According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mass Layoffs Summary, 1,032,764 people have been laid off so far this year – and that’s just the reported numbers.
If you’re one of the recently unemployed, I feel for you. I’ve been there.
It’s a scary thought to realize you just cashed your last paycheck and don’t know where the next will be coming from. But you’ll survive.
I once went unemployed for six months, and did so without spending my weekends at home alone or eating ramen for dinner. I lived well and you can too.
1. Apply for unemployment benefits
You can claim unemployment benefits if you lost your job through no fault of your own. The U.S. Department of Labor says it takes two to three weeks to start receiving benefits after you file a claim, so start the process the instant your job ends. Some states allow you to apply over the phone or online, while others require an in-person visit. To find out what your state offers, check out the DOL’s list of state unemployment offices.
How much you’ll receive is determined by formulas that vary by state, but typically is based on what you earned over the previous 52 weeks. For example, one common formula pays half of what you used to earn, with a cap that’s tied to your state’s average earnings.
In most states, you can receive benefits for up to 26 weeks, but there are programs that can extend it. For example, a federal program called Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) offers additional benefits, but ends on Dec. 29, 2012.
There’s also a combined state/federal program called Extended Benefits that provides 13 to 20 weeks of additional benefits to those exhausting state compensation. But this program is only available in states where the unemployment rate is above an established threshold. Your state employment office can tell you if your state qualifies.
And don’t get caught off-guard regarding income taxes: Unemployment compensation is taxable.
2. Go on an unemployed budget
Before the Great
, financial experts recommended saving three to six months of expenses as an emergency fund, naturally assuming you’d find a new job in that time. And while you might, times have changed. In August, the U.S. Department of Labor said people who have been unemployed long-term made up 40 percent of the total unemployment rate. Given those statistics, you might have to stretch your emergency fund out longer than you wanted to, so put your money on a survivor’s diet now. Here’s how to pull it off:
Tally up your savings and unemployment benefits and then divide the total into several months of “income.” This is how much you can spend in a month and survive. (How many months you’ll need is impossible to tell, but play it safe and aim for close to a year or more.)
Update your budget and look for savings. For example, when I was first laid off, I went through my bills and realized I could downgrade my cell phone and Internet packages, saving myself $45 a month.
Take a hard look at your spending and see what you can cut without losing your quality of life. For example, you don’t really need cable if you have Netflix. In You Don’t Have to Pay for Cable TV, we figured out that the average cable subscription costs $900 a year. Netflix costs about $120 a year. Switch and save $780 year.
Be smarter, don’t pinch pennies. You probably can’t spend as much as you used to, but you don’t have to make yourself miserable watching every penny while you’re unemployed. Just use a few easy money-saving techniques, like buying things when they’re on sale, using coupons, or buying generic. We’ve got loads of helpful advice on this site, like: 30 Tips to Save on Food, 7 Things You Should Always Buy Generic, and 205 Ways to Save Money.
3. Start the job hunt
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There are jobs out there, but competition is fierce and the job hunt takes time. Follow these steps to get the ball rolling.
Update your resume. Check out 10 Tips to Writing a Resume Better Than Yahoo’s CEO for some modern ways to write a resume. Then read 12 Totally Ridiculous Resume Mistakes and make sure your resume doesn’t feature any.
Post your resume online on job sites like CareerBuilder and Monster. Potential employers may see it and contact you.
Network. Facebook is a great place to start. A Jobvite survey says the social networking site helped more than 18 million people find a job this year. Check out LinkedIn as well. On it you’ll find old colleagues, college classmates, and potential employers who might help you find a job. If you don’t have a profile there, create one and start networking. Twitter is also worth exploring.
Clean up your online presence. The National Labor Relations Board ruled that you can’t be fired over a Facebook comment, but that doesn’t mean potential employers aren’t looking you up. Check out Using Social Networking to Land a Job? 4 Things NOT to Do, then hide or delete anything you wouldn’t want your future boss to see.
Check out local resources. Your local workforce office has a ton of resources to help you land a job. Stop by in person or check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop.org.
4. Look for temporary work
Sure, you may have to hold out for your dream job, but there are plenty of part-time jobs you can do now to bring in a little cash. For example:
Seasonal employment: The holidays are coming up and retailers are looking for temporary workers. Check out Holiday Jobs: 6 Tips to Get and Keep Them and Apply Now: 7 Places to Find a Job Today.
Temporary jobs: There are plenty of employers looking for someone to work for a few weeks or a few months. Job placement agencies – like Kelly Services and Manpower – can help you connect with them.
Side jobs: Going into an office isn’t the only way to make some cash. For example, check out Canine Cash: 5 Ways to Make Money With 4-Legged Friends
5. Boost your savings
Take inventory of everything in your house and see what you no longer want, wear, or use. You can sell it all and make some extra cash.
For pricier items like electronics, jewelry, and collectibles, I suggest selling online. Check out 5 Best Websites for Turning Junk Into Cash. For bigger stuff like furniture, a garage sale is your best bet. Check out 13 Tips for a Super Yard Sale.
6. Keep to a schedule
The first few days after I lost my job, I still woke up early and got a lot done, but then I started to slip. Not two weeks later and I was sleeping until noon, watching too much TV, and feeling frazzled because I wasn’t on any kind of schedule.
Now, I’m not saying sleeping in isn’t one of the perks of unemployment, but you’ll feel a lot better (and have an easier time returning to work) if you keep to a schedule. Once I got my act together, I spent five set hours a day looking for a new job, ran every morning, and worked on projects around the house at night. It took me a few days to get back into the groove, but I stopped wasting time.
7. Don’t stop having fun
You may not realize it, but a lot of your socialization happened at the office. As a freelancer who works from home, I can tell you that being home alone all the time is isolating. To keep from feeling disconnected, I keep a busy schedule outside of the house. For example:
Volunteer. Not only is volunteering rewarding, it is also a free way to socialize, network, and keep yourself entertained. I still volunteer at an animal rescue three days a week. It gets me out of the house and around other people.
Start a walking group. A few of my neighbors work at home. A few months ago they started a walking group. They walk together every morning. Start a group with your friends and neighbors, and you’ll get yourself out of the house and burn calories.
Find free fun. Just because you’re looking for work and on a fixed income doesn’t mean you can’t go out and have a good time. Look for free ways to have fun, like taking the kids to the park, catching a free concert, or going to an art show.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure you get out and mix. Not only will it keep you happy, you might get some networking in as well. Who knows? You could find your next job walking around the park with your neighbors, or visiting an old friend for coffee.
In 2012, as the effects of the global financial crisis four years earlier still lingered, I suddenly found myself without a job and with a redundancy letter in my hand. I spent the next two years officially unemployed – taking on freelance writing gigs, designing wedding invitations and selling handmade Christmas cards during that time to get by – but I eventually found a full-time job which led me to where I am today: the editor-in-chief of the website you’re currently reading this article on. I’m not saying it will take you two years to find another job – at least I hope not. All I’m saying is that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can’t quite see it right now. The point is: don’t give up. You will find something else. You will be okay. But in the meantime, you need to persevere. And – whether it’s because you were fired, laid off or you quit your job in a blaze of glory – that’s what this guide is for: to help you survive unemployment.
1. File for unemployment
First things first, if you haven’t already done so, get yourself down to your local claims office to register for unemployment benefits – the sooner, the better (preferably the very day you become unemployed). Depending on where you live, you will generally only receive unemployment benefits for a specific period of time. In most countries, this is six months, but some countries offer benefits for longer. Germany, for example, pays unemployment benefits for up to 12 months. Make sure to check your local government’s guidance on filing for unemployment, which will explain things like how to apply, eligibility criteria, how much and when you’ll be paid, as well as any necessary documentation. Most governments have dedicated webpages with this information, which you can easily find on Google by searching for relevant search terms (for example: ‘Unemployment benefits US’).
2. Take time to grieve your loss
I won’t give you that generic ‘know you’re not alone’ nonsense. Sure, you’re not the first person to find themselves unemployed and you certainly won’t be the last. But that’s the kind of advice that, truly, offers no value. It’s unhelpful and meaningless, right to its very core, despite the adviser’s best intentions. Instead, what I will tell you is to take time to grieve your job loss. Like any kind of loss (such as the death of a loved one or the end of a romantic relationship), you will experience the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. Embrace your grief – don’t fight it. Pretend it’s all just a bad dream. Get angry at your former boss. Ask yourself ‘what if’. Feel sad. These are all normal emotions and part of the healing process. Only then will you be able to come to terms with your job loss and move on.
