Tips for Maintaining Mental Health in Retirement
Many of us look at health as a physical aspect—eating a balanced diet, regularly exercising, and staying away from pollutants. However, mental health is an equally important factor that keeps our body working in its best shape. Therefore, it’s critical to maintain healthy mental health in retirement.
So, what is mental health? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains that it “affects how we think, feel, or act.” Mental health is an umbrella of wellness that covers our emotional, psychological, and social being. Mental health helps us deal with stress, make healthy choices, and connect with others.
CDC notes that although the terms are interchangeable, poor mental health does not equal mental illness. It is possible that a person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with mental illness. On the other hand, a person with mental illness can experience issues with their physical, mental, and social well-being.
Why Is It Important to Maintain Your Mental Health in Retirement?
Mental health changes over time. This can depend on several factors. When you are subjected to long, demanding periods, such as working overtime, surviving a traumatic situation, losing a loved one, or facing economic challenges, your coping abilities are stretched.
Declining mental health does not show up all at once. There are early warning signs which may give you a hint of the underlying problem. Some of these signs are:
- Experiencing changes in appetite and sleep
- Having unexplained pains
- Feeling confused or forgetful
- Experiencing physical fatigue
- Having severe mood swings
- Inability to perform daily tasks
- Feeling anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
When the above symptoms become evident, assessing and addressing them is essential. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent them from progressing into serious illnesses. Family counseling, community support, and therapy can help. But the best way to avoid them is to maintain healthy mental health in retirement.
Setting Realistic Expectations
The World Health Organization states that there are multiple risk factors for mental health problems at any point in life. However, older adults may have a different set of stressors. Having served society as family members, community volunteers, and participants in the workforce, you have given your youthful years to the people around you. When you finally take a break, it may take time for your mind and body to catch up with your new, more peaceful lifestyle.
Retirement requires adjustment. Your body starts recognizing when you don’t have to wake up early and make a long commute to the office.
Strangely, you may feel more accessible now, especially in the absence of deadlines or the challenges of working overtime. Switching from work mode to a slower, more relaxed pace could feel unfamiliar. It’s also natural to feel strange to have more time on your hands. You may even start to think about ways to fill your day with meaningful activities.
It’s essential to take time for yourself. Here are some things you can do during the first days of retirement:
- Keep a positive attitude. Adjusting to this new chapter will take time, but having a positive outlook will help you go through each day with hope and joy.
- Acknowledge your feelings. There are no right or wrong emotions, especially when dealing with change. However, understand that these emotions will pass. Talk to a close friend or family member who can help you find clarity.
- Start a journal. Record your daily progress and celebrate little wins!
- Treat yourself. Buy your favorite meals. Read your favorite books with a hot cup of cocoa. Invest in the equipment you’ve always wanted. You’ve worked hard, and you deserve to get a reward for that.
- Stay in touch with your family. If the kids have moved out, having regular chats with them will help bring you joy, especially if you have grandkids.
- Adopt a pet. Dogs and cats are excellent companions. They also offer cuddles and emotional support whenever you want it.
Staying Active and Engaged
The best way to keep the mind healthy is to keep it active. There are easy ways to do that. You can start by sitting down and solving a crossword on your favorite newspaper or returning to your old hobbies. Do you love art? Take an online painting, crafting, or pottery class to increase your skills. How about music? Bring out your old instrument and start playing your favorite tunes. If you want to dive into a new branch of learning, you can take short courses online and feel fulfilled once you receive your hard-earned certificate. Engaging in various activities will help you find a new sense of purpose. And the best part? You don’t have to do it alone.
Know that many other people are going through the challenges of retirement. Reaching out could help ease your apprehensions.
Being socially connected has a significant effect on your mental health. Stay in touch with your old work colleagues. Build new friendships. You can discover them by participating in community programs, favorite sports, or events.
Instead of enrolling in online courses, why not take them in person and meet new people in class? You can learn from each other by sharing your experiences.
Volunteering in community activities can also widen your network. Use this chance to meet people with the same interest and help create change together.
Taking Care of Physical Health
It is no secret that your physical health influences your mental health in retirement. Eating the right food—home-cooked meals, fruits, and snacks with less sugar and sodium—can do wonders for your body. Regular periods of exercise can give you a sense of fulfillment. A twenty-minute quick run or a power walk is enough to satisfy your moving needs for the day. You can live an even healthier life by joining a community with all your desired amenities: gyms, pools, a tennis court, or perhaps even a golf course to enrich your body and, indirectly, your mental health.
Seeking Professional Help
Being retired does not necessarily guarantee a stress-free life. If you’re coping with a challenging circumstance, do not hesitate to ask for professional help. Talk to your doctor and find out what treatments are available to you. Recovering your mental health is always a priority so that you can live happily and meaningfully.
Put Your Mental Health First
A joyful, vibrant mental health is one factor that affects your overall wellness. A good attitude in life, supported by knowledge, experience, and an openness to change, can help you appreciate your surroundings as you transition into retirement.
You are not alone. Finding a community of seniors with similar experiences can help you better ease into your new lifestyle. At Crestwood, we understand your journey. Hence, we built our community with your mental and overall health in mind. With many amenities and services available, we will help you transition into your new life here as joyfully as possible. Call us to learn more about our programs.