This month we are delighted to be hosting a series of guest blogs by Dr Robert Leahy on the topic of unemployment. This week, Dr Leahy discusses the importance of taking care of yourself while looking for work.
Unemployed? You have two jobs – finding a job and taking care of yourself
If you are out of work you are probably thinking, ‘The only thing that counts is finding a new job.’ Finding a new job does count, but you have to live every day until you find a job – and every day after that. Your life doesn’t come to an end just because you are not clocking on Monday to Friday. Many unemployed people tell me, ‘I don’t know what to do with myself. I have nothing to do.’ Thinking that way will make you feel helpless and give you the sense that life has no purpose. But you can change that – today.
Looking for a job can be hard. Studies show that the worst time of the day for the unemployed is when they are actually looking for a job. It’s like you are in sales and you have to keep making the calls until you get a sale – it’s one rejection after another, but you have to do it. Set aside some time every day when you are actively doing something for your job search. This could be searching advertisements, going on the internet to research companies, contacting people you know who might have leads (everyone you know will know people – some of whom may help), working on your CV and arranging interviews. Some interviews can just be ‘information interviews’ – one young woman arranged information interviews with ‘contacts of contacts’ and eventually landed a job. Another way of getting in the position for new work is to acquire new skills. If you are out of work you might have the time to take a course, get some training, even apprentice yourself as a volunteer. The more you know, the more you can do.
But let’s look at your biggest job – taking care of yourself. Just because you are out of work for a while doesn’t mean that you have nothing to do. Make a list of rewarding and valuable activities – things that you used to do or wished you had done. I always recommend exercise as part of your to-do list. People who have been unemployed have longer-term health risks. Get your diet right, give up smoking, eliminate or decrease drinking, go for a walk, ride a bike, get back into better shape. You don’t have the excuse that you don’t have time. And you will feel better.
Another thing that will make you feel better is to get more done at home and help with your family. You have more time for the kids. One man told me that he really cherished the time he was out of work because he spent more time with his son. Do the household chores. Fix things. One man built cabinets for his kitchen during his time out of work. You can always contribute to the work at home. And your family will appreciate it.
Have some fun. Let’s face it – being out of work can be a downer. So, don’t feel guilty about having some fun. See friends (don’t hide!), go to a museum, rent a film, take a tour of the parks in the area, read a long novel, play some games, get your guitar out and see what you sound like. You deserve to have some fun – you need it.
Don’t wait to feel inspired to do things. Have a schedule and follow it. If you have a daily plan – scheduled in advance – you always have something to do, and something to look forward to.
Dr Robert L. Leahy is the Director of The American Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Clinical Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at Weill-Cornell University Medical School. His new book Keeping Your Head After Losing Your Job is available to buy from all good bookshops. It is available to download as an e-book from all the major e-book retailers, so you can read it on your Kindle, iPad, Kobo, Nook or Sony Reader.
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