I was riding a stationary cycle in the gym the other day. It was our 7am spinning class. My leg muscles were pumping in time to the music. I was concentrating hard. As I caught my breath, I looked around and realized I was the oldest in our class. The thought stuck me like a bolt. Would I retire soon? If so, what did this mean for me, my family and friends? My thoughts around retirement became conscious at that moment.

Retirement is a process. Not an A-B-C event. Yet on one level the latter often happens. Your last day at work dawns. You have the retirement party and receive accolades and maybe a gift of remembrance for a life well worked. You wake up the next day a ”retired” person. A new status, with different expectations and a relaxed approach to planning each new day as it arrives.

You rest assured, knowing that you have prepared carefully and consistently for your financial retirement. Your retirement eggs have been stashed away out of sight for maybe thirty or forty years. They are itching to hatch. But what about your emotional retirement nest eggs?

We know that each different stage in our life’s journey presents certain crisis. When we first learn to walk there is much celebration in conjunction with our care givers worrying about our physical safety. There is preparation for each of our important developmental stages, until; it seems, we reach the age of forty. At forty we meet a midlife crisis, which presents itself to men and women. Woman may yearn for more than their life has been, up until that point. Men feel this too. Both are at risk of extra marital affairs, making impulsive decisions, getting tattooed or leaving for a spiritual journey to India.

Imagine if there was long term preparation in the work place or at school, for this crucial age and stage. Imagine if the emotions surrounding turning forty were understood and worked through.

Each significant milestone comes with mixed emotions and if there is adequate preparation, intellectually and emotionally, each stage has the potential to be navigated through in a conscious, preparatory way so that we anticipate with joy our “what’s next” welcoming and embracing all it has to offer.

For many the word Retirement strikes fear and anxiety into strong and competent hearts. Research reveals that at this time there is a significant increase in depression and suicide. Feelings of worthlessness and a loss of self-esteem move in before the first retirement cheque is deposited.

So the week after you retire, plan a wonderful trip to celebrate your new phase. But it’s important to try and step out of holiday mode once the bags are unpacked to prevent your brain from an on-going cognitive slump.

Making a meaningful retirement revolves around three important components. Emotional preparation, years before your actual retirement, connection with others and purpose. If these three components are conscious and consistently present, retirement has the potential to be one of the most fulfilling developmental stages of your life.

No use in waiting for the Pizza man to deliver a packaged retirement plan. Start now by placing your order . Visualize the type of retirement you wish for yourself, work through the obstacles preventing you from realizing your retirement dream. Live now as if you are already retired. Work and do the things that make you happy.

Connect with loved ones, meet new likeminded people. Plan an adventure, create a purpose or grow the one you already have. You are not suddenly a brand new retiree. It’s important to start working with what’s already there. Find it and nurture it.

So for now, I’ll keep fit and contemplative and each time I am in my spinning class, I intend to be fully conscious of my next wonderful adventure in the safe hands of retirement.

Susan Hesk.

Clinical Psychologist.

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Waterfall.

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