It’s important to note here that everyone copes with grief differently. This means you may remain in one stage for weeks at a time and skip others entirely, you may experience the depression stage first before the denial stage, or you may switch back and forth between the different stages. There’s no set timetable or sequence and no right or wrong way to grieve.
3. Reach out to family and friends
Speaking from personal experience, you may find yourself slowly withdrawing yourself from family and friends, either out of shame of losing your job or because you feel so sad that you just can’t bear the thought of facing the world. But this can do more harm than good. Indeed, research shows that social isolation can have adverse effects on both our mental and physical health, including depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease and increased mortality. It can even take a toll on our self-esteem and damage our personal relationships. It’s, therefore, imperative that you reach out to family and friends during this difficult and stressful time of your life. You’ll naturally have bottled-up emotions, and airing your grievances and talking about your feelings out loud will undoubtedly give you a sense of relief. You don’t even have to talk about your job loss if you’re not quite yet ready. Sometimes, just socialising with the people who care about you can do you the world of good, even if it’s meeting for a couple of drinks at your favourite hangout. Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any alone time at all. Setting aside some personal time for yourself definitely has its perks: it helps you get in touch with your emotions and it allows you to reflect on your goals, dreams and aspirations, both personal and professional. But don’t become a recluse and spend most of the time alone.
4. Seek professional counselling
If you don’t feel comfortable talking about things with loved ones (because you don’t want to cause your spouse further stress, for example), you don’t have a very supportive network of friends, or you’re having a particularly difficult time dealing with your sudden unemployment, you may want to consider booking an appointment with a trained professional.
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There’s absolutely no shame in seeking professional help – especially when considering that it can be life-saving in some cases. Indeed, unemployment – particularly long-term unemployment – can cause severe stress and lead to depression. If left untreated, this can in turn lead to a variety of complications, including substance use problems, self-harm and thoughts of suicide. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please call your country’s suicide prevention hotline right away. Befrienders Worldwide offers a searchable directory of suicide crisis lines. Your doctor can refer you to a therapist who’ll be able to help you cope with the mental and emotional strains of unemployment, or you can ask family and friends for recommendations or simply do a quick Google search. The important thing is finding a therapist that you feel comfortable with, which may mean seeing two or three therapists before you find the right one for you. Therapy can be a long-term affair for some people, but for others it may only take a couple of sessions to acquire the necessary skills and tools to help them cope with their concerns and thrive. Your therapist will provide you with a timeline (including frequency and number of visits) that they believe is appropriate for your situation. It all depends on what you want and need, and how dedicated and open you are to therapy.
5. Join a support group
No matter how understanding, caring and well-meaning your family and friends might be, they may not be able to completely grasp all that you’re going through. And that’s where support groups come in. No one understands what you’re going through better than others in the same boat as you, and joining a dedicated unemployment support group is a great way to let off steam, listen to and learn from other people’s experiences, exchange leads on job opportunities, and get feedback on your job search efforts. It’s also a great way to build your network and maybe even make a new friend or two.
If there aren’t any appropriate support groups where you live or you don’t want to travel, meanwhile, consider starting your own group. This can be a particularly great idea if former coworkers of yours were also laid off at the same time as you. That said, depending on where you live, you may need to meet certain criteria and apply for a licence before starting your group. It’s, therefore, imperative that you do your research and contact your local government for more information on requirements and restrictions.
6. Manage your finances
Money is bound to be tight now. You don’t know when your next paycheque is coming in, and you’ve got rent to pay and put food on the table. This might be the most stressful thing about being unemployed, particularly if you have a family to look after, so you’ll need to be frugal with your expenses. Develop a realistic weekly or monthly financial plan to strictly follow, budgeting the basics (like rent, bills and groceries) and taking into account your severance package (if you were laid off), unemployment allowance and any other sources of income. By taking inventory of your expenses and income, you’ll be able to calculate how long your money will last and plan accordingly. Meanwhile, find ways to save money. Speak to your internet and phone service provider about switching to a cheaper plan, for example, and cut back on certain luxuries like dining out as well as recurring expenses like gym memberships and Netflix subscriptions. If you’re really struggling financially, you might want to consider taking out a loan, though do keep away from payday loans as they can be incredibly expensive to pay off. Talk to your bank about your options regarding personal loans – some banks even have special programmes for customers who have bad credit scores. If that doesn’t work out, though, you could always borrow from the Bank of Mum and Dad.
