Retirement Redesigned

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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

HomeWellnessMental WellbeingThe Feeling of Being Overwhelmed

The Feeling of Being Overwhelmed

The structure of a full-time working career gives a framework making it possible to operate and get things done. When not working in a full-time structure, life, which is often already out of balance, can become even more uncertain and puzzling. In a situation like that you have to create your own structure and set up a replacement system. Not easy.

People in retirement frequently complain about a lack of motivation and an inability to get things done. It is one thing to know what you have to do to be productive and manage things, but it is entirely different to ‘get off the couch’
and get moving.

A reason mentioned by many for this problem is that of feeling of being overwhelmed, that it is difficult to focus on one thing and not move on until it is done. There are just too many unknowns. Matters can’t be controlled anymore the way they could in a job. It is particularly this loss of control that impacts behavior and causes the confusion. Uncertainty plagues our busy lives and adds much of the stress we try to manage every day.

Can control be taken back? Well, yes, but it requires a change of mindset. Instead of launching in to a full-scale attack of a problem and attempting to get it all straight in one go, the experts say that a “chunking” approach is much more manageable. This means identifying one single aspect of what seems to be unknown, like finance, or health, or the need to scale down, and then pitching at it in a singular systematic way. First write down what precisely the element is causing confusion and read it out loud. Then write down the possible options and likely solutions and read them out loud too. The simple act of doing that already makes a constructive understanding more likely. Breaking a major problem down into digestible pieces, or chunks, is an obvious but often an overlooked way of moving on.

Think of the old ‘salami principle” If someone gives you a whole salami to eat it would seem impossible and off-putting. However, slicing it thinly and eating it one slice at a time, makes the whole thing a great deal more appealing.

Addressing a sense of being overwhelmed by focusing on one thing at a time means putting a peg in the ground and using it to build further. It gives a sense of accomplishment and increases confidence. The lack of identity and discomfort of a changed environment are major causes of the fragile self -esteem often experienced by retirees. Getting one important problem sorted gives a lift to start-up confidence.

The ideal for working through what may seem to be intractable problems in retirement is to have a retirement coach; someone who understands the challenges retirees face and how to address them. Alternatively, it is suggested that sharing issues being faced with a friend or confidant will work well enough and help to maintain perspective. It is difficult for some people who are experiencing confusion and being overwhelmed to share their feelings. This is especially true for men who have been independent and self-reliant at work. They can talk easily about facts and figures but have difficulty with emotions and the ‘soft issues’

But the lifting of a burden by sharing it is a principle that is well known, and it works

Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.


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