In a book I co-authored titled, The Retirement Challenge, A Non-Financial Guide From Top Retirement Experts, I wrote a chapter titled Developing Resilience for a Thriving Retirement. Although the book and chapter are focused on the transition into retirement, in these challenging times, it may also help you, your friends, or your family navigate the myriad of current thoughts and feelings.

Here is a part of that chapter:

Ways to Practice and Develop Resilience

Although some people are naturally more resilient than others, resilience is something that can be practiced and learned. One way to practice and learn resilience is to be aware of situations that create stress for you or may result in a setback and apply responses to gain more control and confidence in these situations.

Gaining control allows you to slow down your thought process in response to the situation. This allows you to make an informed decision the situation requires. Confidence allows you to move forward knowing you are taking an approach to the situation that is both appropriate for you and is likely to result in your success and happiness.

Here are 10 ways to practice and build resilience when life sets us back a few steps, especially as we work our way through retirement. These strategies will help keep the setback from affecting us while also allowing us to bounce back (leap forward) quicker and with a clearer picture of what we want during this time in our life.

Change your perception of retirement. How we view retirement has a huge impact on how much we will enjoy this time. We can view it optimistically and enthusiastically, from the perspective that a breadth of opportunities lies ahead of us. Or we can choose to view retirement pessimistically, looking at this time as an ending with uncertainty and limited enthusiasm.

As we discussed earlier, retirement often carries with it a negative connotation as an ending. We need to change this thinking. It is also a time of transition. Transitions take time, while changes happen overnight. Take time to work through the transition into retirement and change your perception.

Do you view retirement with enthusiasm or with uncertainty and fear?

Create a plan and vision. Have a plan for what you will do with your time in retirement. The plan should include all aspects of your life including the mental, physical, social, and spiritual. Being able to visualize what this time will look like provides control of your life and confidence that you will attain the goals set in your plan.

In addition, it is important to set realistic goals and continue doing something each day to reach them. Making even small steps each day toward our goals keeps us engaged and gives us something to look forward to achieving.

Do you have a plan, and can you visualize your retirement?

Have a purpose and interests. Your plan and vision will include your purpose and interests. Because this is such a huge part of your vision for retirement, it stands on its own.

Having something you are passionate about that provides excitement gives you something to look forward to and keeps out negative thoughts. When we encounter a challenge or setback, our purpose and interests provide the driving force to keep us going.

What is your new purpose and what interests will you pursue during retirement?

Choose how you respond to situations. You choose how you respond to what happens in your life. When something unexpected happens, resilient people look at the situation with a positive outlook.

Additionally, when we run into challenges, we sometimes stop trying, usually because we aren’t sure what to do next. We become paralyzed by the situation. Instead, look at the challenge as something to be overcome and conquered. Approaching it from this perspective makes it about creating a positive outcome.
When the situation has been conquered you will feel good about your accomplishment and derive strength from the experience.

How do you respond to challenges and setback in your life? Do you view them positively or negatively?

Maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Keeping and staying healthy and active is important for being able to fully enjoy retirement. Being able to travel, play with grandkids, garden, golf or other activities you enjoy requires us to be able to move.

Related to a healthy and active lifestyle are the lifestyle choices that put us at risk for health issues. For some, retirement can lead to alcohol abuse or drug addiction due to depression or the extra time we have. These habits often result from not having anything else productive to do in our life.

What things can you do to stay healthy and active? Are you making wise lifestyle choices?

Develop strong relationships. Having strong relationships with friends and family is important for leading a happy and successful retirement. Having supportive relationships that offer encouragement and reassurance will help build your resilience.

Retirement can be a time of great change for our relationship with our spouse. We may not understand their thoughts and/or feelings or what their dreams and goals are for this time. Spouses often end up spending much more time than they used to in retirement which can cause strife in the relationship. Therefore, it is important that spouses discuss their hopes and dreams to make sure they are on the same page.

Who are your closest relationships? Can they offer support during your retirement transition? Have you and your spouse discussed what your shared retirement will look like?

Learn to embrace change. Retirement is likely to be quite different than when you had a more defined schedule and responsibilities. When our routine changes, we sometimes are “thrown off.” Treat the change as an adventure- an opportunity to explore and learn new things.

Change provides an opportunity for us to grow and learn. This combined with our previous life experiences can be a powerful catalyst to something new and exciting. View change not as a setback but rather as an opportunity to try something new. Retirement is a time to try new experiences or activities or things we have done previously that we want to do again.

We may find the first or second opportunity isn’t what we expected or wanted. Use these times of change to home in on what you really want to do and how you want to spend your time.

Are you willing to embrace change and accept the challenge to learn new things? What do you really want to do in retirement and how do you want to spend this time?

Look inside yourself to find direction. We oftentimes know what the right answer or approach is to a situation- either from instinct or prior experience. Trust your instincts about the right direction for you and keep moving forward.

When faced with a challenge, do you trust what you feel inside- what your inner compass is telling you?

Get out of your comfort zone. We sometimes need to do things that are different and new- and often uncomfortable. Perhaps we have done things the same way and feel comfortable or are afraid to learn or try something new. Like learning to embrace change, trying things that are new, and often uncomfortable, brings excitement to what otherwise has become predictable and stagnant. It also provides a way for us to grow by giving us confidence from accomplishing something we weren’t sure we could do.

Another way to add excitement and energy to your life is by continually challenging yourself. Look for things you have wanted to try or things that you have wanted to pursue more in-depth or with more focus. You now have the time to pursue many of these activities and/or passions.

Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone? Are you continuing to challenge yourself in the areas you want to learn more about?

Seek guidance when needed. Making the transition into retirement can be a challenging time, fraught with questions, concerns, fears and stress. Talk with friends or former colleagues who have previously retired to hear their thoughts, feelings and support. Listen to how they have handled the transition, and what worked and didn’t work for them. Find out what they would do differently.

You can also hire a retirement coach to guide you through the challenges and options in retirement and can provide the needed assistance for making a successful transition into retirement. Sharing your questions and struggles with someone who understands these challenges can help get you back on the path to a confident and happy retirement.

Do you have someone who can provide support and guidance during your retirement transition?

If you need some guidance as you plan for your retirement, please contact me.