Losing a job can feel overwhelming, stressful, and shameful. The uncertainty can easily lead to anxiety and depression. And this is all amplified when you have others who depend on you. But before you let that get to you, remember that most of us have been there before. In fact, during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 20 million people were unemployed.
"One of the challenging aspects of being unemployed is that we often depend on our jobs to provide structure to our lives. While it is common for people who work full-time to long for the freedom of having no schedule to follow, it is human nature to get lost and out of balance when there is too much free space," says Ben Gaibel, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Good Samaritan Medical Center.
"This is why it can be essential for those without work to establish some kind of routine in one’s day that is self-created. This can include waking up at the same time every day, completing a daily healthy morning ritual at a specific time, dedicating specific daily blocks of time to get things done and arranging social time with a friend on a regular basis. Following a schedule requires discipline, but it can help lead to greater focus and life-giving behaviors instead of getting too far off track."
So, take a deep breath and take advice from those who’ve dealt with it.
Take good care of yourself
It can be easy to fall into a depression during times of uncertainty. To fall into the daytime TV trap, endlessly scrolling on your phone and bumming yourself out. But with this extra time also comes opportunity to turn yourself into a better version of yourself. You can take the time to exercise more than you could have before. You can take the time to make yourself healthier meals. You can take the time to learn a new skill or hobby you’ve always wanted to learn.
Consider starting fresh
Your career up until this point likely taught you useful skills. These could be public speaking skills if you had to give presentations, interpersonal skills if you managed a client directly, or technical skills like spreadsheets or keynote presentations. These skills are all very valuable to the right employer, so if you were already feeling burnt out at your past job, consider a fresh start in a new field. You might end up happier than you were before.
Keep yourself busy
It’s easy to distract yourself when you feel like you have endless free time. Technology has rewired our brains to be perfectly content with spending hours staring at our phones. So when you’re unemployed, it’s important to try and keep yourself busy so you don’t end up feeling like you wasted your day. Make a list of tasks you can do. These could be job related like working on your resume, or they could be chores, or meeting up with friends for coffee, which can lead to a job. Set a plan for your week and keep to it.
Let yourself have fun
There’s no shame in enjoying your break from the grind. Go on a hike or explore a nearby park. These are all important for your mental health and if you spend your time wisely, you might even look back at this as one of the best times of your life. Don’t feel guilty about enjoying your time off.
All in all, don’t let being unemployed get you down. Try not to even think of it as being unemployed. Spin it to the positive. It’s freedom. It’s an opportunity to press the reset button. It’s a chance to do what you really, really want to do. Don’t stress too much, millions have been there before and are doing just fine now, and the same will be true for you.
In these challenging times, you may decide you need help to cope. West Pines Behavioral Health provides hope, healing and recovery from mental health conditions and addiction. Visit scl.health/journal-westpines.
Talk to a trained mental health professional at 1-844-493-TALK (8255). The Colorado Crisis Services hotline is confidential and is available 24/7/365.