old ones. To meet new people in your community, consider joining a new club, volunteering, trying a new hobby, or signing up for a class. Remember that it’s essential to take the initiative- get to know other people, ask them questions about themselves, and make it a point to follow up to spend time together!

Practice Gratitude 

The next time you feel anxious, take a moment and pause. What is going well in your life? Who and what do you most appreciate right now? 

While gratitude doesn’t eliminate anxiety, it can help you keep things in perspective. Moreover, adopting a regular gratitude exercise can help you feel more grounded and empowered in everyday life.

Final Thoughts 

Retirement can undoubtedly be an exciting adventure. However, it’s normal to have some fears or doubts affect your happiness. 

If your retirement anxiety is affecting the quality of your life, therapy can help. We can work together to address some of your fears. In addition, we can discuss healthy, adaptive ways to cope with those fears. No matter where you are in this process, I am here for you. Contact me today to get started!

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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