By Bev Bachel
Resilience. That’s the word Arianna Huffington, founder of Thrive Global, chose as her Word of the Year last year. And while resilience is often thought of as simply “getting through” challenges, Huffington, in an email announcing her choice, called out what she believes is key: not just bouncing back from life’s challenges, but bouncing forward.
And while we tend to think of needing resilience only during challenging times, it’s actually important all the time, even when we’re experiencing positive change. This is especially true as we move into retirement because “resilience thinking” not only makes it easier for us to manage change, but also to thrive.
Mixed emotions about transitioning
While retirement is something most of us look forward to, often for decades, many of us experience mixed emotions once we’ve actually retired. Those emotions run the gamut and include:
· Guilt: “I should be doing something important with my time, yet I’m playing FreeCell … again.”
· Disappointment: “I thought I’d be happy but instead I feel sad.
· Anxiety: “Rather than enjoying not having so much to do, I’m feeling restless.”
Many retirees even experience a sense of loss. For instance, a corporate executive or nonprofit founder may mourn the loss of his or her identity, while a frontline healthcare worker may miss the adrenaline rush that comes with responding to medical emergencies. Recovering from such loss and regaining a sense of identity requires both time and the willingness to dig deep.
Resilience is key
In fact, according to her research and the research of others, people who experience between two and six adverse life events and then bounce back are, over the long run, happier than those who experience no adverse life events at all. One reason is because of the post-traumatic growth that often occurs in the aftermath of struggle. That growth typically results in:
● Changing priorities about what is important in life
● A greater sense of closeness with others
● More compassion for ourselves and others
● The courage to choose a different life path
● A better understanding of spiritual matters
● The realization that we are often stronger than we give ourselves credit for
Cultivating your retirement resilience
No matter how many adverse events you’ve experienced, or whether you’re already retired or still looking forward to retirement, there’s never been a better time to jumpstart your resilience. To do so, Dr. Sanderson and other experts recommend that you:
● Get eight hours of sleep each night. Sleep is a powerful stress reducer that calms the mind and restores the body. Sleep also helps regulate mood, improve concentration, sharpen decision-making and increase energy.
● Practice mindfulness and meditation. These activities improve both physical and psychological well-being.
● Look at or, better yet, spend time in nature. Researchers have amassed a body of evidence that shows that nature is good for us. It reduces stress and inflammation, increases happiness and Vitamin D, and improves sleep and short-term memory.
● Power up your purpose. We all need a purpose, even in retirement. And while cleaning our closets and garages and catching up on back episodes of our favorite shows may suffice for a time, evidence suggests that having a sense of purpose is what gives our lives meaning and enables us to bounce back from life’s inevitable challenges. Goals help, too.
● Build and maintain connections. Positive relationships with family, friends and colleagues are key to our physical and psychological well-being so make a call, send a text, write a letter or schedule a video chat.
While the transition to retirement isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to our emotions, cultivating our resilience can make it easier to bounce forward into a retirement filled with the three life gifts the subtitle of Dr. Sanderson’s book promises: happiness, health and longevity.
How resilient are you? Take this quiz to find out.
Bev Bachel is a Minneapolis freelance writer who is looking forward to putting the bounce in her own retirement, whenever that may be. She is also the author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It: A Guide for Teens.
Podcast Episodes You May Be Interested In: