Eyes on mental wellness during your retirement

One in 4 Kenyans who seek medical attention has a mental health condition ranging from minor to more serious ones. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Mental health has become a topic of national interest in recent times with evidence that millions of Kenyans are struggling with mental health issues.

A 2020 report on Mental Health and Well-being: Towards Happiness and National Prosperity presented by a Taskforce on Mental Health in Kenya recommended that the president declares mental health a national public health emergency.

Though many mental health issues manifest by age 24, it is just as important to keep an eye on mental wellness in older age. In retirement, issues like major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder and substance use disorder can come up and would need to be addressed amidst all other issues facing retirees.

According to a survey on ‘Retirement wellbeing’ conducted by Enwealth Financial Services Limited and Strathmore University in 2019, retirement is more likely a midlife psychosocial transition as opposed to old age. If planned for, one can thrive through the mental and social challenges that come along.

Transitioning into retirement may be exciting at first, especially if one has put their finances in order. We have all visualised our ideal retirement; be it travelling the world or spending quality time with people we love. However, it is not all glamour. Retirement also comes with its lows.

Soon after leaving active employment, the excitement wears off and mental challenges may begin to crop up. One may experience feelings of emptiness, hardship finding ways to fit into public life, struggles with identity, or trouble coping with the loss of work-life when one start to miss the structure that employment gave them or the identity that came with the job.

You can always find healthy ways to ensure you thrive mentally during your retirement. Most people tend to go through a hard time when they retire but choose to keep it private for fear of being seen a certain way.

Perhaps the period just before retirement would be a good time to invest in personal or group counseling in anticipation of the big change which can help you prepare and cope in a safe space. You can also choose to still work in some capacity as long as the hours are flexible.

It can be a part-time job, or self-employment. You can also do activities like consulting roles or seize leadership position where your input would add value.

The dynamics in your health could change if you suddenly stop working completely hence it is important that you find something to do. The idea of working again is not the best but, it is beneficial to your health and mental wellness.

Volunteering is a good activity to engage in as it will feed your need for purpose or meaning in life. You could volunteer your services in organizations or NGO’s with a course that you believe in like charity work or coaching and mentorship programs. Being committed to voluntary activities will keep you busy, increase your physical activity and give you a new sense of identity.

Invest in your relationships, be it family, friends, peers or work connections so that even in retirement you can keep the conversations going. This is especially an important aspect to be intentional about during your working years. It is tough to suddenly be cut off from connections of people you made at work as it can make you feel isolated.

Form or join support groups of persons who are retired in your job industry so that you can process together, connect each other to opportunities and also create opportunities. Some organizations have retirement support programs where retirees can link up or even consult on contractual basis. Take advantage of that.

Be self aware before retirement. Do you thrive in a competitive environment or are you the person who is satisfied in whichever position you are in? This will help in ensuring you create a fitting environment for yourself in retirement.

Think of engagements and interests that will fulfill you and give you a new purpose. You could choose to spend more time on your hobbies, family time and friends who are in the same life season as you.

The secret to a smooth retirement is to plan for both financial and psychological aspects. There exists no manual to help you prepare for all the perks of retirement. A great deal lies in making behavioral changes well in advance.

Remember, to accept by taking ownership of the reality at whatever point you are in line and plan toward the success for the quality of life you want to live in your golden years.

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