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

Monthly Chronicle - - Health & Well-being - Gil­lian Guthrie, Life­line

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, 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

Life­line 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: ap­point­ments@ life­line­h2h.org.au.

On­line re­sources in­clude the Life­line Web­site www.life­line.org.au which has fact sheets for cop­ing with stres­sors and men­tal ill­ness, ed­u­ca­tional in­for­ma­tion and links to re­sources and ser­vices.

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