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Tips for Baby Boomers — Retirement and Panic (Part 1)

By Marie Langworthy, NABBW’s Transforming Retirement Associate

Until now, you may have thought panic attacks — if they even existed — were reserved for “weaker folks.” You know, people like:

  • Fathers-to-be in the OB-GYN room OR
  • Prima donnas at their stage debut  

Likewise, you may have been known for your equanimity, your “sang froid” attitude, your ability to remain composed and cool as a cucumber, assuredly confident that you could handle anything that came your way. Convinced that sudden breakouts of “flop sweat” were solely the domain of:

  • Diving Olympians as they viewed their ominous 1,000-foot cliff drop OR
  • “Tween” boys confronting their first date’s dad 

Similarly, you may have believed that the only reason you’d ever experience “sinking stomach” sensations would be if your resolute driving skills were somehow thwarted by a “t-bone” induced car accident not of your making:

  • And, since your finely honed defensive driving skills made this scenario highly unlikely, you believed yourself to be immune from any terrifying moments like happen to others with lesser skills.
  • Therefore, a moment when dreaded sirens and swirling laser lights screech, directly targeting you on a late Friday afternoon on your way home from work was certainly “never gonna happen”…

And yet, much to your chagrin and surprise, by the time you woke up the Monday morning AFTER the Friday afternoon retirement party in your honor, you’d already experienced the trifecta of panic attack, sweats, and sinking stomach.

What’s going on? This was supposed to be the best first day of the rest of your life – the first morning when you could bask in a late breakfast in bed, savor a two — or even three — martini lunch, take advantage of one if those 4 PM discounted early bird special senior citizen dinners, and channel surf from one late-night talk show to another — without a thought of bedtime curfew.

But alas, that’s not how you feel. In fact, it may have even been a month or more since that fateful “retirement day,” and it’s not happening! Your “cool” has not returned. Your customary “savior faire” has abandoned you. And worse, you’re feeling increasingly rudderless, redundant, non-essential, inconsequential, irrelevant.

BOTTOM LINE: You feel like you have lost your balance; your equilibrium has gone south; even your voice seems to have become less imposing!

Don’t imagine for a minute that you are unique in all the world.  Thousands of colleagues (in fact, 10,000-11,000 daily) are joining your ranks, experiencing your anxiety, and grappling with the ups and downs of retirement life. Let’s examine the sources of their (and your) apprehension.

  • First, whether you ever realized it or not, for more than 30 years, your professional persona has been inextricably tied to your job, your career, your work.

    Perhaps even more than your family structure, your work defined who you were, gave meaning and purpose to your daily life, provided you with a modicum of power and prestige. Whether you were forced to relinquish that role or chose freely to walk away, you could not in any way have anticipated the psychological jolt prompted by your decision to retire.

  • Secondly, unless you are independently wealthy, you suddenly realize that what has been a fairly lucrative, reliable, bi-weekly, automatic-deposited salary check is no more!

    The tap has been tapped out, only to be replaced, in many instances, by a less substantial monthly retirement subsidy.  Right now you are too rattled with panic to calmly step back to realistically assess other supplementary income streams such as your 401K, social security benefits, investments, real estate, etc.

  • Then there’s the whole social thing: The daily cafeteria chatter and gossip and comradery that fostered life-long friendships.

    You never anticipated the loneliness and lack of daily companionship as by-products of your decision to retire.  With whom can you now compete for fashion supremacy, for supervisor approval, for position advancement? It never dawned on you until now that you would no longer be included in the office lottery, the late Friday afternoon gathering at the local favorite café or bar, or the Saturday morning golf game.

It’s time to put down the breathalyzer, the tranquillizers, the hot and cold towels, the Tums. The thousands of colleagues and peers who have gone before you and who are presently experiencing your own ambivalence and anxiety can assure you that help is on the way. 

In part two of this discussion, we will share with you the strategies and successes they have deployed and experienced as they transition into what we truly believe will be your best, most productive and unabashedly enjoyable phase of your life.

About The Author 

In her current retirement career, she is fulfilling her long held compulsion to write.  Her new work takes the form of not only writing books, but blogging and contributing copy to client web sites.  Marie is living proof that you can realize your dreamed job. But you need to more than wish it; you must will it to happen.

In her two most recent co-authored books, Shifting Gears to Your Life and Work After Retirement (2ndedition), and Shifting Gears to Your Career Working OnLine, Marie and her co-author, Carolee Duckworth, provide a specific, exciting pathway and strategy for carrying out your ultimate retirement adventure. Both authors and readers can take pride in fact that the first edition of the former title won both a Nautilus Book Award as well as a Foreword’s IndieFab Winner Award.

Marie Langworthy can be reached at –

marielangworthy@att.net Transforming Retirement
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