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21 Best Tips for Reinventing Yourself After Empty Nest


Cover - 21 Best Tips for Reinventing Yourself After Empty-Nest

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About the Author - Dr. Angela Caveney


Introduction

The journey through the empty nest phase of life can be as daunting as it is liberating. The departure of our kids from our home marks a profound shift in our daily lives and in our sense of personal identity.


The days of being a parent taxi and lively family dinners have been replaced with a palpable silence and a nagging question: "Who am I now?"


This is the number one question I hear from new empty nesting parents who are struggling with this life transition.


In this article, I offer insights, tips and suggestions that I work through with my clients who seek my guidance as a Clinical Psychologist.


I sincerely hope they help you to rediscover yourself, rekindle your passions, and redefine your life with renewed vigor and vision.


Let's get to it!


What Is Empty Nest Syndrome?

Empty nest syndrome refers to feelings of sadness, loss, and emptiness that most parents experience when a child leaves home for the first time. At this time, the parental role we've played for so many years suddenly changes, and we may feel a profound sense of loss and uncertainty about our purpose moving forward.


To learn more about Empty Nest Syndrome, including the signs and symptoms, its impact on our adult children and ways to cope, check out my article entitled Empty Nest Syndrome: From Surviving to Thriving in a Quiet House.


If you are in need of some great laughs, inspiration and a bit of comfort, my Quotes For Empty Nesters article is also worth a peek. 

Mindset Reinventing Yourself After Empty-Nest

4 Mindset Strategies for Reinventing Yourself After Empty Nest

For many, the worst part about becoming an empty nester is the loss of identity and purpose. In this section I'll outline the mindset strategies that I use in my own life as well as when working with clients.


#1. Begin with reflection

The journey of rediscovering and reinventing yourself during this phase of life begins with finding purpose as an empty nester. To do this, you must turn inward and reflect upon your life.


You must know yourself in order to find yourself again.


Reflection "looks" different for everyone. I love journaling, meditation and going for long walks. My husband prefers to do his "deep thinking" as he's out running trails or enjoying a coffee on our back patio listening to the birds.


The method you choose is unimportant as long as it helps you feel grounded and helps you evaluate both what makes you happy and what changes you want to make in your life.


#2. Know your core personal values

Uncovering your core personal values is key to both rediscovering who you are as well as to begin to reinvent yourself in order to transform your life and your relationships. Living in alignment with your core values is like having a secret recipe for happiness, authenticity, and a life filled with purpose.


In my article about discovering and defining your core personal values, I've outlined the exact, step-by-step process I use when working with clients. This is also the same process I used to determine my own values.


This exercise will take thoughtful reflection and some effort, but, once you've done it, you will have a clear compass to guide you through the countless choices you'll encounter as you seek to reinvent yourself as an empty nester.

Simon Sinek - start with why reinventing yourself after empty-nest

#3. Know your WHY

Simon Sinek's, Start with Why, is one of my favorite book recommendations because it applies to every single one of us at every phase of our lives.


Our WHY is not just about what we do or how we do it, but the fundamental reason why we engage in certain activities. It's about discovering what adds purpose and direction to our lives. Our WHY is our underlying motivation that drives us forward.


For those of us facing the quiet of an empty home, reconnecting with our WHY is another key stepping stone to a revitalized sense of self.


Grasping your WHY begins with introspection into what truly matters to you – your passions, your dreams from earlier days, and the causes that stir your spirit. It's the fusion of all the elements that you bring joy and fulfillment.


By identifying your WHY, you not only assemble the pieces of who you were before becoming a parent, but you also carve out the person you aspire to be in the next chapter.


#4. Set new goals

As you take time to reflect, be sure to also take the next step of actively setting new goals and creating a road map for this next phase of your life. You now have the time and freedom to direct your energy toward interesting new challenges. This time is a gift. Take advantage of it!


(New interests, and potentially grandkids, will come along soon enough to fill much of that time, so grab it while you still have a chance!)


