Step 5 – Adjusting to a new lifestyle
Adjusting to a New Lifestyle
Be aware of your feelings and don’t be surprised if it takes some time to get accustomed to a new routine, household surroundings, and people. It’s important to note that even those who have pre-pared for retirement for many years, and who executed their plan exactly as they had intended, have sometimes had difficulties adjusting to a new way of life. This change can be even more pronounced for those who have to make a move under less than favorable circumstances related to illness, death of a spouse or caregiver, or financial constraints.
Whether you’re moving as a result of a well-executed plan or due to unexpected circumstances, time for adjustment is expected and necessary. Though everyone differs, there are three factors that have been shown to correlate positively with a successful adjustment to a new lifestyle—level of optimism, support network, and level of activity. People who maintain a positive outlook, who reach out to their peers and family for support, and who continue to be active in social, religious, and physical activities are much more likely to experience a shorter and more pleasurable adjustment period than those who are pessimistic, who retreat inwardly, and who discontinue their regular activities.
Natural changes in the brain’s ability to deal with stress may make it advisable to see a doctor for evaluation and possible treatment. Just as some health issues are related to physical aging, some psychological and emotional changes may also be related to age as well. As one goes through the normal aging process, he or she may experience a more difficult time adjusting to change, which can create increased anxiety or depression-related symptoms.
No one likes to admit they may need help with regulating their emotions, but in fact, often they do, just as they may require help regulating blood pressure, insulin, or cholesterol. If you find that you are not dealing with things as you would like or expect—either before, during, or after a move—visit with your doctor about your physical and emotional symptoms. If necessary, consider an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication, even if it’s just for the short-term moving process.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you experience prolonged periods of sadness or tearfulness, nervous-ness, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, agitation, lack of interest in activities, loss of appe-tite, suspiciousness, poor hygiene, confusion, inability to concentrate, sleeping more than usual, argumentativeness, or any other behavior or thought process that seems out of character.
Some ideas for helping make an adjustment to a new living arrangement a little easier ~
1. Reach out to family, friends, and/or clergy and share your experience. A key factor in any life change is having a supportive network of people. Identify and keep close contact with those people in your life whom you trust and in whom you can confide. Share with them the joy or sadness you may be experiencing. For many, the moving process begins many months before the actual move. This is the time to begin processing and dealing with the many emotions that are felt in response to the upcoming lifestyle change.
2. Stay active or get active. If you are fortunate enough to have been involved in a pleasurable hobby, social club, or church, don’t quit just because you have made a change in your residence. When moving locally, make prior arrangements to let friends know you will continue to be involved and, if needed, recruit help with transportation. If you have moved to a new city or away from your “old stomping grounds,” it is absolutely necessary that you become involved as soon as you get settled. Once the last box is unpacked and you have found a place for your toothbrush, find a new church, a local dance group, a travel club, or, seek out new activities and become involved in your new community. This is NOT optional! It’s required!
3. Keep in touch with family and friends. Hang on to your address book and drop a note or an e-mail to family and friends from time to time. It is recommended that you take at least an hour a week to maintain contact with the people you care about. This will not only be good for you, it will also be good for them. Our rule is that, for every person you lose contact with due to a move, death, or other circumstance, you must meet one new person to replace that relationship.
4. Physical activity is a must. It is a scientific fact that physical exercise (done correctly) reduces stress, increases strength, reduces risk for falls, improves mood and sleep, and is positively correlated to healthy lifestyles. Many retirement communities offer a physical fitness program, or transportation to a local fitness center. Make it a point to exercise regularly and visit with your physician about the best program to suit your personal fitness goals.
5. Educate or get educated! Whether you are a retired college professor or you never completed high school, you can always be an educator to the youth in your community. Consider the fact that the more you stimulate your brain and use that particular muscle, the more likely you will be to ward off mental decline and mental illness. One way of doing this is to get involved in the school system, Sunday school, or a local Boys and Girls Club. Okay, not interested in being surrounded by kids? Another way to keep your brain simulated is to go back to school yourself. Enroll in a college course, take an art class, or take up golf or the guitar! Many universities have programs for seniors where classes are offered at no charge. Or, for the really ambitious, how about an advanced degree? Why not?
It all comes back to the familiar saying, “Use it or lose it!” After a move, especially one that was unexpected, it may be easier to stop being active and let others do things on your behalf. That’s great to some degree, because the whole idea behind downsizing was to simplify life, right? Well, let others do the tasks that you don’t enjoy doing, and you stay busy doing all the things you enjoy but didn’t have time for previously. Be aware that you may have lost sight of some of those favorite activities you once enjoyed, because your “old” life was revolving around the things you HAD to do versus the things you really WANT to do. Take some time t o explore this new lifestyle and learn to have fun again.
- Be aware of new feelings
- Consult your physician about any anxiety or depression
- Talk to your family and friends
- Stay active
- Keep in touch with friends
- Take up a new hobby
- Meet people
- Join a fitness program
- Take a college course
- Learn a new hobby
- Try some community activities
- Have a housewarming party
- USE IT or LOSE IT!