Stress in Retirement Is Normal: 5 Causes + How to Deal

“Taking it easy” may not be so easy at first.

Loading the player...

Most people talk about retirement as a shiny, sunny chapter of your life in which you no longer have to clock into work, answer to a boss, or spend 40 hours a week working for The Man. For many retirees, however, retirement turns out to be less pleasant than they expected.

It turns out, stress and depression during retirement are pretty normal. It’s a major life transition, which is unsettling in itself for people who struggle with change, and it brings with it many challenges that some may not be ready to deal with. 

Most people enjoy their retirement—eventually, at least—but here are some common reasons your mental health may take a hit during retirement.

1. A perceived loss of purpose.

While some people just go to work to get a paycheck, others find or even build their identity around their careers. If you relate to the latter, it’s natural to feel a little lost or unfulfilled without your job.

Some options to overcome this feeling are to seek out hobbies and volunteer opportunities that utilize your expertise. Additionally, if you find yourself feeling “worthless” without your career, it might be a good idea to check in with a mental health professional to help you navigate these feelings. (Here are 3 things to expect at your first therapy appointment.)

2. Financial stress.

Everyone’s financial situation during retirement is different. If your situation is less than ideal, you might obviously feel a little uneasy with the sudden change in cash flow.

There are many programs and professionals who can help with your financial planning during this period. Recalculating your budget may help recharge your confidence going forward.

3. Loneliness.

You probably took it for granted at the time, but work helps keep you at least moderately social five days a week. Sure, there are some social butterflies out there who stay engaged with their buddies during retirement, but it’s easy to slide into a habit of spending your retired days alone on the couch. 

Make it a point to get out of the house regularly to reap the health benefits of socialization. Join clubs, exercise groups, and community gardens. Retirement is also a great time to adopt a dog or cat: Pets come with many health perks, including fighting off loneliness.

4. Lack of routine.

People who like structure can feel wayward without their 9 to 5. If you’re a planner who loves the predictability of a typical work day, you don’t have to give up structure in retirement.

Find a new routine to soothe your methodical mind. Continue to wake up and go to bed at similar times, even if you no longer have to worry about beating rush hour traffic in the morning. Set up weekly coffee dates and lunch hours with your pals. Schedule in hobbies, clubs, exercise, and other regular activities to give you the structure you crave.

5. Health issues.

If you have them, health problems that arise as you age can hinder your quality of life, limit your mobility, and add to your financial stress. That can obviously make retirement less easy and enjoyable.

One of the best things you can do is remain actively engaged in maintaining your good health: Stick to a healthy lifestyle, keep in touch with your doctor, and make sure you get your vaccines as needed. (Here are the recommended vaccines for adulthood.)

Taking it easy might not be so easy at first, but most retirees adjust with time. If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional to help you adjust and find your groove in retirement.