7. Treat your job search like a full-time job
When you become unemployed, finding a new job becomes your job, and you should treat it as such. You’ll want to start with the basics: your résumé. Spend the first day or two of unemployment looking at examples for inspiration and updating your résumé with recent experience and any relevant skills and qualifications you’ve acquired since your last job search. Make sure you read up on all knots and bolts of résumé writing, including choosing the right format, avoiding common mistakes and tailoring your résumé to the jobs you’re applying for. (If you’re struggling with writing your résumé, you might want to hire professional help – our expert writers are just a click away and can help you craft a job-winning document.) Now you’ll want to get down to business: finding and applying for suitable jobs. You should dedicate between 25 and 30 hours a week to your job search, browsing job boards (like our very own CareerAddict Jobs), applying to relevant jobs and even sending speculative applications to companies you’d like to work for. It’s a good idea to set a daily target for the number of jobs to apply to, and to keep a detailed record of all your applications so far (including dates of application and follow-up, company and position names, etc).
8. Find new sources of income
Like most people who find themselves suddenly unemployed, you’ll want to find a new job as soon as possible. But, realistically speaking, it can take some time before you secure a new position. In November 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that unemployment of US workers generally lasted an average 9.5 weeks. This figure, of course, should be taken with a pinch of salt, as the global economy and job market have been turned upside down by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, compared to the previous year, most unemployed persons were able to secure a new job in under five weeks.
Until you find a new job, then, it’s a good idea to look for new sources of income to complement your unemployment allowance. There are many ways you can do this, including:
Freelancing your services – if you’re a writer, for example, you could apply for online gigs on niche job boards like ProBlogger; depending on how successful you are, you could even set up your own business
Selling things you no longer need – you could list old CDs and toys on eBay or Facebook Marketplace, for example, or hold a garage sale
Offering pet-sitting or dog-walking services – not only will you make some extra cash but you’ll also get to spend time with animals, which is highly beneficial for both your mental and physical wellbeing
Starting an online store – if you make handmade jewellery or greeting cards, for example, you can sell your creations on sites like Etsy
Tutoring – if you’re an expert in your field and have the right qualifications behind you, you could set up a tutor profile on sites like Preply and share your knowledge with students virtually
9. Take care of yourself
When we’re in between jobs, self-care often takes a backseat. But it should be your top priority (along with looking for a new job). Indeed, when you take good care of yourself, you’re better equipped at navigating your job loss and maximising your job search, while it’s also good for your mental and physical health. Eat healthy (cut back on the junk food), get enough sleep (eight hours is the magic number), exercise regularly, treat yourself to the occasional luxury (like a spa day), read a good book or listen to a podcast, don’t drink too much alcohol – essentially: be kind to yourself, to your body, soul and mind.
10. Fill your time (and CV) with meaningful activities
Between looking for a job and practising self-care, you’ll likely have a lot of extra time on your hands now. Sure, you could binge-watch your favourite shows on Netflix, but you need to show prospective employers that you’re spending your time productively. Companies don’t want to hire someone who lazes around all day; they want a go-getter, someone who emits a strong work ethic and who is proactive in their personal and professional development.
In other words, you need to fill your time with meaningful activities, like:
Doing some volunteer work – the more relevant to your industry, the better
Learning a new skill – sites like Coursera [paid link] offer free courses on a wide variety of subjects
Launching a blog where you can share your industry knowledge and expert insights
Not only will this help you keep busy (and from going out of your mind), but it will also help you bridge employment gaps in your résumé which might otherwise be uncomfortable explaining to potential employers.
11. Get out the house
I get it: your home is your refuge, your safe space. But boarding up the windows and doors and throwing away the metaphorical (or, worse, literal) key won’t do you any good. This circles back to the whole social isolation thing I mentioned earlier. You need to get out of the house as frequently as possible. Even if it’s just for a walk in your local park, visiting your best friend or even a trip to the supermarket. A change of scenery, after all, is a great wellbeing and mood booster. Just because you’re unemployed, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of your free time and do things that you couldn’t easily do when you were in a full-time job. In fact, there are plenty of free and budget-friendly things you can do outside the four walls of your home without breaking the bank, including:
Visiting a free museum or art gallery
Volunteering at your local animal shelter (remember what I said about being around animals being good for you?)
