The challenge of retirement

Get Ready for RetirementA few months ago I was asked to write an article for Perception magazine about the challenges that retirement may bring.

For a lot of people the thought of retiring is a good one but for many others it starts a new phase of their life that they seem ill prepared for.

You can read the full article here.

Although it may not seem like an obvious choice to see a hypnotherapist if you are struggling with being a new retiree there are several areas that we can help with. Apart from any emotional issues that emerge we can help you, through coaching to achieve any new life goals and adjust to the changes.

Why not share your experience and tips on how to make retirement a good one.

Retirement: Are you ready?


Are you looking forward to retirement? Do you see it as a time when you are free of the stress of work and can spend lazy days relaxing? Or are you dreading the day you no longer have to get up for work and wonder how you will fill all those extra hours?

Retirement can and should be an enjoyable time. The freedom and leisure to engage in new hobbies, travel and enjoy time with friends and family is a gift. For many it can seem like an extended holiday.

Retirement is wonderful. It’s doing nothing without worrying about getting caught at it. ~Gene Perret

However our emotional response to retirement can vary. It can depend to a large extent on the reasons for leaving work. People who have planned their retirement are more likely to enjoy it than those who have been forced into it early through redundancy or ill health. People who found their work unrewarding or particularly stressful are also more likely to have a positive view of their retirement.

The transition from work to retirement isn’t smooth for everyone however. Although we commonly plan for our retirement financially, we rarely plan for any emotional challenges we may face when confronted with such a major lifestyle change.

Work provides structure, money, social interaction, purpose and a sense of self worth. Retirement can raise issues around relationships, boredom, and self-esteem. For some these challenges can seem overwhelming leading to prolonged stress and depression.

Identity Issues

Our identity and sense of self worth is often so intrinsically linked to our profession or the roles that we play that it becomes difficult to redefine ourselves in retirement when this changes.

When we define ourselves in terms of our job, for example, ‘being’ a doctor, a teacher, a pilot it makes it impossible to differentiate what we do from who we are. This can lead to a sense of loss once we retire, of not knowing who we are anymore.

In contrast, when we talk about working as a doctor, a teacher, a pilot it classifies what we do as separate to who we are. So redefining our sense of self away from what we do towards acceptance of who we are as a person has a huge advantage when we transition into retirement.

Relationship Issues

Retirement can bring new challenges to existing relationships. Additional time spent in each other’s company can upset the balance and bring unresolved but previously manageable tensions to the fore.

It can highlight contrasts in ideas and personality types. One partner may see retirement as a time when they just sit back and relax, whereas the other may be looking forward to a busy schedule with extended travel, new hobbies and an increasing social network.

Sometimes this is just a difference in personalities. Introverts may be more comfortable spending time alone and with limited social contact whereas extroverts will need company and regular social interactions more often in order to keep them happy.

Personal space and privacy can also be an area of concern. Friction can arise if a couple try to do everything together and don’t have enough autonomy. This can be additionally difficult if one partner has retired earlier than the other and has enjoyed independence and personal space that then may become restricted when their partner joins them in retirement.

Retirement can also mean that decision making processes change. Prior to retirement, work routines can provide a very clear division in decision making responsibilities. After retirement this division may no longer be clear and the need to make joint decisions more often can put a strain on the relationship.

Communication is essential to creating a harmonious retirement. Check that your expectations of retirement are the same as your partners. If your needs differ then make plans that will fulfil both of you. It is important to maintain activities that can be enjoyed both together and separately.


People often underestimate the importance of their work friendships. In many cases the people you spend time with at work are sharing up to 8 hours a day with you. If you don’t have a stable social network outside of work the absence of these daily contacts can create feelings of loneliness and isolation.

This can be complicated further if your retirement plans involve a move to a new area where you don’t know anyone or if you are single or have friends or family that live some distance away.

Make the effort to maintain your social contacts. Prior to leaving work agree future dates to meet up with friends so that you will have some social engagements to look forward to after you retire.

If you are moving or don’t have any friends that are local to you make the effort to join activities, clubs or special interest groups in your neighbourhood, It’s a great way to increase your social circle.


Lack of routine or planned activities to look forward to can increase this sense of isolation and lead to feelings of boredom and depression. After we retire there is often a sense of not being useful anymore, or having a lack of purpose.

When we work our daily routine is shaped by the requirements of our job. Our success is based on how well we perform and we get rewarded for our success. We are very much dependent on an outer structure to provide us with a sense of achievement.

Once we retire, we are solely responsible for planning our days. We are making a shift from the outer structure of a work environment to the inner structure of retirement.
Simple daily routines can add purpose to each day as can regular activities. Volunteering can also be an option for some and can provide a new purpose as can any activity that is done on a regular basis.

Creating a happy retirement

Many people find adjusting to a life of retirement difficult but knowing what you want from your retirement and planning for it can help you manage any emotional challenges you may face.

Understanding what makes you happy should be the first step. Retirement should be an enjoyable stage in your life when you have the opportunity to do all of the things you didn’t have time to do when you worked. So don’t waste it.

Maybe you want to climb Everest or go camel trekking. Take up an art class or simply spend more time in your garden. Whatever you have a yearning to do make plans for it and then tick it off your list of things you always wanted to do but didn’t have time for.

Communicate with your partner and compare expectations. It is better to talk these things through before you retire so that you can plan for any disparity in ideas. Even if your views of retirement differ entirely there are many ways to manage those differences so that you both get what you need. Your partner may surprise you and be happy to join you on the back of a camel.

Don’t forget to talk to your wider family too. Their expectations may be different from yours too. Just because you are no longer working doesn’t mean that you should be constantly available. Decide and agree boundaries.
Maintain your social network. Even if you are looking forward to retirement and want a period away from the people you worked with don’t lose contact. Make new friends and increase your social circle. Although this can seem scary, joining a group or group activity is a great way to meet like minded people.

Find a purpose. Small things can often provide the greatest meaning. Helping a neighbour, looking after a pet, babysitting the grandchildren are all purposeful activities.

Keep active. There is a lot of research that suggests that people who stay active and involved cope best with retirement. The benefits of physical exercise are well documented but don’t forget your brain.

Work provides mental stimulation for many so if you need to continue it after you retire why not consider learning something new. There are a lot of organisations that run adult classes so whether you want to take up a new hobby or further your education you are bound to find something that interests you.

Remember retirement is a process. Work often provides structure, hierarchy and defined roles whereas retirement is undefined and unstructured. Like any transitional period retirement has both emotional rewards and pitfalls.

How successful your retirement is depends on you and your ability to find happiness in your relationships both old and new. As well as satisfaction in your personal interests and challenging or creative mental activities With forward planning and good communication you can look forward to a smooth transition into this exciting phase of your life.

I’m not just retiring from the company, I’m also retiring from my stress, my commute, my alarm clock, and my iron. ~Hartman Jule