4 Tips for Managing Depression When Retired

1. Create a Sense of Structure

No matter how fulfilling their career, many people look forward to the day they can retire. Without having to work, they think of all the time they can spend doing the things they enjoy, seeing the people they love, and passing their days as they please.

It can be a shock to then realize that retirement isn’t always unconditionally happy. Some people dive enthusiastically into their retirement only to find that where they expected joy and ease, they are instead experiencing symptoms of depression. 

Many retired adults may miss the sense of identity, meaning, or purpose that a career provides. Some miss the structure it gives each day. Others miss the embedded social aspect of co-workers. 

Here are four tips to help handle depression when adjusting to retirement.

Without the structure of a typical workday, you may feel overwhelmed by the blank slate of the day ahead of you. It may be tempting to spend the whole day doing absolutely nothing or there may be an urge to fill every moment with something productive. Neither extreme is ideal, caution experts at Harvard Medical School: “Doing either too little or too much can lead to the same symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, appetite loss, memory impairment, and insomnia.”

You don’t need to map out each and every day, but it may be helpful to have some basic elements in place. For example, you can establish a weekly tennis match with friends, or make a habit of going for a stroll after dinner. Maybe you decide that Wednesday mornings are the perfect time to call a relative, or that Sunday afternoons are great for sitting down with the newspaper and a coffee. Whatever it is, establishing some type of structure will give you something to look forward to, and a sense of accomplishment.

2. Explore Your New Sense of Self

Just as your employment gave structure to your days, it also contributed to your sense of self. Even if you worked to live, rather than lived to work, your employment was likely a defining part of your life. Many people take great pride in their roles, proudly introducing themselves along with their titles.

According to Nancy Schimelpfening, from the non-profit Depression Sanctuary, “The person’s sense of self is tied up very strongly in what he or she does for a living; and, with retirement, a sense of loss can occur, leaving a person struggling to understand who they are and what their value is.”

Take a moment to remember what invigorates you, and what your values are. Try keeping a journal and reflecting on what’s important to you now, what new goals you’d like to accomplish, and what ideas you have for the year.

3. Get Active Outside & in Your Community

Yet another factor that can contribute to depression in retirement is the change in your social life. When you were working, you likely had regular social interaction with coworkers, supervisors, clients, and/or vendors. And now, all of a sudden, that network is no longer a part of your day-to-day routine.

Regular social interaction is essential to our mental health: “Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer,” according to Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

When retired, consider new ways to create connection and social interaction.

  • Go for a hike with friends
  • Join a community activity group
  • Volunteer at a local animal or homeless shelter
  • Join an organization for a cause that’s become important to you 
  • Try a new hobby

4. Consider Extra Support

Perhaps you’ve taken all the right steps already – you’ve added structure to your days, logged some volunteering hours, and regularly connected with loved ones – but you’re still feeling depressed. What now? Are antidepressants the necessary next step to relief?

You may be surprised to learn that there is a safer option for treating depression. Unlike antidepressant medications, Alpha-Stim is a medical device that offers a drug-free option. Alpha-Stim® M and Alpha-Stim AID devices offer a safe, effective, and easy option. While Alpha-Stim is only FDA-cleared for anxiety, insomnia, and pain, it is approved for depression outside of the United States.

Learn more about how Alpha-Stim works for depression here >

decrease in depression

Decrease in Depression

In clinical trials, Alpha-Stim recipients reported an 82% decrease of ≥ 50% or greater in depression scores after five weeks using the CES therapy.1

Improvement After Use

In a clinical trial of Alpha-Stim patients, After 6 weeks, users experienced 42.8% improvement.2


  • Barclay TH, Barclay RD. A clinical Trial of cranial electrotherapy stimulation for anxiety and comorbid depression. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2014; 164:171-177. Presented at the American Psychological Association National Conference, Honolulu, July 2013.
  • Bystritsky A, Kerwin  L, Feusner J. A pilot study of cranial electrotherapy stimulation for generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2008; 69:412-417. Presented at the American Psychiatric Association meeting, San Francisco, 2009.
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