I'm not doing very well with retirement

It's good that you're here. Most people find retirement a major upheaval. Many people don't feel at ease once their professional activities are over. Talking about it helps, and so will these conversation tips.

The end of professional activities suddenly replaces day-to-day stress with empty time. Perhaps things have quietened down at home since the children flew the nest. You miss daily contact with colleagues, or perhaps the appreciation and successes that you used to enjoy at work. After a change like that, everyone feels alone, sad, listless – or misses being needed. Feelings like these can pile up in early retirement, and even make us ill.

If you have noticed any of the following things about yourself for weeks or even months:

  • you have trouble keeping on top of the housework
  • you no longer feel like going out
  • you're not sleeping well
  • you're worried about the future

– then it's time to take action.

Talking helps

Talking about problems, anxieties and uncertainties is the first step towards alleviating them. If you do nothing, your crisis may get worse – and that can make you seriously ill. That's why if you're not doing OK, it's important to talk about it.

Talking reduces stress and gives us strength

Talking alone won't make your problems go away – but it does make them less stressful, inspiring fresh hope or making it possible for you to get help.

It's normal to feel uncertain

Many people are afraid of talking about personal problems, perhaps because they are afraid of being thought weird or a failure. Or it may be that they feel guilty, thinking they ought to have made better preparations for retirement. But the ability to talk about your weaknesses is a sign of strength.

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«One of the key things to do is to talk to somebody about what you are having difficulty with.»

Mark, senior activist

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«Its important to realize that you are not alone.»

Martin, pensionist

Start a conversation

Pick somebody you trust

It doesn't have to be somebody who's close to you: sometimes it's easier to talk to somebody who isn't – like a cousin, your local priest or someone in the neighbourhood. If you feel bad and suffer for an extended period, it's important for you to seek help from somebody you trust: your adult children, your GP, a Spitex carer.

Pick a suitable time

An in-depth conversation takes time, so don't start it if either of you has to be somewhere in ten minutes' time. Sometimes it helps to ask when the person has time for a conversation.

There's something I'd like to have a quiet word with you about. When would be a good time?

Find a suitable place

where you won't be disturbed and you both feel at ease. Many people find it easier to talk about difficult things while walking, so a stroll may be a good opportunity. A park bench may be the perfect spot.

Shall we go for a stroll, or just have a coffee together?

Nor does it always have to be a person-to-person discussion straight away. If you'd like your first attempt to be anonymous, Die Dargebotene Hand / La Main Tendue on 143 will always provide a sympathetic ear.

Conversation tips

People close to you may be keeping quiet out of uncertainty

Do you wonder why none of your friends and family has noticed that you're having problems? The reason for that is usually not lack of interest or concern. Many people are afraid that you might find it offensive or insulting if they raised possible problems with you. Or they may simply not know how to start the conversation.

You will make it easier for them if you do so yourself

Talk about your feelings, and try to tell them what might help you. That will give your family and friends the opportunity to help you.

It's OK if it doesn't work

It's possible that your invitation to have a word won't be taken up. Even though this isn't easy, don't take it personally. The other person may simply be preoccupied with something else, or feel overburdened. Enquire when would be a good time, or ask somebody else.

I understand. When would be a better time for you?

The conversation

You might start like this:

I haven't been feeling good lately.

Things aren't that good for me. Can I talk to you about it some time?

I have a few problems at the moment. It would be nice to talk to someone about them.

Try to put across how you're feeling

Other people can't read your mind or sense your feelings. The more you tell them about yourself, the easier it will be for them to understand what's wrong. Being understood has an alleviating effect.

Silences are not a problem

Everybody sometimes has trouble finding words when talking about difficult situations. Don't be in a hurry to end pauses and silences. To get the conversation going again, it sometimes helps to say:

At the moment I don't know what to say either.

Know your own limitations

If you feel it's all getting on top of you, you can end the conversation at any time. You might say:

I feel everything is getting on top of me at the moment. I'd prefer to talk about it some other time.

Don't get cross about useless suggestions

With the best of intentions – to help you – the other person may make lots of suggestions that are no help at all to you at the moment. Try to see the good intentions behind the suggestions. You might say:

You don't have to suggest solutions, you're helping me just by listening.

or

I'll think about what you say. I'll come back to you about it if I feel it could help.

Give feedback

You can assume that the other person is unsure of whether they are conducting themselves correctly in the conversation. If you feel at ease, say so. That makes the conversation easier. You might say, for example:

It's really nice that you’re listening to me.

Ask for practical help if possible

Nobody can make your problems go away at the touch of a button. But even little things, like an evening playing jass together or help with day-to-day errands, can bring relief. If you know what would help you, don't keep it to yourself. People find it helpful to know how they can support you.

Accept the other person's limitations

Ideally you will find the other person to be open and understanding: a good listener. But it's entirely possible that they have too much on their plate. You need to respect that. And this may be the right time to see a specialist.

After the conversation

Talking isn't always any help on its own

Talking to people around you is certainly important and stress-relieving, but it's not always enough.

See a specialist

If things haven't improved for you after a while, you should seek help from a specialist. The root cause of your situation may be an illness. The sooner you seek professional help, the quicker you'll be back to normal – because mental illnesses are treatable.

Strengthen your defences

You can strengthen your mental health, mobilizing your natural defences against stress. Possible stimuli for you:

Psyche stärken in Corona-Zeiten