June 30, 2010

Satisfying Retirement - You Will Survive The Second Stage

The "honeymoon" period of a satisfying retirement is when time stretches forever towards the horizon. You see all the possibilities of an active, productive, exciting decades-long part of your life. That euphoria can last a few weeks, a few months, even a year or more. But, at some point, virtually everyone leaves the first stage of retirement and gets a hard slap in the face: I call it Stage Two.

I am not a mental health professional so I can't tell you why this happens. Nor, would I even pretend to tell you how to "fix" a severe problem. Hopefully, knowing that you are not alone and that these feelings come to most everyone might make the process easier to bear.

  • As you make the transition into this new phase of retirement, there is a growing sense of unease, even panic. "What did I do? Am I crazy? I'll be broke in a year! What if I get really sick?"  The reality of being  without the safety net that a job provided suddenly strikes you. You are the Master and Commander of your fate and that is scary.  What looked so good a few months ago now looks like a ship wreck about to happen.

  • Loneliness often rises to the forefront. Even if you are married and your non-working spouse is home most of the time with you, feelings of isolation from what is going on out there build. You have no idea how you are going to fill all the time each day. If you are single, widowed, or your spouse continues to work that void can be even stronger.

  • The benefits you took for granted while working are either gone, or curtailed. Medical coverage usually suffers. Paid vacations? No more. Pension contributions?  No way. Gaining weight and losing physical and mental sharpness? Yes.

What you must keep in mind is that, this too shall pass. If you suffer a bout of moderate to severe depression that lasts for more than a month, I urge you to seek professional help. Doctors can help you get control of these serious side effects of not working.

But, if you have thoughts about any of the question above and are not clinically depressed, breathe easier. Stage Three will definitely follow.




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