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Retirement Jitters: Finding A Sense of Community and Purpose

Recently, I met with a retired teacher who told me they still get Autumn Anxiety. I had never heard of the term, but they explained it to me as the annual stress that begins to creep up as the air cools at night, signaling the start of the school year.

Another retiree I visited lamented their lack of purpose since leaving the workforce. They had worked for decades towards reoccurring and new goals with others. Now, they found themself lacking a sense of meaning and community.

While these pensioners' experiences differ, they share a commonality: they have arisen from the transition to retirement, which is sometimes tricky.

You see, changing one's routine after decades of continuous repetition is far from an easy task. We internalize the daily patterns of life and create habits that form a sense of normalcy and self. When these rhythms are disrupted, we question our sense of purpose and often become anxious. Therefore, creating community and finding fulfillment in the third act of the play we call life is essential.

For some people, purpose and fulfillment come from structure and accomplishing goals. These individuals can benefit from creating a list of reoccurring events, tasks, and dreams to achieve in retirement. One example is regularly meeting friends for coffee or a meal, while another includes frequent daily hikes.

Still, some people will find that they love the ability to live in the moment after decades of work-imposed structure. For these folks, staying engaged in their community is important, as humans are inherently social, and without effort, it is easy to get disconnected.

Whatever type of person you are, taking the time to recognize it is essential. Doing so allows you to create new habits and routines that foster fulfillment in a world where work is no longer your most significant focus.

Sometimes, people will find themselves in a depressive or anxious rut. However, we live in an age where access to mental health care is increasing, so taking the plunge and seeking assistance is applaudable.

Another notable consideration is for married retirees. When both partners stop working, it is easy to begin doing everything together. Maintaining a sense of self-identity is healthy and allows partners to return home recharged. However, being mindful of the other partner's needs and feelings is equally important, making communication key.

Retirement is a blank slate, filled with the freedom and the ability to build structure and a sense of fulfillment by doing whatever, with whomever, whenever, and however one envisions. So what will your why be for getting up each day?

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