Dear New Shrink,

In your article on the Monday morning blues, you mentioned that retirement can be dangerous, even deadly, if one is not prepared for it. My husband and I are about to retire and while I am excited, I am worried about him. His life has always been about his work and us, his family. Can you elaborate more on what makes for a pleasant retirement verses a dreary one?

Thanks,

Scared to retire

Dear Scared,

I am glad you picked up on the dangers of retiring and I am also happy to expand on it.

No matter what the circumstances of retirement, it is important for us to consider. Scientific research has shown that those who are not prepared for retirement, especially men or career folks who are highly identified with their work, have a much higher incidence of death within the first two years of retirement. It cannot be stressed enough just how very important it is to be prepared for retirement.

Some people are forced into retirement and they may need to get over the hurt or resentment that they feel about losing their right to choose. Processing their feelings by talking it out with someone is a good idea. But then, move on to making the best of it.

Maybe you were not forced to retire, it was just time but you are not quite ready. You are that guy or gal who always worked and never had time for anything more. You need to start thinking about what you would like to do, new things to try, hobbies, travel, sports? It is always a good idea to find things that first and foremost you will enjoy but second, bring you into contact with others and keep you active.

No matter who we are, we need to have a meaning or purpose to our lives. Some people work so hard in their careers that they truly don’t take the time to develop avocations or hobbies. Their work is their life. Suddenly retired, they can wake up and wonder who am I? What am I supposed to do with my life? It is easy to feel as if life is over because their work was their purpose and meaning.

Mondays can be dreadful for these folks and yet, for many others, the beauty of retirement is that time sort of melts together so that there is no more Monday vs. Tuesday or Friday. All of this time is yours to do with as you please, assuming your health permits.

Start thinking about all the things you have wanted to do but never had time for. Make a list and start with the easiest things to do first. Maybe you love to read, well then go to the Library and consider joining a book club. It’s important to keep your mind active and the social support is essential to your well being.

If you feel a need to be needed or want to help others, volunteer at a hospital or library, museum or music society, actually anything that suits you. There are countless opportunities for helping others by being a volunteer.

Maybe you start yourself a garden and learn to grow your own vegetables and fruits.

Or just the flowers can be wonderful to grace your own home with or share with a friend.

If you love sports, try one if you can. Being active is healthy and can be social. There are hiking clubs, walking groups, tennis groups, even bicycles on the beach.

If you always wanted to travel, now is a good time to get going. Being part of a tour group might be best because of the social networking, medical attention if needed and guides to help along the way. Traveling does not need to be expensive. There are a number of ways to do it. You can rent an RV and drive across country, go camping or take cruises that are discounted when you sign up in advance. Many have found lifelong friends that they made on their travel tours.

If traveling is your thing, go over your budget and find ways to be creative about it.

And when not traveling, consider taking classes, getting active with others, learning a new skill. Maybe take up dancing, weaving, knitting, sewing, swimming, boating, hiking, chess or poker.

The bottom line is that we need to be prepared, as prepared as we can be because it always helps us to handle life changes. We also need to feel that we matter, are making a contribution, that our lives are meaningful and have a purpose. We also deserve to play at this point. Find the things that bring you joy and start doing them. It is never too late.

Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist with offices in Brentwood. E-mail your questions and responses to newshrink@gmail.com.

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