How to Make the Best of Retirement in the Pandemic

It’s July 21, 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been raging for at least four months now.

I hope you are doing well and staying safe and sane, to the greatest extent possible.

Aside from the immediate impacts of the pandemic, many other aspects of your life have been upended and changed in one way or another. Many businesses are suffering, but some are booming. People are eating out less, working from home, driving less, buying more of some things and less of others, and so on. Almost every aspect of “normal” has been disrupted.

If you are not retired yet, your work situation has probably changed. You may be working from home or even furloughed. Depending on your line of work, you may be working extra hours.

If you are already retired, your plans have almost certainly been disrupted too.

In our case, we have had to cancel two vacations and we aren’t making any travel plans in the near future.

We play in several bands, both for musical enjoyment and for socialization. All of that is off the table for the foreseeable future, except for one. My steel band can rehearse outdoors, wearing masks, spaced six feet apart. We now live stream concerts because we can’t perform for live audiences. Attending concerts and theatre is cancelled until there’s a vaccine.

We were in the habit of going out every Tuesday to discover (or rediscover) some local point of interest on our Adventure List. Most of them have been closed for months.

To say that our lives have been disrupted would be a major understatement.

During the pandemic, it’s easy to feel anxious, overwhelmed, and saddened by everything going on. No question, these are difficult and uncertain times.

While you’re spending more time at home it’s easy to fall into the trap of wasting time. It’s easy to succumb to feelings of boredom and hopelessness, making it tempting to over-indulge in things that usually involve screens and/or calories.

Here are several ways you can take control and make the best of this challenging time.

Limit your input of news and social media.

While it’s important to stay well-informed, it’s easy to get swallowed up by the daily news cycle. Between all of the ramifications of the pandemic, social injustice issues such as race and immigration, and the presidential and congressional election cycle, there’s more news to consume than ever. So much of it seems urgent and almost all of it is disturbing. 2020 is the train wreck we can’t stop watching.

Trying to keep up with everything can easily consume many hours each day. Worse, it can contribute to depression and despair. Ask yourself whether immersive news consumption is adding quality to your day.

You already know that COVID-19 is still spreading rapidly in many parts of the country, it’s not going away any time soon, and you need to stay safe and protect yourself. You probably don’t need to track the statistics every day and read a slew of stories about just how bad it is out there.

You probably already know who you’re going to vote for. Closely following each little movement in the polls or reading about the day-to-day mud-flinging is probably not going to change your mind.

Staying in touch with friends and family is especially important now, and social media is one way to do that. But social media also contains endless memes, news stories, questionable information, and plenty of negativity. You may wish to limit your exposure to once or twice a day, and unfollow people who post too much nonsense or who aren’t that close to you.

You’ll probably find that more direct, person-to-person contact via email, text, video chat, or even old-fashioned phone calls and letters will be more fulfilling to both you and the recipient.

Focus on what you can do and what you can control.

Try to imagine a time five or ten years in the future when you will look back on 2020 (and probably 2021). How will you feel about how you spent your life during this time? Did you make the best of it? Did you accomplish some projects or learn some new things? Or did you stress out, gain weight, and binge-watch Netflix?

Your happiness, both before and after retirement, is determined more by how happy you are each day rather than by the occasional big trips you take or bucket list items you accomplish.

You can’t control all the havoc forced upon us by the virus and society, but you still have some control over what you do with your time.

With so many things you can’t do, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there are still plenty of things you can do. On my list of 100 things you can do after you retire, there are still 50 that you can enjoy in your home or with safe, low-risk trips outdoors.

While it’s disappointing to curtail or postpone some of the activities you hoped to enjoy in retirement, it may help to think of it as rearranging the list of things you hope to do. If you think of the months or years of your retirement as chapters in the book of your life, you’re simply re-sequencing the chapters.

Focus on self-care.

During these especially trying times, and despite your best efforts to stay positive and spend your time doing something enjoyable and/or useful, sometimes current events can still get you down. There may be moments when you just don’t feel like doing anything, or you get sucked into the swamp of dystopia.

At times like this, you need something to lift your spirits in the current moment; something to take your mind off of all the craziness and uncertainty.

Here’s one idea. Make a short list of simple things you can do that will improve your mood and your outlook on the world. Your list will be unique to you, but it might include things like:

  • Go for a walk or bike ride
  • Spend 20-30 minutes reading a good book
  • Meditate, or just sit still (try outdoors, weather permitting)
  • Write in your journal
  • Call or write to a friend
  • Straighten up or declutter something
  • Listen to music
  • Take a short drive
  • Spend some time in your garden
  • Play with your pet
  • Enjoy a bubble bath

Doing something like this is effective because it’s simple, it doesn’t require advance planning, and it’s something you enjoy as opposed to something you “should” do. You’re being good to yourself. You will almost certainly be happier afterwards. You won’t regret it later.

For better or for worse, these are the days of your life. Try to make the best of each day, even though you can’t do everything you would like to do for the time being. There are still plenty of things you can do.

Please feel welcome to comment below.

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© 2020 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.

Photo credits:
Sunrise through clouds: Jasper Boer
Laptop with Facebook: Austin Distel
Life is short: Manasvita S
Coffee cup and book: Nathan Dumlao

6 Responses

  1. Terrific reminders on how to focus on the half-FULL glass we’re all experiencing, Dave! THANKS! One of the things I’ve volunteered to do recently involves hand-writing and sending postcard reminders to fellow citizens to VOTE! This lets strangers know that voting MATTERS to everyone – and it helps the USPS to have first-class mail to deliver during this time when the very existence of the Post Office is being questioned/threatened. Let’s do what we CAN do to make a difference towards the positive!  ❤️

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Marilyn,

      Thanks for sharing your volunteering idea! Even though many forms of volunteering involve being someplace physically (which may or may not be safe), this shows that you can also volunteer from home.


    • Kate Hamilton says:

      Great idea! We bought stamps and send letters and cards to friends and family. It’s fun and it makes us feel good.

  2. Excellent points Dave!

    You’re so right that it’s tempting for many to “over-indulge in things that usually involve screens and/or calories”.

    For my wife and myself, we started our own retirement blog. Between the research and writing, we’re busier than ever! To our amazement, besides helping others, we really enjoy it. Your title says it all…”How to make the best of retirement in the pandemic”.

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