STAYING WELL IN RETIREMENT

27 Jul 2016 By SuperFriend

While mental health challenges can occur at any stage of your life, there are times you are especially vulnerable to experiencing depression and anxiety. 

Retirement can involve some triggers towards these conditions, particularly if it is a stressful time or if it becomes an ongoing challenge. 

“The transition between work and retirement is a big change,” explains Beyond Blue’s Policy, Research and Evaluation Leader, Dr Stephen Carbone. “For some people it’s a positive, but for others it means a certain level of loss.”

There are actions you can take prior to retirement to assist in staying mentally healthy; for example, research tells us that transitioning into retirement in a positive, well-planned way is helpful. There are also many things you can do to stay well during this next stage to avoid being one of the 10 older Australians who experience depression and anxiety.

SuperFriend’s Planning for a Mentally Healthy Retirement report outlines five ways to stay well during retirement.

Connect

One of the major differences between working life and retirement is the change in social interactions, and this is something to stay aware of. Carbone says, “People who are lonely or feel socially isolated are often at a higher risk of developing depression. Having that social support network is just as important at 65, 75 or 85 as it is at any other time in your life.”

Building new connections within your community is important, as is continuing to foster strong relationships with your family and friends. Trying new activities by joining like-minded groups is one method of staying socially active, and will help keep you around people you like and doing things you enjoy.

Beyond Blue’s Connections Matter booklet offers some further suggestions for helping retirees stay mentally active through social engagement.

Be active

There are strong links between physical health and mental health, so being active – in ways that work within your lifestyle and abilities – is vital.

This can be challenging for some. “As you get older, physical health problems can start to kick in and we know that these can increase the risk of experiencing depression and anxiety, particularly when the person is in pain or the condition is causing a loss of independence,” says Carbone.

However, it’s important to do what you can. “Looking after your health in general is good for you – eating well, regular physical activity, adequate sleep – and looking after your mental health is just as important,” Carbone says. “Stay stimulated, challenged, involved, connected; these things help reduce stress, prevent loneliness and decrease the risk of depression and anxiety.”

Take notice

Self-awareness and mindfulness are powerful tools in staying mentally well, helping with your emotions, sleep and self-esteem. These strategies include being present during your day and purposeful about the actions you take, which in turn can help you plan activities and interactions that you enjoy. “Anything that gives you a sense of satisfaction, stimulation, relaxation or purpose is the stuff we need,” says Carbone.

Taking notice of how you’re spending your days is also a good way to decide what you want to do. “Retirement can be overwhelming if you have all this time and you’re not sure what to do with it,” Carbone says. Finding your purpose within retirement will help you feel happier and increase your mental wellbeing.

The Black Dog Institute has evidence-based suggestions for incorporating mindfulness, meditation and relaxation into your life.

Keep learning

You actively learn through all stages of your life, and retirement is no different. Learning new skills and adding to your current skillset and interests can be done formally, with courses or schooling, or informally as you take part in activities you enjoy. 

It’s possible there are things you’ve always wanted to try, but never had the time for, so this is your chance to consider those things, too. This can help you have goals to aim towards and give you a sense of achievement. “Retirement is a sizeable chunk of your life, so it’s good to figure out what you hope to do,” Carbone says. “Some people find that change in identity a challenge,” he adds, suggesting that adding to your skillset can help you find who you are in retirement.

Give

Research shows that giving back to your community increases your connection with your community, helps increase self-worth and can teach you new skills. All of these things are great for your mental wellbeing.

Senior Australians contribute the highest number of volunteer hours of any age group, with around 2.9 million people over 65 taking part in voluntary activities, showing that volunteering is seen as an important part of retirement for many.

When looking for ways to volunteer, consider your own abilities, skills, interests and personal goals, in addition to the needs within your community. 

For more information on retirement wellbeing, refer to SuperFriend’s Planning for a Mentally Healthy Retirement report.

This article has been supplied by SuperFriend

Who is SuperFriend?

SuperFriend is a nationwide health promotion foundation that helps industry super funds to promote and support improved mental health and wellbeing for their members, through the workplace. Created by the Industry Funds Forum, SuperFriend collaborates with industry superannuation funds, group life insurers and the mental health sector to facilitate targeted workplace mental health and wellbeing initiatives for members of these funds.

SuperFriend’s work focuses on the development, promotion and facilitation of information, resources, programs and research about mental health and wellbeing. By improving people’s understanding of mental health, mental illness and wellbeing, SuperFriend seeks to influence and foster mentally healthy, supportive work environments where people flourish and thrive.

Media Super is a corporate member and supporter of SuperFriend, working with the initiative to provide workplace mental health training and resources to our employers and their staff, to ultimately help improve the mental health of our members.