Perhaps you've always wanted to start a small business, return to school, travel to new places, or devote more time to a cause you're passionate about.


Be bold and ambitious in setting your goals. Focus not on filling the void left by your children, but about creating a life that's satisfying and meaningful to you.


As you begin to work on these new goals, be patient with yourself. No goal is truly worth setting if it can be completed overnight. Progress will be gradual, and there may be times when you feel like you're not moving forward as quickly as you'd like.


Embrace the journey, celebrate your successes, learn from your setbacks, and focus on enjoying this unique period of self-exploration and personal growth.

Social Strategies for Reinventing yourself after Empty-Nest

4 Social Strategies for Reinventing Yourself After Empty Nest

#1. Reconnect with your partner

It's so easy, as we get caught up in the busyness of raising children, to neglect our most intimate relationships.


It has become cliche, but it is true that raising children often creates emotional distance in romantic relationships such that once the kids are gone, too many of us look at our partners and think, "I don't know you anymore".


Luckily, with more free time and less distractions, the empty nest phase is the perfect opportunity to focus on each other and remember why we fell in love in the first place.


We need to make time for our partners! From scheduling date nights, to travel and finding new hobbies and activities to do together. It's important that we have fun! Laughter and playfulness are essential in any healthy relationship.


This is also a great opportunity to take some of the energy we put into showing our kids love into finding ways to show daily appreciation and love for our partner. Remember the little, romantic things you did when you were dating? Small gestures and acts of kindness can go a long way.


Empty nesting is also the perfect time for couples to think about what's next for their relationship. When working with couples, I encourage them to assess and discuss their individual personal core values as well as the core values for the relationship itself. Next, I advise them to discuss the dreams and aspirations they have for their lives together and how they can work toward them as a team.


There's nothing like setting 1 year, 5 year and "someday" goals (thus having something to look forward to to do together) to reignite a "spark" and strengthening a couple's bond. (This process mimics what happens naturally in an exciting, new relationship as you get to know each other and make big plans for your future together.)


#2. Reconnect with old friends

It's not uncommon for older friendships to fade away amidst the busyness of raising children, especially for parents who have prioritized their family over their own social lives. Rekindling these old friendships can be very fulfilling and a lot of fun!


Reach out to those friends you haven't seen in years; thanks to the power of social media, this is easier than ever. Reconnecting with old friends not only brings back nostalgic memories, but also creates some great new memories as you support and accompany each other through this new chapter of your lives.

Make new friends - reinvent yourself after empty-nest

#3. Find new friends

Are you finding yourself to be an empty nester with no friends? Or no "real" friends?


Do you have any 3am friends? (Charles Vogl coined the term 3am friends, referring to the friends you know will pick up the phone at 3am if you were in need of support.)


Making new friends as an empty nester can be a bit difficult, however, (if you have one near you) social groups for empty nesters, including social clubs, can make this infinitely easier. (There are also tons of other benefits to joining social groups for empty nesters!)


I created The Trybe Women's Social Club with the specific purpose of addressing the very significant issues of social isolation and loneliness in women in midlife. You're an empty nester with no friends? No problem. We've got you. Problem solved.


(For those whose local community does not include a vibrant social club such as The Trybe, we created a digital version of our membership. We'd love to have you join us!)


#4. Explore social hobbies

Social hobbies are defined as activities that not only bring you personal enjoyment, but also involve interaction with others. They are PERFECT for making friends!


Social hobbies are particularly important for empty nesters because they naturally open avenues for new friendships at a time we are evolving into a new version of ourselves. They bring joy and a sense of achievement, as well as provide a social framework that supports us emotionally and makes us feel less alone.


Check out my article 50 Best Social Hobbies For Making Friends in Midlife for some great suggestions to get you started.

What empty-nesters do when reinventing themselves

4 Things to Do As You're Reinventing Yourself After Empty Nest

Many parents struggle to fill the time void that their children have left behind and the busy, daily routines have ceased.


As a Clinical Psychologist, a VERY common question that I am asked by brand new empty nesters is, "What do I do with all this time?"


