by Gordon Connor

And it probably will, sooner than later. Just when you thought you had it all figured out, depression takes over. Want to nix it before it starts? Read on…we’ve come up with a list of 11 ways to overcome depression in retirement that will help you kick the habit and have you feeling positive and hopeful once again!

All of us have dreams. For Maggie, it’s that cool little coffee shop (“Maggie’s”) she’s dreamed of since her college days. Her husband Rich, however, wants something totally different. He’s a gym rat and his dream has been about finally having the time to put himself into the best physical condition of his life. He wants to “live” in the gym and compete in the local bodybuilding competition one day in the senior division.

What to do? Which way to go? How can both Maggie and Rich get what they want and still get through each day without bickering and snarling at each other?

What happened?

how to overcome depression in retirement

Before they realized it, retirement came along as well as their dreams. But an unexpected twist took place. They couldn’t serve coffee or pump iron 24/7. They found themselves with more spare time than they could fill. They wanted to work on their dreams, but what about their spouse? Rich wanted to workout, but muscles will only let humans do that without rest up to a certain extent. Maggie wanted to get the coffee shop off and running and hoped for her husband’s help. But that was the last thing Rich wanted to do. So, for Maggie and Rich, what happened to the “us,” and the idea of supporting each other in each other’s dreams? They are at a stalemate, their relationship in a tedious balance, neither truly understanding nor wanting to understand, what the other person wants. Neither like this way of living. It’s just not working.

Now what?

So now it begins. Maggie and Rich are both into their retirement life, and they don’t like it. It’s not what they had it cracked-up to be. They now find themselves sitting across the dining room table from each other and they don’t like who they see. After all these years, they find they don’t really know this “new” person at all. So nothing gets done. Both find themselves in an uncomfortable place with nowhere to go and no remedies in sight. And where does this lead to? Depression!

In this situation, both Maggie and Rich know what they want, but are at odds as far as honoring each other’s wishes. Time, money, and commitment are at stake. But at least they have an idea of what they want. It gets worse for those couples/individuals who have no idea what they want to do in life. Most of those who plan ahead, have an idea of how they see their future and have a vision for themselves seem to be the happiest. So what can someone do?  Most of us can talk and share our dreams with each other, but words can only carry so far. We need to have a plan and be willing to take action.

We can choose to get therapy, but that can get quite expensive and bring up larger issues and resentments that can be a real damper on fun. Talking to each other about our hobbies, travel ideas, and aspirations for the future is fine and dandy, but actually getting on a plane is something totally different. And a week-long vacation each year won’t cut it either. What do we do for the other 51 weeks?

So Just What Does Depression Feel Like?

how to overcome depression in retirement

We’re talking about a serious mental imbalance here. It can cause serious sadness and hopelessness. It hurts both physically and mentally. It can create changes in your appetite and affect your sleep. And, it can last for months or even years. It will certainly mess with your daily life!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that these are some of the unexpected ways that depression can bring on sadness and loneliness:

  • You no longer are interested in doing activities that used to be fun. You lack energy and motivation. You may have loved golf or playing bridge at one time, but not any longer.
  • You are having trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions. Your ability to focus is challenged.
  • You lack hope…feeling sad or anxious most of the time.
  • Your self-esteem and self-worth is gone. You feel helpless, and question whether you’ll ever be able to think positively again.
  • You oversleep or wake up too early. You may have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. You find yourself feeling tired, even after sleeping well.
  • You feel lousy most of the time. Headaches, pains in the body, stomach problems, nausea, constipation…the list goes on and on.
  • You eat more than you used to in order to “ease the pain” or find yourself not hardly eating at all. You find yourself gaining weight or getting too thin.
  • You feel irritable, find yourself easily frustrated, and have a feeling of restlessness within.
  • You have thoughts of doing harm to yourself. You begin thinking that ending it all might be the best thing you can do for yourself and those around you.

Shame also comes into play.

Depression is often seen as a weakness, so many people choose to isolate themselves and/or not share how they are feeling with others. They don’t wish to expose themselves to ridicule, tasteless jokes, or pity. Others think you should be able to control it, and don’t understand why you can’t just “shake it off.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Cures For Depression

When the time comes to retire we often wonder what happened. Perhaps we realize we don’t have as much money as we thought we would. We tend to forget about all those places and activities that require money. The challenge is to take our minds off what we don’t have and focus on what you do. Comparing ourselves to others is a recipe for disaster. There is always going to be someone in a better situation than what we see ourselves in. Instead, take a hard look at what really is important in life––in your life––and feel blessed for what you have…not what you don’t. 

