Retiring from the 9 to 5 can open up new possibilities, but it may take some time to get used to. When heading to work isn’t the primary focus of your days anymore, you may feel a little adrift and at a loss for how to spend your time. A post-retirement depression could set in that could leave you questioning your decision to retire.
If retiring has you in a funk, there are some things you can do to combat it. These 10 tips can help you cope with — and conquer — post-retirement depression.
1. Pinpoint Why You’re Feeling Down
There are different reasons why you may feel depressed after retiring. For instance, you may feel that without a job to go to, you no longer have a sense of purpose. Or, you may not be spending as much time with friends and family as you anticipated, which could cause you to second-guess your retirement plans. And for some retirees, it’s simply the disruption in their daily routine that’s most difficult to adjust to.
Reflect on what’s causing you to feel depressed. It may be one thing or several things. If you’re having trouble figuring it out, try keeping a journal to record your thoughts each day, then look for the trends or patterns that pop up again and again.
2. Identify What You Enjoy
If you’re feeling at a loss for what to do with your time in retirement, think about the things that inspire you, spark your passion, give you joy.
Brian Behl, a certified financial planner at Behl Wealth Management in Waukesha, Wisconsin, says that recreational activities can sometimes lose their appeal for retirees who suddenly have more hours in the day to fill. Taking time to reconnect with the things you used to enjoy doing could help you break out of a retirement rut.
3. Find New Ways to Spend Your Time
In addition to devoting time to hobbies or activities you enjoy that might have fallen by the wayside during your working years, you may use your retirement as an opportunity to branch out a little. For example, you could:
- Volunteer your time with a local charity
- Be a mentor to a young person who’s just starting their career
- Start a side hustle or small business
- Take continuing education classes online or at a local college
- Join a senior citizen’s sports league or recreational group
- Take up a new hobby
- Get a part-time job
Think about what you need most. Is it making new connections and friendships? Feeling useful? Making some extra money? A little of all three?
Asking those kinds of questions can help you decide which activities to pursue to break out of your post-retirement depression.
4. Try a Change of Scenery
If retirement is leaving something to be desired for you, consider whether different surroundings might make a difference.
For instance, you could try spending a few months on a cruise ship or heading to a beach town if you normally live in a colder part of the country. Or if you already live on the coast, exchange it for an extended vacation rental in the mountains or desert.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you might spend a month backpacking through Europe or touring southeast Asia. Changing your world view, even if it’s just for a few days or weeks, could change of your point of view when it comes to your retirement. You may come back home feeling refreshed and more positive about making the transition out of the working world.
5. Create a New Routine
Having a routine can be reassuring because it lends some predictability to your daily round. If you’re struggling with how to spend your time or feeling disoriented without a set schedule to stick to, then work on establishing one.
A helpful way to do that is to track how you’re spending your time now. Keep a daily time log of everything you do from the time you wake up until when you go to bed. Try doing that for a week to see where your time goes, then use that as a guideline for creating a new routine.
6. Connect With Other Retirees Who Are Having a Hard Time Adjusting
If you’re feeling depressed about retirement, know that you’re not alone. There may be someone in your social circle or someone you know through a professional or recreational organization who’s also having difficulty with making the transition to retirement.
Connecting with those people can help you to support one another as you deal with the mental and emotional challenges retirement can bring. And if you’re having trouble making connections in real life, consider looking for a support group for retirees online. This is also a good option if you’d prefer some anonymity and don’t feel comfortable talking to your friends about post-retirement depression.
7. Get a Pet
Science says that having pets can be good for your health and lead to improved well-being. If you don’t have a pet, consider getting a furry companion to spend your retirement with. And if that’s not an option, think about volunteering at a local animal shelter or rescue organization. It’s a good way to stay active and it’s like having a pet without actually owning one.
8. Take Financial Worries Out of the Equation
If your finances are a cause of post-retirement depression, consider what you can do to change that.
For example, if you’re worried about your retirement savings running out too quickly, check your budget to see if you can reduce or eliminate any of your expenses. If you haven’t taken Social Security benefits yet and you’re 62 or older, think about when the timing makes sense to claim them. And consider whether you might be able to increase your income with a side gig, part-time job or small business.
Getting rid of money stress could make a huge difference in your overall retirement happiness.
9. Remind Yourself Why You Retired
People can spend decades planning for the financial side of retirement but Behl says they may give very little thought to the emotional aspects. Think about what your “why” was for retiring in the first place.
Obviously, taking a break from working might have been part of it but what else? Did you have certain goals in mind or things you wanted to achieve that you weren’t able to pursue in the midst of your career? Remind yourself of what retirement means to you and ask yourself if those expectations are realistic. If they are, then figure out what needs to happen next to make your retirement reality align with those expectations.
10. Talk to a Professional If You Can’t Shake Post-Retirement Blues
Depression is a serious thing and it’s not something to take lightly or brush off. If you’re having trouble pinning down a specific reason for your depression and nothing else you’ve tried seems to help with lifting the cloud, consider talking to a counselor or therapist. Choose someone who specializes in working with retirees or older adults to help you get to the root of your depression and create an actionable plan for dealing with it.
Tips for Enjoying a Happier Retirement
- Figure out what matters most to you in retirement. Eliminate those things that may be wasting your time or adding to your depression. And surround yourself with people who motivate you to enjoy your later years.
- Talk to a financial advisor about managing your savings and investments effectively. Having an advisor on your side who understands your concerns about money can help you come up with a game plan for using your assets effectively. SmartAsset’s financial advisor match tool can help you find an advisor if you don’t have one. Answer a few simple questions to get recommendations for up to three advisors in your local area.
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