THE BLOG
07/18/2013 08:16 am ET Updated Sep 17, 2013

Retiring Without Stress

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By Deborah Rozman

Retirement: At last -- time to do what you want, when you want and no more rat race! If it were only that simple. Retirement has many upsides -- it can be an incredibly creative, enjoyable time to start a new hobby or business, or travel, depending on your means and health. But if you're not prepared for the new stresses that often accompany this stage of life, it can be harder than your pre-retirement decades.

Many people find themselves adjusting to a new routine or no routine, moving away from friends or family, feeling socially isolated and dealing with increasing medical issues. Money stress often abounds with retirement: living on a fixed income at a lower standard of living, facing lost pension plans and reduced 401Ks. Society expects you to celebrate your retirement so if you aren't feeling that way, you may not receive the support you actually need from people who haven't been there.

During this challenging time of transition, it's important to remember that stress has been called "the silent killer" because it can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain, and an irregular heartbeat. HeartMath offers these tips for consciously managing your stressors so you can fully enjoy your well-deserved retirement years:

  1. Listen to and follow your heart. This is an opportunity to really look deeply. What do you want to do with your newfound time? Look for the intersection of common sense and what will nurture you.
  2. Social circles are vital. When my parents moved into assisted living, they developed such close relationships, enjoyed group activities, and got to eat meals with other residents. Their wonderful friendships mean the world to them. Connecting with others in person is one of the keys to a long, healthy life. Plan activities with friends and family members, take classes, keep learning and growing and having fun!
  3. Take care of your health: Only 33 percent of Americans say they are actually doing an excellent or very good job at being physically active. Don't stop moving! But protect yourself from injuries (like to joints) so you can stay active longer. Now is the time to eat more carefully than ever before. Get enough sleep. Ask for the help you need physically.
  4. Monitor your emotional health: Depression and heart problems can lead to each other so please pay attention to symptoms of both and talk with a health professional. Read HeartMath's Transforming Depression book if you suspect you need to.
  5. Try the Heart Lock-In Technique to generate and sustain heart coherence and reduce stress: 1) Shift your attention to the area of your heart and breathe slowly and deeply; 2) Activate and sustain a genuine feeling of appreciation or care for someone or something in your life; 3) Radiate these feelings of care and appreciation toward yourself and others for five minutes or longer; and 4) Be receptive to your heart's intuitive guidance. Is there anything your heart is feeling/telling you in this moment?
  6. Increase your Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which is an indicator of health and your ability to manage stress. HRV decreases with age but can be improved by intentional effort such as using the emWave2, a simple and effective tool for managing stress.
  7. Practice appreciation and gratitude as a default habit in your life. It activates the body's biochemical systems that help to diminish stress and stabilize your psyche.
  8. Find creative outlets. Expressing yourself, innovating or learning something new that's creative will give you pleasure and keep your brain developing peace of mind and overall health.
  9. Manage money stress -- 72 percent of women stress about money, the top source of stress for them. According to a new survey, 73 percent of Americans find thinking specifically about retirement saving and investing to be a source of stress and anxiety. Only 19 percent of Americans surveyed in 2012 felt very confident in the fact they were doing a good job managing their retirement. Only 32 percent for those who are already retired feel good about it. If you're not yet retired, prepare yourself as well as possible, including getting and staying out of debt. (Take this 90-second retirement stress test to figure out if you're ready.) If you're already retired, reduce expenses, live within a budget, share resources with other retirees, and find pleasure in living simply.

Lastly, check out HeartMath's e-booklet Transforming Stress and make stress-free retirement a new way of life to truly enjoy your golden years as a reward for a life well-lived!

For more by HeartMath, click here.

For more on stress, click here.