Is Your Retirement Killing You?

Your retirement may be killing you. Here’s a survival plan.

You would expect the end of full-time work would bring a guarantee of inner health and happiness.

That saying ‘goodbye’ to the daily grind could only be a positive experience.

If only.

Instead, large numbers entering the joys of ‘after work’ find themselves unwell either physically or emotionally. The reason is stress.

And stress can be a killer.

Yet isn’t stress what we think we’ve escaped from? No longer being driven to do more with less, bombarded with constant information, while surrounded with life’s constant pressures.

Yet the very act of moving from work to after-work – with all the changes involved – can be a major stress inducer.

And the outcome for too many is an increase of everything from high blood pressure to heart disease, panic attacks to depression.

What is stress?

A useful definition of ‘stress’ is –

‘The changes that take place in your body and mind when a demand seems greater than your ability to cope’.

At the centre is what’s known as ‘fight or flight’. Faced with such a challenge, our bodies automatically spring into action. Muscles tense, the heart pumps blood to where it is more useful, and a wide range of hormones shoot into the bloodstream to give the added energy, strength and resources that may be needed.

Of itself, that’s good news. The bad news – when stress becomes distress – is when there is a constant stream of perceived threats to our wellbeing. And the result is an overload of reaction to ‘fight of flight’.

Believe it or not, this is what entering the world or retirement can do to some of us. Something that can lead to both physical and emotional illness.

Retirement and stress

Research shows the more ‘life-changes’ we have during a short period of time, the more likely stress will take its toll. Such life-changes include the bad – like the death of a loved one, divorce and financial difficulties. And the good – like marriage, a child leaving home and taking a holiday.

Up there with the rest of them is ‘retirement’. That’s because this major, and mostly welcome and happy, event presents a large number of threats to our perceived ability to cope.

The familiar has gone – replaced with the arrival of new routines, relationships and experiences. Together with the loss of many of those we enjoyed in the past. All inducing stress.

More than that, retirement can create a very real sense of bereavement.

The associated loss/death of purpose, friendships, routine, and reward can have an impact much like the death of someone we love.

In fact, though the impact of retirement may not be as great as being made redundant, it can come close. And if other life-change events are happening around it – children getting married, having babies, ill health, downsizing, etc – the life-changes are multiplied – and so is their impact.

How will you know you are a victim?

The symptoms of stress can be physical, emotional and behavioural. A few examples are –

Physical: Indigestion/heartburn, waking up tired, racing heartbeat, chronic constipation or diarrhoea, persistent headaches.

Emotional/mental: Feelings of futility or low self-worth, ‘blue’ moods, unreasonable fears, panic attacks, forgetfulness or confusion.

Behavioural: Insomnia, avoiding people, irritability, loss of sense of humour, irrational anger, difficulty in making decisions, misuse of alcohol/coffee, lack of concentration.

What can you do to fight back?

First, own up to stress as being an issue – either potentially or at the moment. Then pick from these few simple ideas and also check out health sites on the internet for a more comprehensive suggestions.

To keep stress at bay

  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Establish sensible sleep habits.
  • Do something enjoyable on a regular basis
  • Take time to be still each day

To combat stress when it comes

Do all the above, plus –

  • Practise deep relaxation
  • Watch TV that makes you laugh
  • Listen to music
  • Reduce clutter
  • Don’t let decisions hang over you
  • Don’t go it alone but be honest with those close to you

Finally, if things don’t get better, seek medical advice – and take it.

 

Peter Meadows

Peter uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids’ inheritance.

For more wisdom, ideas, and resources for your after-work life go to afterworknet.com

 

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife