The day you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. You’ve packed up your belongings, said goodbye to your work colleagues and checked out of the office for good, but now what?
Although many people spend their entire working lives dreaming of a long and relaxing retirement, in reality just like any other big life change, this upheaval to your daily routine can take it’s toll. To begin with, feelings of relief may arise as you settle into life at a more relaxed pace, but as time time goes by you may start to feel overwhelmed, confused and lacking in direction, putting your well being at risk.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to combat this loss of purpose, keep your spirits high and your wellbeing in check, turning your retirement into an enjoyable and productive period of your life.
1. Build positive relationships
As social creatures, maintaining healthy relationships plays perhaps the most important role in influencing our mood and outlook. Feeling connected to others gives us a greater sense of belonging, reduces loneliness and can even help us to live longer. Without the social ties that work can bring, it’s important to take the time to reach out to others in order to build up a full and varied social life - so why not get in touch with an old school friend, or offer to care for your grandchildren a few afternoons each week.
2. Keep your mind active
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it’, but never does this ring more true than with the mind. To keep our brains in tip top shape and slow cognitive decline, we need to challenge ourselves on a regular basis. Research has linked tasks such as reading, writing and doing crosswords to lower levels of neurological diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer's - which are fast becoming a pandemic across the UK. Try puzzles, strategy games or similar activities which challenge you to think, reason and remember.
3. Maintain a schedule
After a lifetime of work, your mind and body will likely have gotten into a routine. When you retire, it can be helpful to maintain a schedule to help regain a sense of familiarity and to stop one day blurring into the next. You may want to take on activities to coincide with your previous work hours, whether that be meeting a friend for lunch, taking on a volunteer position for a couple of hours each day or even getting a part time job, after all you can still work once retired.
4. Eat a healthy diet
As we age our nutritional needs change. Take steps to maintain physical health by eating a varied diet, including leafy greens, whole grains and oily fish - which can help to reduce the risk of certain cancers and neurodegenerative disease. An increased fibre intake can promote digestive health, while calcium can protect against osteoporosis. Vitamin D also plays a part in helping to prevent painful conditions such as arthritis and boost overall health. Always check with your GP before making any changes to your diet.
5. Take regular physical activity
Studies show that levels of physical activity typically decline with age, but there is no reason why this should be the case. Regular exercise has the power to dramatically improve wellbeing - and there are now initiatives such as walking football targeted at those aged 50+ to help manage fear of injury or worsening of health complaints. Being active can help to improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and reduce your risk factors for a number of chronic illnesses including cancer and osteoporosis. It can also help to build muscle strength, increase coordination, improve flexibility and reduce risks of falls.
6. Schedule in time to relax
The more I speak with new retirees the more I hear the words ‘Now I’m retired, I’m busier than ever’. Although it can be tempting to fill your newly found free time with activity, it’s important to strike a balance to avoid burnout. Whether this be settling down with a book or film, going for a walk or actively practising relaxation techniques such as mindfulness - a form of meditation which has proven effective in helping to still the mind. Even just 10 minutes a day can make a difference to your stress levels.
7. Maintain a clutter free household
While housework is one of life’s necessities, cleanliness and organisation isn’t just about having a tidy home, the effect of a clutter free living environment can boost your mood and impact your physical and mental wellbeing. Research shows that those who described their home as ‘cluttered’ were more depressed, fatigued and tested positive for much higher levels of cortisol - a stress hormone. Clutter is exhaustive for the brain and can actively lower productivity.. When organised you are more likely to make positive, healthy choices, helping you to feel more in control of your life.
8. Take on new interests and hobbies
Interesting new pastimes can help to give your life a purpose. Tasks that engage the mind in a focused and creative manner can bring about positive physiological changes - and if you can combine your new hobby with time spent outdoors and around others, then expect an even greater boost. Gardening especially is known for its ability to improve mood. Alternatively, join a book club, learn a foreign language or practise an instrument.
9. Learn to manage stress
Despite popular belief, having a lot of spare time can prove detrimental to stress levels. When you have too much time to think and a lack of healthy distractions, negative events in your life may seem blown out of proportion. Retirees are more likely than most to be dealing with stressful life events such as bereavement, loneliness or chronic health conditions, and it’s important to be kind to yourself. Recognise that these big life changes are difficult to manage and allow yourself time to adjust. Experiencing anxiety or depression is common, with 1 in 4 of us experiencing a mental health problem in any given year.
10. Get your finances in order
Finding the highest retirement income possible means giving yourself the most comfortable and stress-free retirement possible. Most of us experience a considerable drop in income after finishing work and it can take some time to adjust. Draw up a budget - list your income from your pension or annuity, alongside outgoings like household bills and any other expenditures. If you’re looking for further information or need advice with regards to your retirement income you can find more at pensionwise.co.uk - a free and impartial government service which helps you to understand your options in retirement.