There is a lot of emphasis on stress in the workplace and the difficulties that can come with managing a demanding job or career, especially while juggling the pressures of family life. Many people hope and assume that retirement will bring relief from all that and offer peace, relaxation and a stress free existence, but in reality, that is by no means the case for everyone.
14th – 20th May, 2018 is Mental Health Awareness Week and the focus this year is on stress and the impact it can have on our lives and our mental health.
Stress is, ‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’; it is an overloading of the brain – when we are overloaded with too many worries, too many demands and too much to do, our brains struggle to cope and we become stressed.
Stress can be caused by a huge variety of factors and can affect anyone. Potential causes include worries about family members, illness or poor health, financial worries, work, concern about the state of the world, or not having enough rest and sleep.
If it is not managed, stress can lead to depression or other serious health conditions. According to the Mental Health Foundation, research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this.
While many people do enjoy the freedom and repose of retire-ment, for some, the huge change in lifestyle can be a cause of stress and unease.
Life after work
Leaving the world of work usually brings a dramatic change to a person’s way of life; structures and routines that have been central to daily life for years suddenly disappear, and for many, this can feel like a real loss and leave people feeling insecure, bewildered and adrift.
Not having to set that alarm to get up in the morning, not having somewhere you have to be, and things you have to get done can leave retired people feeling that they no longer have a purpose, or that they are no longer valued.
Rather than feeling less stressed because the demands of work are no longer upon them, some retired people in fact feel more stressed because they miss the sense of fulfilment and security that working can bring. Others, if they, for whatever reason, do not fill their days with other activities, also struggle with boredom.
For retirees who were previously in lower-paid employment, financial pressures can be a huge source of stress. In addition, while people may manage to cover living costs, taking up new hobbies and filling your days with activities can be costly.
But there are things you can do to approach retirement in a positive way and avoid falling victim to some of these potential stresses.
Take some time to think about what you would actually like to do with your time; you may want to travel, take up a new hobby or volunteer with a charity, school or other local organisation. You may decide to join a club, spend more time with friends and family or simply just want to put your feet up and read a book! Whatever it may be, doing things you enjoy will help you structure your time and minimise the risk of feeling stressed.
Some retired people offer, or find they are roped into, looking after others, such as grandchildren or elderly relatives. This is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, it may be exactly what you want or need. However, be careful to manage other people’s expectations and don’t get drawn into doing more than you want to; it is important to have time for yourself in order to relax and do the other things you want to do. What’s more, rest, sleep and exercise are essential to keeping the stress levels down and staying fit and healthy, so you need to make time for them!
So, whether you are planning for, or have already embarked upon your retirement journey, having an awareness of stress (for yourself and others) is important; recognising stress is the first step to combating it and making sure you enjoy your retirement.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress or you fear that it is developing into depression or affecting your health in other ways, talk to your GP.
To find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week, visit: www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week or www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-awareness-week-2018/
By Clare Holway