Does retiring automatically bring on depression? No! But, for many, this is how our thinking goes. Many of us find retired life scary: full of uncertainty, failing health, financial challenges, and a time to pull back and conserve. It just doesn’t seem to live up to the promises, hopes, or aspirations that we thought it would! There’s so much written about the adventure and excitement in retirement that we want that for us, too.

How to Overcome Depression

Here are 11 proven ways that will help you realize your dreams and help keep you out of a state of depression:

1. Stay in Shape.

how to overcome depression in retirement - exercise

Moving is probably the most important thing you can do to maintain a successful retirement. You’ve heard the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?” So does movement. Get as much movement as you can every day. Think of this as your new “job.”

2. Get Social.

Most of your friends at work dropped off the social map when you retired. You need to replace them. Set out to make friends by looking for local clubs you can join, research Meet-Up groups in your area, or get involved in the local community by volunteering, getting a part-time job, or getting involved with the church. Your local senior center is always a great place to check-out too.

3. Create a Plan.

Depression can strip away all structure from your life. Your days become all the same. Create a plan for yourself. What type of goals, both near and far, small or large, can you create for yourself? Do you still wish to learn to play the guitar, take Spanish, paint, or learn photography? Now is the time to set a goal and take a step towards it every single day!

4. Volunteer.

The best way to get yourself back on track is to help others get on track. Tutor kids, walk dogs, feed the homeless.

5. Keep Learning.

What better way to guard against depression than to continue to commit yourself to learning new things. Read books, try new activities, check-out online dating, or go to a museum or art show. With Google as a resource, the world is open to always learning new things. No excuses!

6. Create Healthy Daily Routines.

Start small with daily routines. Maybe it’s hydrating yourself first thing in the morning, making your bed every day, and getting out for a morning walk. Then move up to planning a good meal for yourself, reading for an hour, and taking a drive in the country this upcoming weekend. Scheduling your day is a great way to avoid the “what’s next” dilemma.

7. Eat Right.

There’s no magic bullet here. Depression will tempt you to eat more. Don’t let it win. Eat the right foods though. Don’t fill your gut with high sugar sweets or “lousy-for-the-mind-and-body” soft drinks. Fruits and vegetables should be a mainstay in any healthy eating.

8. Get More Shut-eye.

how to overcome depression in retirement - get enough sleep

Depression can make it hard to sleep. Losing sleep makes depression worse. It’s a vicious cycle. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Or, you can set your alarm to get the same number of hours of sleep every night. Just make sure you’re targeting at least 6 or more hours of shut-eye per night. Limit your sleep to no more than 9 hours. Take a short nap during the day if you need to. It can feel totally rejuvenating!

9. Be Accountable To Yourself

When you’re depressed, it’s hard to act responsibly. Often, it’s easier to sit and watch television than to do that chore you have on your list of things to do. Don’t be a slacker…get the job done. Be accountable to yourself to get at least 3 things done every day. Start by making the bed. This can be one of them. At the end of the day congratulate yourself for accomplishing these 3 things.

10. No Negative Thinking

Don’t let negative thinking drag you down. The next time you feel that you are the most worthless human being on the block, catch yourself and acknowledge that this is faulty thinking. Do whatever you can do to shift. Get outside for a walk, play with the dog, take a shower, listen to some great music. Life is good. Do things for yourself that builds upon that.

11. Have Fun.

When you’re depressed, it’s hard to get out and do fun stuff. Do it anyway. Like the movies? Keep going. Like bowling? Get back on a team. When you’re depressed, you forget how to have fun. Learn it all over again. It will come roaring back.

Retirement should be the time when all of your hard work over a lifetime is paying off. But happiness may not be in the cards for you if you don’t have a plan to keep yourself occupied in many ways. You might find yourself feeling hopeless, but don’t let it get the best of you. Do whatever you can to fight it. Your lifestyle choices, some physical exercise, and a shift in your mindset are all natural treatments against depression.

Believe it or not, you can actually have fun again. It might take a little work but it is well worth the effort. Create a “fun” schedule for yourself. Enjoy going out to dinner with your friends? Do it again! Having fun again can be right around the corner for you.

Is depression giving you a hard time? Are you having a hard time finding happiness again? Tell us in the comments below what you’re challenged with. Perhaps we can help you along the way.

 

About the Author

Gordon Conner is a Freelance Branding Coach and Copywriter who helps build WOW brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing, branding and copywriting services for 40 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. He can be reached at Gordon@GordonConner.com or http://www.GordondepresConner.com.

 

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