Mental Health In Retirement

May 31st will mark six years since I “retired” from my first career. After 38 years with ExxonMobil and its heritage companies, it was time to explore the “what’s-next” phase of my life. May is “Mental Health Awareness” month. I want to use this post to explore the mental health impacts of retirement and to share my reflections on the journey so far.

As described by Amy Morin, LCSW, in her recent article entitled, “8 Tips for Adjusting to Retirement”, “retirement brings a new sense of freedom, but it also comes with challenges and difficult emotions. It’s a change in identity, finances, relationships, and how you spend your time.” For me, the experience has been YES to all the above.

Early on in my retirement, the most profound observation was specific to identity. As an avid golfer I enjoy the opportunity to play many different courses while making new acquaintances along the way. In the initial engagements, one party always asks the question, “What do you do?”. Most often, the response starts with, “I used to do (this or that).” The explanation focuses on the length of career, type of work, and a story or two about a unique work experience and is delivered with a level of prideful enthusiasm. When I was asked the same question, I would dutifully respond in the same manner until I quickly realized that I was not answering the question that I was asked, for fear that I would be less interesting or less valuable to my new acquaintances.

Before I share my current answer to the question, I want to share with you the 8 tips for adjusting to retirement that Amy Morin presents in the referenced article, above. I hope that these tips will help you to best answer the “What Do You Do?” question. Similar tips were very helpful for me.


These tips will hopefully help you adjust to retirement better and feel more fulfilled and happier during this “what’s next” phase of your life.

Expect to Go Through Stages of Emotions

Allow yourself to experience a wide range of emotions that you may be feeling and look for healthy ways to deal with them.

Structure Your Days

If you were used to a fairly structured routine during pre-retirement then creating some type of daily schedule can help you maintain health habits, feel more productive, and combat stress. Whether you’re enjoying a cup of coffee, taking a walk, or hanging out with friends, research shows that keeping up with habits and routines is vital for mental health. For example, starting your day with a familiar morning routine can provide a comforting sense of stability. Likewise, regularly meeting with friends can lift your spirits. Additionally, getting some exercise, like going for a walk, can boost your overall well-being. So, weaving these habits into your daily life can really help maintain your mental health. Most importantly, the consistency of these routines can help you manage stress and anxiety better.

Set Small Goals

“Working on goals can give you a sense of purpose. While accomplishing new things can give you a sense of achievement.”

Grow Your Friendships

This can mean doing more with current friends (e.g. game nights, taking walks together, meeting up weekly for coffee) or making new friendships (e.g. through a church or community group, through shared hobbies)

Consider an “Encore” Job

Whatever your motivation, identifying and trying a “less-stressful” second career (part-time or full) or “bridge” job has been found to often create better mental and physical health and higher levels of life satisfaction.

Create a New Budget

Figure out what you want to do in your new post-career life and what you don’t, especially when it involves entertainment, fun, and things that bring you joy.

Schedule Volunteer Shifts

Whether caring part-time for grandkids, feeding an interest to expand social ties, or satisfying your interest to serve others, a “low to medium level of volunteering can improve both life satisfaction and mental health.”

Give Yourself Flexibility (and Time) to Figure it Out

Experimenting is essential for finding the right balance in retirement. With time and effort, you’ll discover a fulfilling life. Retirement offers countless opportunities to shape and enjoy your ideal lifestyle. Take advantage of these moments to explore what brings you joy and contentment.


Earlier in this article, I shared my early post-retirement experience specific to identity. In closing, I want to share with you some of the ways I answer this once-dreaded question today.

I am a proud and grateful husband, father, and grandfather. As a leadership coach, I am dedicated to helping others achieve their personal and professional goals. An avid golfer and pickleball player, I strive to improve with every opportunity. I live my life guided by five core values: Faith, Family and Friends, Service, Respect for Others, and Fun.

I wish you all the success and significance possible as you envision the next chapter of your life’s journey and develop and execute an exciting, purposeful, and self-driven plan to thrive in all aspects of your life.


Reference: “8 Tips for Adjusting to Retirement” by Amy Morin LCSW – 4173709

Don Fries

Don leverages his extensive business and leadership experience to partner with senior leaders in a creative and thought-provoking way to discover new possibilities, explore practical options, and accelerate implementation.
During his 38 years with Exxon Mobil Corporation and its heritage companies, Don gained a wide range of personal and professional development experiences, including leading and managing teams across the globe in the areas of manufacturing, supply chain, sales, marketing, learning, and professional development, inclusion and diversity, and culture change. Throughout each experience, Don sought ways to help others grow and unlock excellence within themselves with every opportunity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *