Deciding to retire is a big decision, and while exciting for some, for others it might be daunting and stressful. Financial factors are a concern for many, and when work can be such a big part of our identity, transitioning to a new lifestyle and finding fulfilment outside of our career may seem challenging.
Not everyone is afforded the opportunity to plan carefully for their retirement – some may find themselves in unplanned retirement due to redundancy or illness. However, if planning for your transition to retirement is an option for you, what can you do to make the process less stressful and more exciting?
Dr Leigh Burrows is a Senior Lecturer in the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work at Flinders University. She has a background in solution-focused counselling and more recently has been developing a positive mindfulness art therapy approach to assist pre-service teachers and educators to tap into their strengths, interests and potential.
‘I think bringing some of the benefits from retirement into our lives before retirement is important, such as time for ourselves, pursuing some of our own interests now rather than waiting, fulfilling ourselves in other ways than through work. I think this can lessen the shock,’ she tells Wellbeing by Teacher.
‘I think practicing self-compassion is important and being grateful and appreciative for the time spent with students, colleagues and parents, focusing on the positives from our teaching.’
The impact of preparing for retirement on our wellbeing
Preparing for such a significant life event can have a considerable impact on your overall wellbeing. You may be worried about all the things that can be uncertain about retirement.
‘I have found in my research and teaching that many teachers are more comfortable with form, order, structure, security, planning and certainty than they are with lack of structure, space, flexibility, uncertainty, improvisation, initiative, openness and creativity,’ Dr Burrows says.
‘I think it can be a difficult time, but I have also seen people gradually free themselves from some of the more burdensome thoughts about work as they imagine a different future.’
Managing the feelings of uncertainty associated with retirement
You may have heard from those you know who are retired that their weeks are busy and fulfilling. However, it might still be challenging to picture yourself leading a busy and fulfilling life without work.
People transition to retirement in many different ways. If going from full-time work straight into retirement is a daunting prospect for you, you may want to explore the option of reducing the number of hours you work or taking longer holidays first.
The feelings of uncertainty that can be associated with retirement can be reframed as giving space for something else to come in, Dr Burrows suggests.
‘Some people find taking a year’s leave or going part-time a safe way to experiment with a new project before deciding whether to retire or not … If we have already begun to engage in meaningful activities outside work the transition will be easier,’ she explains.
Strategies for making the transition to retirement easier
You may also be interested in engaging in further study, joining local community groups, or volunteering during retirement.
‘I know some people arrange to work for the education department doing relief teaching or for universities as placement liaisons after retirement – in this way they don’t need to go “cold turkey” and retire completely. Volunteer work is another possibility if money is not so much the issue,’ Dr Burrows shares.
‘This eases the transition and allows people the time and space then to decide when to completely retire.’
References and further reading
ABS. (2020). Retirement and Retirement Intentions, Australia. Accessed via: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/retirement-and-retirement-intentions-australia/latest-release
Burrows, L. (2017). Safeguarding mindfulness in schools and higher education: A holistic and inclusive approach. Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/Safeguarding-Mindfulness-in-Schools-and-Higher-Education-A-Holistic-and/Burrows/p/book/9780367607364
Dr Leigh Burrows shares her work on her website, https://www.quietspacetherapy.com