Retirement is a definite transition time, especially in the age of COVID-19 and it’s impact on social interactions. When you have worked most of your adult life, the work you do often becomes a big determinant of your identity. You’re the Truck Driver, Doctor, Financial Advisor, Teacher, Admin. Assistant who works for… It can be a hit to one’s sense of self when that identity changes through retirement (or death/loss/disability). Thankfully there are some helpful ways for us to deal with times of transition.
- Give yourself lots of grace! Transition and change are difficult. In fact, for highly sensitive people, change/transition can feel very threatening and take a lot of energy. One of the big reasons is that we don’t typically like the ‘unknowns.’ It doesn’t mean the unknown will be bad — but it will feel foreign. If you’ve worked for 50 years and stop, it can feel like a bit of emotional whiplash. Be kind and flexible with yourself as you make the transition.
- Put some structure into place. Going from a schedule of getting up at the same time, driving to work, working for so many hours each day, etc. to ‘well, I guess I’m retired,’ can be like slamming the brakes on to a speeding train. It can take a while to actually stop and reorient. By putting some structure and routine into place, it helps fill that familiarity of having purpose and meaning to your day.
- Re-define who you are. What makes up your identity? What defines you? Think of your characteristics, traits, interests, values and what you would like to be known for. If you are really at a loss, you may even ask a good friend to give you some input on WHO you are. What would you like to be remembered for? Are you funny, thoughtful, creative, organized, helpful, intelligent or caring? Determine what is most important to you and recognize that as forming your identity outside of your work. Are you a parent? Child? Grandchild? Partner?
- Make some plans. Think of some specificthings that you’d like to do — short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. Make them attainable and realistic. Things that you would find satisfying or enjoyable. It might be a trip (some day when COVID restrictions are gone!) or learning a new skill, language or talent.
- Volunteer. Find something you are interested in or passionate about and volunteer. Being part of something bigger than yourself is always good for the heart. It can also increase our sense of gratitude and help us to practice being thankful for what we have and where we are at. Volunteering gives a sense of meaning and purpose which is valuable not only to ourselves but to those we help out. Take joy in being in a position where you are able to give of your time and energy because you no longer have to go to work.
Look back on your life without judgment. If we can say, ‘it is what it is…good, bad and otherwise’ in other words, accept the reality of where we are at, we find a sense of peace and integrity. If we are full of regrets, resentment and unforgiveness, we will become one of those cranky, despairing old people that you may have run into at the old folks home. “If only I had…” is the start of every bad sentence ever. If you want to make amends or change something going forward, do it! It’s never too late to make the most of the days ahead of you.