• People might look forward to retirement, only to find themselves feeling lost and low when the time comes

  • Grief specialist Lianna Champ offers her top tips for navigating this big transition

  • We have therapists and counsellors available to support you here

The thing I love about retirement is that so many people say to me, “I don’t know how I found the time to work”, but to be fair, that is usually quite some time after their actual retirement and there can be a few wobbles leading up to, and in, those following days and weeks. Retirement can indeed be a huge milestone in our lives.

The build up can be quite scary having spent the greater part of our lives meeting the requirements and demands of our working lives. The workplace provides a rigid structure for us and we have deadlines, a sense of being needed, ownership of the job we do. We create definite routines which may have been set in stone for many years. 

We also forge friendships with colleagues who can become like extended family. We are in an often predictable and comfortable environment and swing with the highs and lows of the working day. We spend more time at work than we do at leisure. So don’t be surprised if it triggers a range of emotions – both positive and negative.

1. Acknowledge your feelings

We have worked all those years and then…retirement date looms and we may think, “Freedom at last after all these years”, but underneath there may be a sense of panic at leaving all that is familiar and known behind. 

Some of us even have our identity tied up with the work we do and may end up feeling thrown to sea. Any major change in our circumstances always gives us feelings of apprehension, even if it is for the better. Recognising that these feelings are normal is the first step to coping.

2. Be prepared!

Give yourself an allocated period of time after you have left where you have no commitments and can really think about this new phase you are entering. 

We may have big plans for our retirement to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into our hobbies or our family. It isn’t a test where you have to have everything planned and written down. 

Take some time out to just ‘be’. Feel the bonds of responsibility lift and enjoy the freedom of the day stretching out before you. Accept that life will offer you different things and look upon this as an opportunity for a second crack at the whip. 

Think of all those things that you would like to do. Hobbies and plans that may have lain dormant during those years of devotion to your job.

3. Think outside the box

Just because you have always done something, it doesn’t mean you can’t change. Throw off the shackles and really think about how you will redefine your sense of purpose. 

I always like to fast forward five years and then work backwards. Imagine yourself five years ahead. What do you look like? What are you doing? What is bringing you a sense of happiness and fulfilment? What are your family relationships like? This is a great exercise to make change and really become the best version of you.

4. Physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing

This is also a good time to take stock of your health so that you can hopefully enjoy an active, happy and long retirement. Look at your diet and research foods that improve your stamina and wellbeing. It is really true that we are what we eat and when we feed our bodies good quality, natural foods, it improves our brain function and positive outlook. Think about your physical activity too .. are you taking enough exercise. You don’t need to go hell for leather at the gym.

Walking is one of the easiest and best exercises you can do. Change your pace from fast to slow to give everything a mini workout and the best thing about walking is that you are out in nature and the rhythm of your footfall can be therapy in itself. Are there books you want to read to expand your inner awareness or keep your mind sharp even if only to make yourself the Quiz Master at the local pub.

5. Have courage

Don’t be afraid to try something new. If it isn’t for you at least you have tried and this will help you to know yourself better. Sometimes, unless we have had some form of health scare, we don’t really grasp the fact that our life has a limit. Please let go of doubt and hesitation and live each day to the full. Not only will you be happier, your relationships will become deeper and more fulfilling.

6. Nurture relationships with your family and friends

Now you have the time! Think about the footprint that you want to leave and really appreciate all the people in your life. Take time to share conversation, activities and all your knowledge gained over the years.

Retirement is a huge period of transition. By accepting, planning, nurturing relationships and exploring new interests it can be an exciting phase.

Lianna Champ is the author of practical guide How to Grieve Like A Champ

Further reading

What life-long anxiety can feel like in midlife

Feeling stuck in midlife? Here's how to move forward

Sex for the over 60s: rediscovering your sexuality

7 things to do to feel like your younger self

How reviewing your regrets can transform your life