The first day retirement comes your way, what will you do? Soon after retiring, we learn something amazing. We don’t have to get up and get ready and go out the door for someone else’s benefit. Then reality hits us. We don’t have any reason to get up and get ready and go out the door. Are you struggling with what to do with your day, now that you don’t have to get up and pile out the door every morning?
Most new retirees go through a period of depression or bewilderment over the change of life from having to get out of bed at a certain time, go through the morning routine in a prescribed time, then head out the door in order to be somewhere ready to punch a clock, or sign into a time keeping system in order to get paid for doing something we don’t necessarily want to do. We no longer are required to be at a particular place at a particular time. Some of us are so scared of that transition, we never retire!
This modern human requirement of having to be somewhere at a certain time starts early in life, from maybe preschool or day care, through elementary school, then middle school, and into high school. Then into our adult lives. When we are kids we look forward to the summer when we don’t have to get up, we can sleep until the cows come home. Funny thing is, we’re so excited about that, we get up early anyway, we have things to do, people to see, places to be, but that’s the excitement of being a kid! Then when summer is nearing completion, we start to get excited about going back to school, meeting new friends, learning new subjects.
Fast forward to retirement. Now, no longer are we needed at a certain time and place every morning. In the midst of not having to get up and perform the morning routine at a certain time, we also start to feel maybe we aren’t a part of society anymore. Maybe we have moved past being a useful member of society and are now just a fixture. Earlier generations stuck around the house and helped with the care of the kids and grandkids, helped with house cleaning and vehicle repairs. Our predecessors had duties to fulfill. Our opinions were valued, our expertise in the obstacles of everyday life were sought out. Nowadays, in the social media society we have become, the opinions of the aged are no longer required. Younger generations can get online and receive advice on (no pun intended) virtually any topic under the sun. So what do we older citizens do with our time, how do we stay a valid member of society, what IS our purpose here on the third rock from the sun?
First, we do need to get up at a reasonably comfortable time. If we allow ourselves to sleep in, we slowly fall into the habit of sleeping later and later. And as we sleep later and later, our sleep becomes more restless, so that we need to sleep later to keep from being tired. It’s almost like our brain knows we can have all the sleep we want and then it decides good sound sleep isn’t all that necessary, so we start tossing and turning. And it becomes a vicious cycle, sleep later, less quality of sleep, sleep even later. So we do need to set the alarm, get up out of bed, and hit the ground running. Not for anyone else, but for us personally. One trick that will help calm the mind at night is to keep a steno pad with a pen on the night stand, then when the monkeys start dancing in your head, turn on the light, grab the pen and start writing all those wild thoughts down. Get as specific and long-winded as you like, because then the monkeys won’t have anything to dance over, once you empty your thoughts.
Secondly, getting some physical exercise is now a problem. Even if we didn’t do a lot of exercise in our work life, we at least walked around, maybe climbed ladders, walked up stairs, walked from parking lot to building, walked to the bus stop. All of a sudden in retirement, we walk all the way to the kitchen, grab our coffee, and walk all the way to the table. There we sit, wondering what to do next because all these years most of us didn’t HAVE to think of how to keep active, daily life required us to get up and move around. That necessity to get up and out of the house for someone or something else kept us moving. Now we have to make a conscious effort to keep our bodies moving, keep the blood flowing, work the legs, and work the heart. We need to set a specific time every morning to walk around the block, or go to the gym. Get up, drink our coffee, and take the pooch for a walk around the block. If you have three pooches, take each one of them around the block, one lap for them, three for you! Or sign up for golf lessons, or another strenuous hobby.
Thirdly, we need to exercise the brain. Because keeping the mind sharp is as much or more important than keeping the body in shape. How do we do that? We find challenges! Remember when, in your 20’s, you would put on your resume, “looking for a challenge”, now that comes home to roost! We need to look for challenges. Continuing with old hobbies and learning new ones causes the brain to create new pathways, especially taking on new hobbies. Looking for ways to exercise and give a mental challenge can benefit even more. Golf exercises the brain, helps eye hand coordination, supplies physical exercise as well as allows us some fresh air. Woodworking requires physical movement as well as mental functions, included coordination and calculation. When the weather is less than perfect, crossword puzzles and Sudoku puzzles keep higher brain functions at a peak.
When retirement finally arrives, instead of being on autopilot and allowing other obligations to drive our daily lives, we are now in control of what we want to do, who we want to associate with, and how we want to keep ourselves fit and alert. We’ve been given the opportunity to do exactly what we dream of doing our whole lives. We can take up a new hobby, meet up with old friends, make new friends, enjoy our new life as we want to enjoy it. Start now to think about how your day will look in your new life!