The retirement challenge… and news of a programme to help retiree mental health

To navigate the path to a happy and fulfilling retirement, Lifeline  Harbour to Hawkesbury counsellors have developed a program which tackles the challenges many retirees face – stress, vulnerability and mental illness as they progress through life towards retirement and beyond.

“Every age group has challenges and flashpoints of stress particular to them such as getting through the HSC, university, first jobs, marriage and mortgages, children and schools fees,” said Counsellor Jennifer Gripton-Corbett, Lifeline’s clinical services coordinator.

“But one of the biggest, and potentially most stressful times is what comes next as retirement approaches, with the spectre of old age looming – sometimes loneliness, limited finances and a sense of disappointment, or living with diminishing physical and mental ability.”

Jennifer and Linda Newcomb, a gambling help counsellor, in their programme are encouraging people to recognise the signs of stress in both body and mind, and the effects on their interactions with others. Among common signs of mental stress they identify:

– trouble relaxing,
– impaired concentration and memory,
– feeling overwhelmed, flat, anxious, irritable or numb,
– emotionally overactive,
– difficulty achieving daily tasks,
– loss of interest or enjoyment in activities,
– lowered self-esteem,
– and a tendency to disconnect from others.

Some common stressors can be conflict with family, friends or colleagues; caring for others; financial hardship and poor living conditions; bereavement; relocating or downsizing; loss of a workplace role; negative thinking styles; unhealthy lifestyles such as overuse of drugs and alcohol; sleep issues; lack of exercise and loss of purpose.

The Lifeline counsellors warn people of the harm ongoing stress can cause to the immune system, emotional balance, mental functioning and self-care.

But how can these stresses be reduced or removed altogether? Participants in the Lifeline programme they’re currently rolling out locally, learned coping and de-stressing skills such as mindfulness and optimistic thinking – with suggestions for how to achieve these like getting enough sleep, relaxation activities and exercising with, for example, yoga, stretching, tai chi, walking or swimming; and learning to adjust personal expectations and goals if you’ve set them too high.

Tools & resources at your fingertips

*Programme participants can learn about tools that include challenging unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, building strengths and social connections and developing a support network.
*Support services and professional resources including Lifeline’s 24-hour telephone crisis support line 13 11 14 are also part of the process.

*Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury also provides a comprehensive range of counselling and support groups at its Gordon centre (which covers the entire area from the Harbour to the Hawkesbury) which include appointments with bulk billing psychologists, financial and gambling help, counselling and support groups for depression and bipolar disorder, suicide bereavement, hoarding disorder and problem gambling. For appointments or group programs, call Lifeline on 9498 8805 or email:
*Our online resources include the Lifeline Website which has fact sheets for coping with stressors and mental illness, educational information and links to resources and services.

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