Disney Pixar’s 2015 film, Inside Out, tells the story of the emotional conflicts of Riley, an eleven year old girl. Her dad gets a new job and moves the family from the upper Midwest to San Francisco, a move that upsets her entire world. Five emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger all make their presence known as she tries to navigate this new landscape and adjust to her new reality. While it’s tempting to assign all such emotional roller coasters to pre-teen young ladies, we all face times when our emotions rage because the life we have become comfortable with, has now been altered in some dramatic way. Retirement is one of those life transforming events that delivers an emotional wallop. If we’re not careful we can get blindsided and make a mess of the transition. But if we recognize the emotions at play we can navigate these waters to a successful outcome.

Joy, glee, and jubilation may come with shouts of “I’m finally free.” You’ve been waiting for this day for years, months, days, and now it finally arrives. The anticipation has been palpable. You’ve prepared financially for this day with wise investing and now you get to put the plan into action. Without the responsibilities of your former job you are giddy with the opportunity to use your time as you choose. The dog needs walking. You, the budding woodworker, have a list of projects to accomplish. You’re ready to be more involved in the lives of your grandchildren. But the initial euphoria will wear off and life will transition to predictable rhythms, just as it was when you were working. Now your days are just filled with different activities.

Fear and anxiety may show up for a visit on occasion. Have I saved enough? Will I outlive my assets? Will my health hold up? As much as we plan, the future is always filled with unknowns and those unknowns can be scary. Spending savings feels much different than spending a paycheck. A routine physical leads to additional tests when the doctor sees something not quite right. That one grandchild is making poor life decisions and it keeps you up at night. You’ve experienced fear multiple times. Long before you retired you dealt with frightful events and conquered them. You can do it again. The object of fear may be different but the tools to fight fear are the same. Accurate information usually drives away irrational fear.

Sadness or even depression may make an appearance. For some, retirement brings with it a profound sense of loss, similar to the death of a loved one. Your identity was wrapped up in the position you held.  You no longer have important responsibilities. You sense that your usefulness has waned. Your self-worth takes a hit. Your social circles change as friends begin to die off, you downsize and move to a new community, and your old workmates move on with their lives. Sadness is nothing new, it just has a different focus in retirement. Don’t let the occasional melancholy spoil a great retirement.

We are all emotional beings and these feelings can surface at the most unexpected times. Recognizing these mood swings is vital to adjusting to a retirement lifestyle. Yes, there will be changes and these may be scary or sad at times. But it’s time to embrace change and seize new opportunities. You can now approach your new life with passion and purpose. You’ve spent decades preparing for this time. Now go out and take advantage of it.