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How to beat the unemployment blues
These days, more people than ever are feeling the sting of being laid off and unemployed. The American Psychological Association (APA) says that unemployed people are twice as likely to suffer from depression and other psychological problems than the general population. The unemployed may also succomb to depression and despair if their unemployment extends beyond six months.
When we first were laid off or quit the job from hell, we welcomed the break from the tedium of work - sleeping late, doing household chores that never seemed to get done otherwise, and actually having time to spend with our families (not always a good thing - just kidding). We are not used to actually having time on our hands and may feel lost as our unemployment goes on.
Below are some tips for surviving this troubling time. The key to success is maintaining a positive attitude that will push the clouds away. Now, some of the things on this list may seem trite. As a cancer survivor and unemployed person, I am well aware of the drill: get enough sleep, eat properly, and exercise. You are probably as sick of these guilt- enducing admonitions as I am. However, if we are going to conquer the depression associated with our unemployment, it is worthwhile to revisit some basic principles in a new and fresh way. We may even develop some good habits that will continue to benefit us after we get a new job.
Let go of the past
We may go through a grieving period over the loss of our job and daily contact with some of our co-workers. This is a normal response to job loss. If a lot of our self-identity is defined by our work, we may need to take some time to redefine who we are. If we made mistakes or poor decisions on the former job, we can’t go back and change them. Even if we are fired, that does not mean that we are not competent or won’t get another job. We shouldn’t feel shame about what happened on our last job. Instead, we need to think positively now that we now have an opportunity to potentially find something better in a field of more interest to us.
Start the day right
Do we have trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Reality must be faced. Your day is looming before you. Whether you are a night owl or up with the roosters, it is a good idea to go to bed and rise at the same time. We should not have to submit to the tyranny of an alarm clock unless we have something planned for that day, but we can train our bodies to wake up at a certain time. There have to be some perks to being unemployed!
Stick to a schedule and a budget
Depression is exhausting. It helps to have a plan in place for regular activities and things such as a resume rebuild, a little extra baking, or a specific time for job searches. Finances may be tight for a while, so if you don’t already have a budget in place, now is a good time to create one.
Take care of yourself
While unemployed, there will be long days with no interviews or job prospects. When we are stuck at home all day, the fridge beacons – come to me and nibble, nibble, nibble! It wouldn’t help our depressed state to watch our expanding waistlines grow out of our clothes, which we can’t afford to replace right now. We have the time now to plan healthy meals and snacks from scratch. We can also nourish our minds by using our library card to get books and DVDs.
There are other ways to treat ourselves that cost little or nothing, such as long bubble baths. Sometimes we just need to get out of the house to get some sun and fresh air. Walking sharpens our minds and is good for our bodies.
Exercise. Oh the dreaded word that most of us hate. When we hear the “e” word, we tend to picture sweaty people gasping as they jog on a treadmill, pedal on machines we don’t even know how to turn on, or visualize people with muscles lifting heavy weights. Exercise does not have to be so complicated. A walk to the mall is also good exercise. We may not have money to spend, but at least we will feel good when we get there. A gym can benefit us and some are relatively inexpensive. The sight of those super-fit bodies can spur us on (no discouragement reaction please - positive thinking, remember). There are also lots of out-of-shape people just like us who may be unemployed too, especially during the day.
Here are some possible motivators for exercise:
- We can get a shot of wonderful endorphins that will elevate our mood
- We can lose the weight we have gained from 24 access to kitchen goodies
- We can bask in compliments from friends and family on how fit and trim we look
- We can get out of the house and away from the reminders of our jobless state
Find healing in writing
We can keep a journal where we write out our feelings and develop plans for the future. We can also create a list of people and things for which we thankful. We can go over it when we are feeling blue.
One of the worst things we can do is withdraw into ourselves. We shouldn’t feel ashamed of being unemployed – it is a natural state for many people these days through no fault of their own. If our friends are sick of hearing about our latest job interview from hell, maybe it is time to find new friends who have had similar experiences or can sympathize with our situation. You never know – a friend might even be able to give you a job lead.
Take care of your family
The APA reports that people who are stressed and depressed over their job loss have a negative effect on the families wellbeing. Children and adolescents can start to have problems at school, begin substance abuse, or feel anxious and depressed. When we are depressed, we tend to be oblivious to the emotional state of our families. Instead, let’s use the extra time on our hands to assess the family’s state of being and address any issues.
Hold onto hope
The opposite of despair is hope that we will soon find employment. One of the benefits of keeping in touch with people is that some will share success stories or tales of people who are a lot worse off than we are. A job loss thrusts us into a state of insecurity and can create feelings of fear about our future.
Our unemployment situation, whatever it may be, is just a temporary bump on the road of life. Positive thinking says that a new job is just around the corner.