My best, overall, advice regarding this is not to put too much stress on finding the "right" things to do. Rather, just start with something that sounds interesting and see where that leads.


Here are my top 5 suggestions for things to do as you're reinventing yourself in the empty nest phase of life.


#1. Try new things

In my role as a Neuropsychologist, I work primarily with people who are concerned about the health of their brain, and with memory in particular.


Many of these people have valid reasons to be seriously concerned, but when I hear people (particularly those undergoing a phase of life change such as empty nesting or retirement) say things like "I can't even remember what I did yesterday” or that they feel a sense that time is speeding up or that “life is passing me by", I start asking them more about how they spend their days. What are they doing?


Doing many of the same things day after day is natural, comfortable and requires very little energy. Our brains are set to autopilot mode for much of each day.


This is absolutely necessary because we’d be completely overwhelmed if we had to make hundreds of decisions every single day. However, if our routines aren't mixed with new experiences, this can lead to boredom, sadness, trouble remembering details of our days, feeling “stuck” and the perception that our lives are passing by very quickly.


The "cure" for this is actually relatively simple. You need to find and try new things - often. You need to make a conscious effort to step out of your comfort zone. In my article, Is Life Passing Too Quickly?, I offer more guidance and 12 practical suggestions.

rediscover old passions to reinvent yourself after empty-nest

#2. Rediscover old passions and hobbies

Empty nesting provides an excellent opportunity to reinvent yourself by rediscovering old passions and hobbies outside the context of parent.


Think back to what you enjoyed doing before you became a parent. Did you love playing an instrument, painting, or photography? Maybe you were passionate about hiking, cooking, or gardening.


When I advise people to think about this, a common response is "I've put off work and my own interests for so long, I don't even know where to begin".


My advice? Don't worry if you're not sure where to start. Just start somewhere and go from there.


If you need a bit more inspiration, lists of hobbies are a resource. In addition to the previously mentioned article about social hobbies, I've also written extensively about empty nest hobbies,and interesting hobbies for ladies in midlife.


#3. Travel with purpose

When you picture stereotypical empty nesters reinventing themselves, what comes to mind?


I think of people selling all their worldly possessions, buying an RV and living (and often working) as a digital nomad.


It's not as common as popular media portrays, but there are many great reasons why some people, in an effort to reinvent themselves, do take this route. Here are my favorites.


Freedom! 

We are finally free of child raising obligations and free to travel on our own schedules. Let's go!


Self discovery

All of the mindset and self discovery suggestions I mention above become easier and more fun with a change of scenery and venue.


Reignite relationships

Nothing brings couples who may have grown apart together faster than exciting, new shared experiences.

Bucket list for empty-nest reinvention

Fulfill your bucket list

Who doesn't have a bucket list? It's time to start checking those boxes!


Cultural enrichment

Exposure to new cultures always offers a fresh perspective and appreciation for both our own as well as others' points of view.


Opportunities to learn

For those of us dedicated to lifelong learning, there is nothing like travel to inspire us. An endless bounty of new learning opportunity awaits!


Voluntourism

Traveling with purpose can be transformative. The empty nesting phase of life often provides us with the perfect combination of time, physical health and financial resources for us to be able to invest in volunteer efforts for a more extended time in order to have a much greater impact than was previously possible. 


Relax!

Sometimes it takes physically getting away from home and work to truly be able to relax and rejuvenate.


#4. Go on a retreat!

Retreats are beyond popular right now, and for good reason. A retreat can provide the perfect opportunity to escape daily routine and immerse yourself in a new environment, while also allowing for personal growth and reflection as you work toward reinventing yourself as an empty nester.

Physical Health for Reinventing yourself after Empty-Nest

7 Physical Health Related Strategies for Reinventing Yourself After Empty Nest

Because I am a Psychologist, I lean toward advising on and writing about the emotional and psychological aspects of empty nest reinvention, however, there are many important ways that focusing on our physical health during this phase of life can ease this transition as well.


