Retirement mistakes. I made a few. But I don’t think I’m unique. Retiring from a professional or corporate career represents one of life’s major transitions. When you walk out the door for the last time, your life and your identity change.
Like most women, I had planned for it from a financial perspective. But I learned that transitioning from a career to a next chapter requires more than just making sure your financial plan or 401(k) is in order. It requires paying attention to the psychological perspective as well to dispel fear of the unknown and keep your physical, mental and emotional health in good order.
I lost myself, and I made a lot of mistakes trying to find the true, authentic and unapologetically me. Hopefully, with these tips, you’ll avoid making the same mistakes.
If you’re one of the 47 million people that left their jobs as part of the Great Retirement/Resignation phenomenon or longing to be one of them, these tips will help you prepare for and navigate the transition—the space in the middle—with grace and confidence.
Being prepared ahead of time means you’ll be better able to embrace the new beginning because you helped shape it. Think of it as programming yourself just like you would the navigation system on your car. Program what your life will look like when you push through the fear and come out the other side better than ever before.
1. Grieving a Loss of Identity
Your identity isn’t lost. You just need to find your true, authentic self because that’s your real identity. If you’ve been in a profession or career for any length of time, it’s entirely possible your identity is wrapped up in that world. I know I had allowed the people and circumstances of my career to define me, and my life. It’s not the end of the world, it just happens.
Here’s what I learned.
You experience a change in your life. Something ends, and when you enter the transition zone, you have a hard time letting go of where you have been and what you have been. You lose your old connections to the activities and the people who used to matter to you, and you feel like a part of you is missing.
Trying to hold on to it—grieving the loss—is a bit like trying to keep leaves on the trees once they’ve started to fall off in the autumn. It’s just not going to happen.
Once I realized that my life wasn’t over, it was simply time for me to turn the page and design and begin to live a new chapter—one with my true identity at the foundation instead of the one that had my corporate label attached to it.
2. Underestimating Lifestyle Changes
Retirement means a change in lifestyle. Your daily schedule, sense of purpose, and structure are different. Even social ties are closely linked to our jobs and when they’re abruptly cut short when we retire, it’s normal to have a sense of loss.
Staying socially connected can have a huge impact on your mental health and happiness. The workplace is just one of our social networks, but too often it’s either the only social network we engage in or it’s the one we engage in most often. When that changes, it can contribute to a loss of identity.
The transitional phase between retirement and a new beginning is the perfect time to find ways to strengthen your social network. Make a point to stay in touch with former work colleagues after retirement, but also explore opportunities to broaden your social network beyond work. You’re never too old to build new, rewarding friendships.
But, also be mindful of the lifestyle change that comes with a daily schedule that used to begin with the alarm clock. Work is a significant source of satisfaction for many adults, and absent a reason to start their day, many recent retirees say they feel adrift and experience feelings of sadness, which can contribute to other health conditions, such as fatigue, insomnia, and weight fluctuations.
Time to create new habits and new routines.
3. Blindsided by the Emotional Roller Coaster
When you’re in a transition, you may feel like your life is totally out of control. Women tend to ignore it or downplay it and that is a huge mistake that leads to stress and anxiety that if left unchecked can lead to a downward spiral into depression.
After retirement, the commute, the deadlines, the demanding boss, and the nine-to-five monotony may be over, but that doesn’t mean your life will automatically be free from stress and anxiety. While workplace stress can take a serious toll on your health, those same damaging stressors can also follow you into retirement.
The first thing to do is acknowledge your emotions. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to respond when dealing with a major life transition, so give yourself some grace and don’t try to push yourself into someone else’s mold.
Whether you feel angry, sad, anxious, grief-stricken, or a mix of emotions, by acknowledging and accepting what you’re feeling, you’ll find that even the most intense or unpleasant emotions will soon pass. But, you have to work at it.
Accept the things that you can’t change. And, don’t forget to set new goals. You may have already achieved many of your professional goals in life, but now it’s time to set new ones for this chapter of your life. Having goals can energize you, provide a sense of purpose, and help to redefine your identity.
4. Ignoring Mind and Body Health
Trust me. These go hand in hand. Dealing with a major life change like retirement can take a toll on your physical and mental health, weakening your immune system and negatively impacting your mood. In addition to managing stress, finding new purpose, and staying socially and physically active, there are plenty of other ways to keep your body and mind healthy at this time.
First, let’s talk about sleep. Getting adequate, quality sleep is vital in maintaining good health. Eating a balanced, nutritious diet and staying hydrated as you age can also help you maintain a positive outlook and keep your body functioning at its best.
Finally, when it comes to your mental and emotional health, it’s important to keep challenging your brain. The more active you keep your brain, the better you’ll protect yourself from cognitive decline or memory problems.
You may also have to disconnect from social media and unplug your television for a while. Especially if you’re addicted to it and especially if it is causing you to be fearful and full of stress and anxiety. You’ll survive. I promise.
5. Not Having a Holistic Plan
Even if you planned carefully for your retirement years, you still need to keep track of and manage your income, your investments, and your expenses.
You may need minor tweaks now and then or—if your situation changes in a major way—a major overhaul. If you’re fortunate, you’ll have several income streams in retirement. They might include a pension, income from your retirement accounts and other investments, and Social Security benefits.
But, remember I said it was more than just your financial plan and 401(k)? It’s so much more. Because, now is the time to follow your dreams. You just need to remember what they were (because they’ve probably been buried), dust them off, and design a path to turn them into reality.
As people live longer, they continue to learn and have a desire to be productive and contribute to society. They may retire from a career, but may desire to keep working past traditional retirement age in some capacity. Just find what interests you and go for it.
So often, we forget how intertwined our mind, thoughts and emotions are. In reality, the thoughts you have in your mind become feelings and emotions that lead to actions. And, we all know that actions lead to results—good or bad.
I took lessons from these 5 mistakes (and a few more resources) to help me navigate life’s transitions, but I also tapped into the incredible emotional support that comes with using pure essential oils.
These oils provide emotional support to reduce stress and anxiety, while also enabling clarity, confidence, creativity, and a sense of calm. They allowed me to rekindle my passions and discover new ones and to live life by design—my design—instead of by default.
Remember, change is inevitable and it’s not always easy. You just have to learn how to navigate it. Better yet, when it comes to retirement, be sure to plan for the emotional and mental roller coaster ride the same way you planned for it financially.
It’s no different in retirement. But, in reality, endings are the first, not the last, act of the play. Ready to dive deeper? Grab my free resource here.