Carola is a mental health advocate and a freelance writer who focuses on mental health, mental illness, and cognitive conditions.
How to Cope With Unemployment
Over the years, I have experienced long periods of unemployment. The longer I was laid off, the more depression and despair I felt. 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 psychological problems than the general population. Jobless people may succumb to depression 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 in the past, and actually having time to spend with our families (not always a good thing—just kidding). We are not used to having time on our hands and may feel lost as our unemployment goes on for months.
One of the keys to success is maintaining a positive attitude that will push the clouds away. Keeping upbeat is a difficult thing to do. We, the jobless, have seen endless lists of things we should be doing. As an unemployed person, I have been well aware of the drill: get enough sleep, eat properly, and exercise. You are probably as sick of these guilt-inducing admonitions as I am. Long bubble baths are not my thing.
If we are going to conquer the depression associated with our unemployment, revisiting some basic principles in a new and fresh way is worthwhile. We may even develop some good habits that will continue to benefit us after we get a new job.
How to Overcome Depression While Unemployed
Let Go of the Past
We may go through a grieving period over losing our jobs and daily contact with some of our co-workers. This is a normal response to job loss. If a lot of our self-identities are based on our work, we will need to take some time to redefine who we are.
If we made mistakes or poor decisions in 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 will not get another job. We shouldn’t feel ashamed about what happened at our last job. Instead, we need to think positively now that we now have an opportunity to potentially find something better in a field that may be more interesting and fulfilling.
Look for Support Systems and Use Them
Government agencies and some non-profit agencies can help us with updating our resumes and giving us job leads. Some programs may offer funding for second career training. The Internet is a treasure trove of job-hunting websites and useful information.
On a personal level, one of the worst things we can do is withdraw into ourselves. Isolation is damaging to our mental health. We could be cutting ourselves off from potential sources of support. Mental health professionals and support groups can help us get through the rough patches.
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 and sympathize with our situations. You never know—friends might even be able to give us job leads.
Start the Day Right
Do we have trouble getting out of our beds in the morning? Reality must be faced. Our days are looming before us. Whether we are night owls or up with the roosters, it is a good idea to go to bed and rise at the same time each day. 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 around a certain time. There are some perks to being unemployed.
Stick to a Schedule and a Budget
In the book The Unemployment Guide: How a Setback Can Launch Your Career, author Melissa Fleury says that going to work was "such a big part of my routine; I wasn't wasn't sure what to do with my free time." She acknowledges that creating a new routine was hard.
Work gives our lives order and structure. We may feel lost and aimless when we suddenly have a lot of time on our hands. Depression can set in and be exhausting. We can make a job out of looking for a job to refocus ourselves on positive pursuits.
It helps to have a plan for regular activities and things such as resume rebuilding and job searches. We can fill the gaps with fun stuff such as doing a little extra baking or tinkering with our cars,
Finances may be tight for a while. Worrying about mortgages and bills is stressful. If a budget is not in place, now is a good time to create one.
Take Care of Ourselves
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 will not help our depressed state to watch our expanding waistlines grow out of clothes we cannot afford to replace right now. We have the time to plan healthy meals and snacks from scratch. We can also nourish our minds by using our library cards to get books and other digital content or surf the Internet.
There are other ways to treat ourselves that cost little or nothing. 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 many 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 a store 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 Thoughts that can Motivate Us to 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
Use Writing and Journaling
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 are thankful. We can go over it when we are feeling blue.
Job hunting can involve juggling many balls in the air. Writing down the details of an interview and related activities helps jog our memories. Otherwise, we may lose track of the company URL, contact names, and other pertinent details. Dates of activities, such as when we sent out resumes, help us determine the best times to follow up.
The best-selling book What Color Is Your Parachute? 2020: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changersby Richard Bolles offers many comprehensive guidelines for conducting a successful job search.
Take Care of Our Families
The APA reports that depression and stress over our job loss negatively affect our families' well-being. Children and adolescents can start to have problems at school, begin substance abuse, or feel anxious and depressed. When we are down, we tend to be oblivious to the emotional state of our families. Instead, we should 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 the 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 fears about our future. Hope can reduce these fears.
Believe You Will Come Out of It
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.
The toll of job loss, American Psychological Association, Stephanie Pappas
How to Deal With Job-Search Depression, New York Times, Micaela Marini Higgs
10 Ways To Beat The Job-Search Blues, Forbes, Deborah Jacobs
Facing Unemployment: Ten Steps to Handling Your Unemployment Anxiety, Psychology Today, Robert L. Leahy Ph.D.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Carola Finch
Alexis on September 08, 2017:
Fantastic article! I definitely experienced some depressive feelings after being laid off (even if it was a relief to know I didn't have to put up with the mental abuse anymore). Everything you highlighted in your article is so true. We do make our jobs (because we care about the work we do) part of our identity. Letting it get too engrossed is dangerous, however, because even the best, most secure job can end at the drop of a hat. But, there is always hope! There are at least a hundred employers out there who would love to have you as their newest employee!
Carola Finch (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 10, 2013:
Thanks for your comments. I have no problem with you linking to my article. Sorry to hear about your experience but am glad it worked out. The writing of the article was therapeutic for me. I have been trying to find something temp or part time, but no luck so far.
Carola Finch (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 10, 2013:
Thanks. Unfortunately, I have had too much experience in this area.
rose-the planner from Toronto, Ontario-Canada on June 10, 2013:
Great article! You have offered some very helpful tips for anyone dealing with the stress of unemployment. Thanks for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose
Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on June 10, 2013:
Fantastic information! If you don't mind, I would like to add a link of this to my article on unemployment. It fits in with my own experience, and the conclusions I came to.
I had a terrible time when I first lost my job. In my case, I moved too far away to keep the job. It had become a big part of my identity, and it was frustrating to be at home every day. I overcame the negative feelings, and after 6 months without a job, I found one.
This is a great article. Voted up and sharing!
Carola Finch (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 20, 2013:
Thanks for sharing.
formosangirl from Los Angeles on May 19, 2013:
Carola Finch, this is a great article. When I was laid off, I made sure that I covered transportation. I always purchased a monthly bus pass so that I would always have transportation to meet friends for lunch and be able to drop off cover letters, etc. So, even though I was experiencing the blues, I also gave myself the hope of keeping in touch with others and doing something different each day.
Carola Finch (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 09, 2013:
Thanks for your comments. Am glad you are reading them.
Shariful Islam from Bangladesh on May 09, 2013:
Well articulated, helpful, informative and highly resourceful hubs. Am glad to be read your hub.