#1. Quality sleep

This is #1 for a reason. It's the foundation of health. No more excuses. You don't have babies waking you up or young teens to worry about. If your sleep hygiene isn't optimal, fix it. Seek out professional help if needed.


#2. Healthy eating

As we age and enter the empty nest phase, our nutritional needs change. Make sure that you are getting the necessary nutrients for optimal health.

Don't ignore your health when reinventing yourself after empty nest

#3. Don't die from stubbornness

Schedule regular health check-ups and don't ignore new symptoms!


My favorite billboard of all time was one I saw in Baton Rouge, stating, "This year thousands of men will die from stubbornness." This billboard was an effort by a U.S. Government Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality targeted to get men to stop avoiding the doctor and to go and get the medical screening tests recommended each year.


I'm amazed at the number of people who don't go to the doctor because they're afraid of what they'll learn. This is completely ridiculous logic. Knowledge is power.


Loss of mobility, or the ability to move freely, is one of the biggest reasons why people live sub-optimal lives during the empty nesting phase and beyond. The book, Built to Move is a great resource for understanding the complexities of mobility. (Yoga is fantastic at any age, but it's particularly important and effective for maintaining mobility as we grow older.)


#5. Be physically active - EVERY SINGLE DAY

Not to be confused with mobility per se', activities that keep you moving, like daily walking, biking, gardening and "taking the stairs" are key to helping maintain your cardiovascular (and even your psychological) health.


#6. Stay strong

There's a reason why astronauts have to exercise 2.5 hours a day to offset the lack of gravity in space. Whether you choose weight lifting, Pilates, Tai Chi, body weight exercises, water aerobics (or any number of other options), strength training is critical for maintaining bone health, balance, posture, join health and so much more.


#7. Play ball!

Taking up an active sport like tennis or golf is obviously great for your physical health, but the excitement and competition aspects are also great for your mental well being.

 Financial and Business Related Tips for Reinventing yourself after Empty Nest

2 Financial and Business Related Tips for Reinventing Yourself After Empty Nest

No conversation about reinventing yourself after empty nest would be complete without a discussion about finance and business.


Many of the above mentioned tips and strategies for reinventing yourself are made more difficult (or even impossible) without a sound financial plan.


Many people (who don't enjoy thinking about money) want to bury their heads in the sand and forget money exists, but I encourage you not to do this.


#1. Understand your finances

Start by reviewing your financial situation in detail. Set short-term and long-term goals. Consider an investment strategy that aligns with your risk tolerance and retirement timeline. Speaking with a financial advisor, attending workshops, and even leveraging YouTube University can provide valuable insights and guidance regarding planning and managing your finances effectively.


#2. Consider a pivot

Midlife can be a truly exciting time of life to pivot into a new career, explore new passive income opportunities or even embark upon new entrepreneurial ventures. Many of the reasons why are outlined in our articles on midlife entrepreneurism and retirement business ideas.


Embracing this transitional period of life to revamp your professional identity can lead to a fulfilling and financially rewarding second act.


Final Thoughts

As our nests empty and the house grows quieter, it's natural to glance back at the bustling days of childrearing with a mix of emotions. Yet, it's the forward gaze — filled with potential and promise — that truly defines this chapter.


Reinvention after the nest empties isn't just timely; it's essential. It's the perfect moment to re-evaluate, to dream anew, and to align our finances and careers with the aspirations that may have been on hold for decades.


This is YOUR time. A canvas awaiting your brushstrokes. What will you create next?


About the Author

Angela Caveney, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist, Neuropsychologist and Founder of The Trybe Women's Social Club. Her absolute favorite things to do are to help women find their people, rediscover themselves and thrive throughout midlife. She can be reached directly at angela@the-trybe.com.


(*Note. If The Trybe Women's Social Club is not in your location, reach out to Dr. Caveney to start a conversation about creating a club where you live. Even if you don't know a single person in your new city, don't worry!  This is a great way to start to meet new people fast. We'll provide the framework to get you started.)


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