Losing your job is hard. It may well be the most difficult thing you have had to face. Your mental health, physical well being, and of course your satisfaction with life, can all suffer. You may feel anxious, helpless and alone. So how do you cope with the emotional fallout, stay strong and turn this into a positive, productive time?
This month we are lucky enough to host a series of blogs by Dr Robert L. Leahy which will tackle this issue head on. In his first post, Dr Leahy provides simple strategies for beating the stress, anxiety and other negative feelings triggered by unemployment.
How to beat the unemployment blues
The unemployment rate is high right now, but it is always too high for anyone who is out of work. And there will always be millions facing that time ‘in between’ the last job and the next one. Unemployment has a high human cost: if you are unemployed you are twice as likely to be depressed, have an increased risk of experiencing health problems and marital conflict, as well as worries about the future, shame, guilt . . . There’s no doubt it’s one of the most difficult times in your life, but you can choose how you respond.
Here are some ideas of how to make it better – or, at least, not as bad as it feels right now.
- Validate your feelings. You are human, you have a right to feel angry, sad, hopeless, confused, or even happy. Your feelings make sense to you and you can’t just tell yourself to ‘snap out of it’. But you can decide how long you want to stay with those feelings. You can decide what to think and what to do.
- Develop a daily plan. You have two jobs – finding a job and taking care of yourself. You can’t spend all day looking for a job, but you can do something. Schedule the job search daily – and recognise that it might be frustrating. Then, have a daily plan for yourself. This should include exercise, contacting friends, doing rewarding things, learning, connecting with a community.
- Don’t hide. There is no reason to feel ashamed of being unemployed. It can happen to anyone – it happens to most of us at some point. Hiding only makes you feel worse. Tell people. You might find that they have been through this, too. Or that they might have a lead. Or that you have a friend who cares.
- Don’t dwell on it. It’s natural to worry about the future and ruminate about the past. But it won’t help you. You can only focus on what you can do right now. And there is plenty to do. Have a daily schedule. Have tasks to do. Think of acquiring new skills. Spend more time helping with the family. Join a volunteer group. Reach out rather than dwell on what is in your head.
- Have some fun. Just because you are unemployed doesn’t mean that you have to be miserable. You deserve fun. You need fun. Plan some things for yourself. Now that you have more time, you don’t have an excuse not to exercise. Exercise every day and get your endorphins going. Check out the museums, parks, take a bike ride, go for a walk, have an espresso, read a magazine, take a class, see a movie. Hey, when you are back working 40 hours per week you will miss these things. Be creative and find things that are free. Right now is a good time to start taking your life back.
- Be flexible. You don’t need to have a rule-book that says what you have to do and when it has to be done. Be flexible about the jobs you might consider, where you might be willing to live; be willing to take a step back to move two steps forward, be flexible and give yourself time.
Keep in mind that you may not have chosen to be unemployed but you sure can choose how you respond to it.
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 will be available to buy from all good bookshops from Thursday 7th February. It will also be 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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