According to the National Institute on Aging, “Feeling down every once in a while is a normal part of life, but if these feelings last a few weeks or months, you may have depression.”
While depression is a common mood disorder, it’s not part of the typical aging process and it shouldn’t be expected or accepted as ‘normal’ during your retirement years.
Feelings of sadness, loneliness, stress or anxiety are common experiences at any age and do not necessarily mean a person is depressed. However, if these feelings persist, it may be an indication that a person is experiencing depression (or headed in that direction). Why does this matter to us? Well, retirement can trigger a depressive state in some people. So, the question is, how does one avoid finding themself in that condition?
One way is to pre-empt those feelings by taking time before you retire to honestly evaluate your lifestyle and be proactive about staying mentally strong and healthy. Ask yourself if you’ve created lasting social connections and developed engaging interests apart from your job. What do you plan to do with your newfound time? Have you paid attention to your finances? Who makes up your social/mental support group should you feel blue or low on occasion? Doing so will help ensure you’re less likely (if at all) to experience depression once you retire.
Please note that we are not medical experts or psychologists, and if you’re struggling with depression, it’s important to see a qualified professional for support. This blog post is intended to help readers identify common challenges and potentially mitigate them, but it does not replace the expert advice of a doctor, therapist or other professional.
Several Issues Or Events Can Trigger Retirement Depression
Retirement and its ramifications can come as quite a shock to some people and it’s quite common for retirees from all walks of life to be a bit unsettled for a while. After all, most people have left a career or job situation that’s filled their days for decades; they leave their social network and a steady income behind in most (if not all) cases. Often, the shock and reality of their new situation can lead to depression. Sometimes mild, sometimes more serious, sometimes clinical.
Tips To Help You Avoid Depression
Many of us retirees feel a loss of purpose in our lives once we retire. This is only natural as so often it’s our job that spurs us to action every day. Finding a new purpose can be difficult and if not found, can lead to feelings of depression. To help avoid this conundrum, consider the following goals.
- Stay mentally alert – play games such as puzzles, quizzes and crosswords, read books, learn a new skill, stay up to date with the latest news. Go back to school.
- Continue to be physically active – discover a new hobby, learn to play a new sport or how to dance, take up a musical instrument, or learn a new language. Travel, take up photography or woodworking. Garden. Paint. Sew. Write. You name it.
- Keep socially active – volunteer, join a club, organise social events with past colleagues from work, go out to the theatre, ballet, opera or other music venue. Join a walking group or cooking class. Meet new friends through social media. Reconnect with family if you’ve lost touch or neglected them over the years while you were working. Offer up your previous work skills to help others. Join in.
- Maintain a daily schedule – there can be a tendency to just let the days happen without really giving any structure to them. If you think of retirement as also a job with structure (as I do, in a way), you may find you become more creative with your time. You’ll most likely do more but different things than you did while working, and ultimately, you’ll find a sense of purpose.
The bottom line is that depression in retirement can be brought on by job and livelihood loss, loneliness, anxiety and stress, marital/family issues and/or financial insecurity. It can also present with no clear reason—it happens, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Once you’ve retired, finding ways to stay active, engaged and vibrant can be difficult if you haven’t planned ahead and taken steps to ensure yours will be a fulfilling lifestyle – financially, socially and emotionally. But it’s never too late to turn it around by following some of the tips we’ve suggested.
Depression in retirement (and at any stage in life) is a serious affliction and if you’re unable to shake your depressive feelings and emotions, it may be time to seek medical attention. Connect with your primary health care provider or get mental health support here or at Wellness Together Canada. They can provide excellent support and help you start feeling like yourself again—just in time to enjoy your much-anticipated retirement years.