Managing Depression After Retirement

While retirement is often a joyous time to celebrate a new chapter in life, closing out a job has been shown to cause depression.

You’ve worked almost your entire life and the day has arrived that you literally worked so hard for… Retirement. And while there are aspects to be joyous for, including more time off with loved ones, closing a large chapter can bring on a mental challenge.

In fact, depression and depressive symptoms were significantly associated with retirement in late middle-aged U.S. workers according to a study published in Health Services Research. And according to a survey conducted by the Nationwide Retirement Institute (NRI), more than a quarter of recent retirees state life is worse in retirement than before it.

On the flip side, the NRI survey also shows 35 percent said life is better in retirement, while 38 percent report it is as the same. Also shining in a more positive light, a Merrill Lynch report mentions 93 percent of retirees say their life is as good as or better than before retirement!

Nonetheless, it is important to foresee the threat of retirement depression, primarily as a means to protect against and manage it.

What Causes Retirement Depression?

Any major change in life can cause stress, which is a primary risk for depression, and retirement is no different. And while retirement is a regular transition, it is nonetheless a period that can cause distress.

Going into retirement can also cause retirees to lose components that gift us meaning in life, including productivity, a structured routine, social connections, and an ultimate sense of purpose.

Furthermore, retirement may be a reminder of aging, with potential fears and worry surrounding sickness, disability, and even death.

What to Do After Retirement

But rather than simply adjusting to retirement depression, lessen the risk of its upbringing and smooth the transition by:

Booking Your Schedule

With a job blocking most of your schedule, it is important to book it with other meaningful tasks and experiences. Starting with a game plan and adhering to some sort of routine helps maintain a sense of purpose and the feeling of accomplishment.

Schedule regular weekly outings with yourself or other family members, friends, and neighbors, including gardening with grandkids, exploring at the nature center, cooking a nutritious meal at home, and the additional contributing tips identified below.

Keeping Active, both Physically and Mentally

Keeping your mind and body active not only fulfills your life, but acts as a distractor from retirement depression.

And not to mention, a third of recent retirees say health problems are interfering with their retirement. That being said, being physically active can help improve overall health, including lowering feelings of stress and anxiety.

Likewise, regularly stimulating the brain can improve cognition and memory, as mental stimulation has shown to delay the onset of cognitive impairment and dementia.

Try partaking in at least 30 minutes each of body and mind-stimulating activities daily, including exercising at a community center and reading a book.

Looking to Part-Time or Volunteer Opportunities

Just because your regular 9:00 to 5:00 job ended, does not mean you cannot get back in the work world!

In your local area, look for a part-time or volunteer opportunity related to your former career. Or perhaps you have always wanted to explore ventures in a different area of interest?

Ultimately, finding a new way to provide meaning for your life and help restore the sense of purpose that you once found through your daily work. And there really is no better time to dip your toes into the fresh water!

Checking Off Your Bucket List

Remember that bucket list you compiled but put in on the backburner because of all the demands of work? Well now is the perfect opportunity to check off those things!

Furthermore, the Merrill Lynch report also references 95 of retirees say they prefer experiences over things, thus encouraging you to enjoy life’s moments (including that bungee jumping you have always wanted to do…).

Managing Serious Depression

Even with a game plan created and set into place, there might be instances in which you or your loved one face a more serious form of depression.

But how do you know if the depressive feelings are considered serious?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, signs and symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • Persistent sadness, anxiousness, or “empty” mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Feelings of guilt, pessimism, hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, and being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, including early-morning awakening and oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or unintentional changes in weight
  • Thoughts of death or suicide and suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not alleviate even with treatment

If you have been experiencing several of the following symptoms for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression. Fortunately, depression is manageable in older adults, particularly when seeking out professional help and adhering to a treatment plan.

Treating Depression

The primary treatment options for depression include medication and psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. They may also recommend complementary therapies for depression, including yoga, exercise, and certain dietary supplements.

Doctors and therapists ultimately develop a personalized treatment plan specific to you, along with adjusting them to best suit your individualized needs. Also always continuously follow-up with your doctor to ensure treatment is working effectively.

With consistency and proper management, you can lead a happy and fulfilled life after retirement!