How can Frank be a happy retiree?

The closer Frank gets to retirement, the more nervous he gets. He tells psychologist Dr Emmanuella that his sense of self-esteem is linked to his work and asks how he can best make the transition.

Q. Frank
As I get closer to possible retirement age, my sense of self-esteem is plummeting. I just can’t imagine having enough meaningful things to do to fill the day. I’m so envious of other people I know – and many YourLifeChoices members – who have never looked back. But I’m me and they’re them. Do I just work until I drop? My partner might not be happy with that but …

A. Oh Frank, you poor thing. If you base how you feel about yourself on only one criterion, work, then it makes sense your self-esteem is plummeting. Your work does not define you! Self-esteem is about how we value ourselves, and that can have an impact on how we see life, the world and life events.

I work with people and one of the main things I start with is behavioural strategies. Why? Because doing is better than not doing, and doing has a direct mood-lifting effect.

I think if you start to do things that are good for you, instead of watching others do so, you won’t feel as envious.

You mentioned you couldn’t imagine having enough meaningful things to do to fill your day, so start to have a think now. Start setting daily and weekly goals, and insert some activities that give you a sense of pleasure and mastery.

You may need to start with a list of things that you used to do, that you don’t do now, or things you’d like to try that you haven’t had time to try. That’s always a good place to start. These steps can help you feel more motivated to do more, as well as give you some good feedback on how you are spending your time now.

If your days are only filled with work, that’s not very mood enhancing.

I’m sure your partner will love seeing you feel happy and doing things, other than work, that make you happy. This may also help you see that a life without work isn’t as daunting and that there are many things you can do to fill in your time. 

Dr Emmanuella Murray is a clinical psychologist, who has been practising for more than 10 years. She works with children, adolescents, adults and couples, and presents to professionals and community groups. Go to her website for more information.

If you have a question for Dr Emmanuella, please send it to [email protected]

Have you fully retired? What was the secret to a smooth transition? What advice would you give someone who is struggling?

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