Avoiding Post-Retirement Depression

two seniors sitting in park - NCI/Rhoda Baer

We’ve given a lifetime to our employers, doing their bidding for the financial and emotional rewards of working. Now, it’s gone.

It doesn’t matter if this is something you’ve been planning for years, or that you have been forced into it. A sudden absence of daily responsibility to others is the sort of abrupt life change that can lead some of us to depression.

The toll these changes take can be substantial, but not inevitable. Keeping some things in mind, making a few changes, can go a long way to avoiding depressive symptoms.

Social

During the hours spent at work, there is often substantial opportunity for social interaction. Once retired, it sometimes comes as a shock how quiet home can be.

Making an effort to get out and be around people is a good idea. Whether joining a club or other interest group, participating in sports or taking your morning coffee and newspaper to a coffee shop, avoiding isolation is important.

Libraries often sponsor book clubs, and colleges sometimes make courses available at a significantly reduced charge to retirees.

Volunteering is another way to get out of the house and meet people, even if just for a few hours each week. Check with your local hospital, office for the aging, church or United Way to find volunteer opportunities. Civic organizations, such as Lions Club or Rotary, are also possibilities.

Financial

Financial stressors can be another trigger for depression.

There is a stereotype of retirement that shows retirees traveling the world and living carefree. Unfortunately, this is true for only a small subset of the population. For most, money is tight to extremely tight.

Taking on a part-time job can ease financial stress, at the same time as it provides opportunities to get out and meet people. This can also be an opportunity to work in a completely different industry, something you have previously wanted to experience.

Health and Well-Being

You’ve spent years getting up and going to bed on a regular cycle. Now that there is no need to be at your work site at an early hour each morning, it is tempting to stay up late and then sleep the day away. Avoid this, not only because it can disrupt your daily circadian rhythms, but also because we tend to do better emotionally when we have regular sleep and something to do each day.

Create your own mini-schedule. Allow set amounts of time each day for chores, errands, paperwork, social activities. Structure helps the mind adjust to the loss of daily work responsibilities.

As we age, the likelihood of developing chronic illnesses increases. That increases our stress levels and our financial pressures. Doing the best we can to stay healthy – eating and sleeping well, exercising – not only keeps us healthy but helps us deal with stress.

If you begin to note the signs of depression – sad or anxious moods, hopelessness, irritability, loss of pleasure or interest in ordinary activities, sleeplessness or excessive sleepiness, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, thoughts of death or suicide – don’t hesitate to seek help. Treatments are effective, and there is no need to suffer.

Sources: Forbes.com and Health24.com

Photo image by Rhoda Baer / NCI

 
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