How to look after your mental health in retirement Throughout our working lives, we spend a lot of time looking forward to retirement. We think about retirement as a stage in life that will give us more time to do the things we love, without the restrictions of day-to-day responsibilities. We create the perfect picture in our minds about what we would be doing and how we would fill up the time, but what people often don’t think about, is the mental health impact of retirement. Mental health and retirement Research shows that retiring can increase the likelihood of experiencing poor mental health. Moving from a daily routine that was structured around work, family, and errands, to a life in retirement where a new and very different structure needs to be created, can feel like a big, and sometimes overwhelming, change. Any significant change in life can be daunting and give us a sense of mixed feelings. There’s the excitement of something new and a fresh start, coupled with feelings of not knowing what to expect or how to get started in creating a new routine. The important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself because you are not alone in how you might be feeling. Whether you’re planning to transition to retirement life soon or have already started this new chapter, there are things you can do to help yourself with the adjustment and to look after your mental health in retirement. How does retirement affect mental health? The life we lead up to the point of retirement can often be an indicator of how our mental health will respond to the changes that come with being retired. If you are someone who found joy in your job or career choice, you may find it a challenge to adapt your life to fill that gap in retirement. Or, if you were someone who didn’t enjoy their work very much, you may find the free time that retirement offers enables you to look forward to each day more than you did before. Sometimes, the way we view the world and life, in general, can also determine how our mental health is impacted in retirement. If you’re someone who embraces change well and looks at life events and situations from a positive perspective, the chances are that you will be mentally healthier in retirement. Whereas, if you are someone who commonly takes a ‘glass half empty’ perspective, you may find it more difficult to mentally adapt to retirement. Here are some examples of the effects of retirement on mental health: • Feeling like there is too much time on your hands, and not knowing how to fill up that time • Feeling lonely and missing the social aspect that used to come with your job • Losing your sense of self and identity, and not knowing how your previous identity fits into the new chapter of being retired • A new stage in life and the uncertainty that comes with it can make you feel like you’ve lost your confidence • Feelings of independence being lost due to not being in a full-time job, or staying at home with your partner for most of the day There isn’t an exact scientific link between the life you live up to retirement and how that will translate into your mental wellbeing once retired, and regardless of that, there is a range of tips and advice out there to help you with the adjustment, however big or small the change feels to you. Tips on how to look after your mental health in retirement Whether you’ve been feeling the effects of retirement on your mental health for a while or are only just starting to experience a whirlwind of emotions, here are a few tips to help you to look after your mental health in retirement: 1. Talk to your friends and loved ones Sometimes, all we need in life is to feel heard. If you’re experiencing feelings of loneliness or are finding it challenging adapting to the change in your life that retirement has created, do reach out to your friends and family. Just the act of verbalising the feelings and thoughts you’ve been having will instantly help you feel like a burden has been lifted. Plus, talking to people you trust the most like a close friend, son or daughter will help you feel safe to share your thoughts, and they may have even quietly suspected that you may be finding it difficult. 2. Create a routine When we first enter retirement, one of the biggest things to adapt to is the loss of the routine you had during working life. That routine that had been there for decades is suddenly gone, and this can be a big change to adjust to. Start small by giving some thought to how you want to spend your day tomorrow and write a little list to help to keep you on track. Over time, have a go at creating a plan for the week, and tick off each item once you’ve done it. After a few weeks, you’ll notice that a few similar things crop up each day, and there you have it – you will have created a new routine for yourself. 3. Start a new hobby During working life, we always think about all the things we’d love to get into, if only we just had the time to make a start. To help fill in the freed-up time you now have, why not start a new hobby? It could be something you’ve always been interested in and wanted to learn more about, like bird watching, join in with coach trips and days out, or painting with watercolours. Or maybe there’s a craft you always wanted to try your hand at. There are so many fun things to do in retirement to help keep you busy. 4. Help other people who are feeling the same way A problem shared is a problem halved. Simply telling someone how you feel can lead to them telling you that they’ve been feeling exactly the same way. Not only will this help you to feel like you’re not alone, but you’ll get that feel-good factor knowing that you’re helping someone else make sense of their own emotions. You might even feel that you want to do more to help people who may be suffering with loneliness too, which will help add to a weekly routine for you in retirement. 5. Have a self-care day When we’re experiencing feelings of loneliness and uncertainty in life, it can be very easy to get wrapped up in those feelings and forget to find ways in our day-to-day to show kindness to our minds and souls. A great way to soothe our minds is to have a self-care day. Self-care is a great way of slowing down our thoughts and being more present in the here and now. You could try some yoga and meditation or run yourself a bath to relax in. There are so many ideas out there for a self-care day at home too. 6. Start doing some exercise It’s never too late to get started with exercise in life, and the positive benefits it has on mental health simply can’t be ignored. Adding exercise to your weekly routine can help you to feel more energetic throughout the day, will boost your mood and even help you enjoy a better night’s sleep. There are ways to get into exercise no matter what your fitness level is. You could start by going to a beginner’s exercise class or even just going for a 30-minute walk. Your mind and body will thank you for it. 7. Make time to be in nature Being around nature will help you to feel more present and is a great way to help you look after your mental health in retirement. Surrounding yourself in nature, whether it’s going into a local forest or park for a walk or strolling on the sand at the seaside, will help to create a host of positive emotions almost instantly. You’ll feel a sense of calm and peace, and you’ll enjoy moments of clarity where it will feel like you’re very much in control of your thoughts. With little adjustments to your day-to-day life in retirement, you’ll be able to enjoy a more positive mindset and feel like you’re making the most of your retirement. Moving to Platinum Skies means joining an exclusive community of like-minded people. Your dedicated Community Manager brings the homeowners together, offering a reassuring presence, creating opportunities for everyone to enjoy a varied programme of activities and events. Discover the community that’s right for you and your needs and book an appointment to come see what life could be like.