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Keeping Retirement Stress At Bay

By freelance writer Jane Lester

If retirees are to make the best of their newfound free time, an awareness of the specific obstacles they may have to face is key, one of which is stress. As noted by Harvard academics, retirement is ranked 10th on the list of life’s 43 most stressful events for important reasons. Major life changes always carry some degree of stress, but as far as retirement is concerned, issues such as economic well-being also have strong impacts on one’s quality of life. Enjoying a good financial position early on in one’s life, for instance, allowed retirees to build financial resources and to retire with a more positive outlook.

Factors that impact views on retirement

A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham found that experiences of retirement differ greatly depending on factors such as profession, gender, and education. Those who were professionals, for instance, tended to work part-time after retirement (though not for a salary) while those whose career had been more disjointed (e.g. because they had to take time off to care for children) were more likely to continue working in some capacity because they were unable to retire. The latter group was less likely to view retirement positively because of concerns about financial instability.

Gender differences

The study also found that women who worked in administrative professions but who had also been close to family members were optimistic about having more personal and social time. On the other hand, men with semi-skilled professions were more worried about being inactive. They also felt that a part of their identity could be lost.

Top jobs mean lower stress

A recent paper published in the Journal of Gerontology (May 2017) suggested that those who have worked in ‘low-status occupations’ often had poorer health and higher stress levels than those in top jobs. In essence, early differences in life could be magnified as time passes. Data showed that retirement was associated with lower stress levels, but only for those with high-level jobs. Lead author, T Chandola, noted: “It may seem counter-intuitive that stopping low-status work which may be stressful does not reduce biological levels of stress. This may be because workers who retire from low-status jobs often face financial and other pressures in retirement.”

Lowering retirement stress through financial planning

Finding ways to increase income is crucial for seniors who may be struggling financially. In order to come up with a sound financial plan, they should seek out a recommended financial advisor who can discuss options such as reverse mortgages, downsizing, investment, or even opening a business. Extra income can also be obtained through continual work. In fact, according to a study by the American Psychological Association, those who work post-retirement enjoy better health and fewer functional limitations than those who fully retire.

Social networks are key

Retirees can find that their social network is vastly reduced, since work colleagues may live far, or may also retire and settle in remote areas. Establishing new social circles is important. This may involve joining local senior sports or art groups, taking part in fundraising and other altruistic events, or becoming more involved in one’s religious community. Constant learning keeps the mind active and boosts optimal cognitive functioning, so learning a new language or taking up a course in a subject one has always been interested in can be helpful.

Holistic activities

Millenary eastern practices such as yoga and meditation have been found in numerous studies to lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol. Not only does yoga improve strength and flexibility, but also boost one’s mental health. These activities also provide a venue through which to meet like-minded individuals and to learn more about the healthy yogic lifestyle. Seniors who are new to yoga will be pleased to know that classes can be adapted to all levels. Moreover, chair yoga is an excellent way to achieve the benefits of yoga with greater stability.

As is the case with all new life stages, retirement can be as stressful as it is a relief. Sound financial planning, the formation of new friendships, and taking part in healthy activities that focus on stress reduction can go a long way towards viewing this new crossroads as a positive time. Indeed, retirement is the perfect time to take part in hobbies we may never have had the time for, including the simple pleasures such as reading, enjoying nature, or spending more time with loved ones.