Retirement signifies a significant lifestyle shift. Suddenly, the structured schedule, sense of purpose, and social connections tied to your career are gone. Poof. Just like Houdini.

Maybe leaving you with a void in your life? Or worse, putting you in the front car of an emotional roller coaster ride that is pretty scary. Truth be told, I don’t like roller coasters at all. They are all scary to me. I can count the number of times I’ve been on one and it was never in the front car. Nope. Not me. Ain’t happening.

But during my transition from my career to a new chapter, I was definitely in the front car. Let me tell you, the emotional roller coaster ride that occurs during transitions can be devastating. And sometimes, hard to figure out.

I was unprepared to say the least. Not only from the lack of structure and sense of purpose, but also the lack of identity.

For over 30 years, I was Hydro Girl. As a senior-level government/public affairs executive for the electric utility industry (working for major hydroelectric generators), I was deeply involved in the issues and passionate about the energy industry, natural resources, and the electric consumers I served.

But all that changed drastically when I retired. I knew it was time. I was tired of all the politics and litigation. I’ll just leave it at that.

I thought I was prepared. I had done everything I was expected to do to prepare for retirement. But working with a financial advisor and having my finances in order fell far short of what I really needed to do to be prepared to enter a new chapter of life.

The transition period between retiring and beginning a new chapter means adjusting to a new rhythm of life. I thought it would be freedom and flexibility.

I was wrong.

Adjusting to the new rhythm of life after retirement can feel like newfound freedom, but it can be disorienting. Even though I loved not hearing the familiar alarm clock going off at 5am four days a week (ugh, I am so not a morning person), I had to admit that the lack of any kind of structure to my day was unsettling.

Truth be told, I was just adrift.

And that led to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and stress, which affected my overall health.

To turn things around, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. I delved into the core of my being, exploring my true identity separate from my career. This introspective process allowed me to unearth aspects of myself that had been overshadowed by the demands of my profession.

One key aspect of my transformation involved establishing a new structure to my days. While the absence of a rigid schedule initially seemed like newfound freedom, it soon became clear that a lack of structure left me feeling unsettled.

To address this, I incorporated daily exercise into my routine, tapping into the endorphin-releasing power of physical activity. Not only did this boost my mood, but it also provided a sense of discipline and routine. I don’t run marathons, but I do go on long walks daily with Alli and Savannah Bouvier (dogs). They insist.

Gratitude became another cornerstone of my daily practice. Taking the time to acknowledge and appreciate the positive aspects of my life, no matter how small, proved to be a powerful antidote to the feelings of sadness and anxiety that had crept in during the transition.

Journaling allows me to process my emotions and gain clarity on my evolving sense of self.

Setting a new vision for my post-retirement life became paramount. I outlined goals that had my core values, strengths, talent, and interests at the foundation. It became a roadmap for my journey into this new chapter, offering a sense of purpose and direction.

The roller coaster of emotions during this transition gradually transformed into a more manageable ride. The key was not just weathering the changes but actively shaping them.

By rediscovering my true identity, establishing a new daily structure, and embracing practices like exercise, gratitude, and journaling, I found a renewed sense of self and purpose.

I shared my journey in my Amazon best-selling book Your Next Chapter, Dream It. Design It. Live It. (You can get it on Amazon.) And, I’ve taken the basic roadmap and turned it into a 3-hour workshop that I’ll be hosting on January 26 on Zoom. If the story of how I managed the emotional roller coaster ride that comes with transitions resonates with you, I’d love to have you join me.