Participating in a free outdoor yoga class
Joining a free wine tasting tour
Attending a free concert
Going for a hike
12. Create (and maintain) a daily structure
When you had a full-time job, you likely had a daily routine: wake up, get dressed, go to work, go home, make dinner, socialise, and repeat.
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Even though you’re unemployed and you don’t have a job to go to, you should still maintain some sort of routine. We humans are creatures of habit, after all, and creating a (somewhat adapted) structure to your day can help you stay motivated and feel like you’re making progress in your job search. Here’s an example:
06:30 Wake up
07:00 Go for a run
07:30 Have a shower
08:00 Have breakfast
08:30 Start looking and applying for jobs
12:30 Have lunch
13:00 Continue your job search
16:00 Do something for yourself
18:00 Have dinner
23:00 Go to bed
Your daily schedule doesn’t have to look exactly like this. You can make it more detailed, switch activities around, add other tasks, whatever you want – just make sure you stick to it. And don’t forget to give yourself a day or two off every week – if you didn’t work on weekends when you were employed, for example, you could maintain that same arrangement.
13. Stay positive
Although it is easier said than done, maintaining a positive outlook is key to your mental and emotional wellbeing during this particularly stressful time of your life. Unemployment doesn’t last forever. Yes, it may sometimes be lengthy, but it’s not permanent. Look at me: I was unemployed for two whole years, but like I mentioned earlier, I did eventually find a job. And a good one at that.
You need to keep reminding yourself that the next opportunity – maybe even your dream job – is just around the corner. Of course, you’re bound to have the occasional bad day, and that’s okay. But just don’t lose faith. And don’t lose focus: as long as you keep trying and you persevere, you’ll be back on track and in employment before you know it. Here are some things to try to develop and maintain positivity:
Tell yourself positive affirmations in the morning – our Instagram account is full of inspiration
Watch funny videos (laughter, after all, really is the best medicine)
Listen to happy and positive songs
Surround yourself with positive people
Write a list or keep a journal of all the things you’re grateful for
The stress of losing a job
Whether you’ve been laid off, downsized, forced to take early retirement, or seen contract work dry up, losing your employment is one of life’s most stressful experiences. Aside from the obvious financial anguish it can cause, the stress of losing a job can also take a heavy toll on your mood, relationships, and overall mental and emotional health.
Our jobs are often more than just the way we make a living. They influence how we see ourselves, as well as the way others see us. Even if you didn’t love your job, it likely provided you a social outlet and gave a structure, purpose, and meaning to your life. Suddenly finding yourself out of work can leave you feeling hurt, angry, or depressed. You might be questioning your identity, grieving all that you’ve lost, or feeling anxious about what the future holds.
Depending on the circumstances of your unemployment, you may feel betrayed by your employer, powerless over the direction of your life, or blame yourself for some perceived shortcoming or mistake. The stress and worry can feel overwhelming. But no matter how bleak things seem right now, there is hope. With time and the right coping techniques, you can come to terms with these setbacks, ease your stress and anxiety, and move on with your working life.
If you’ve lost your job due to the coronavirus outbreak…
Many people around the world have lost their jobs or sources of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the widespread, unprecedented nature of the crisis means that you shouldn’t feel any blame for your situation, that may be of little comfort when you’re stressed about paying bills and putting food on the table.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by uncertainty about how the economy will recover or when you’ll be able to find work. It’s important to know that you’re not alone; many of us are facing the same insecurities at this time. In addition to the following tips for coping with the stress of losing a job, there are also steps you can take to better deal with uncontrollable circumstances and an uncertain future.
Coping with job loss stress tip 1: Allow yourself to grieve
Grief is a natural response to loss, and that includes the loss of a job. As well as the loss of income, being out of work also comes with other major losses, some of which may be just as difficult to face:
A feeling of control over your life.
Your professional identity.
Your self-esteem and self-confidence.
A daily routine.
Friendships and a work-based social network.
You and your family’s sense of security.
Facing your feelings
While everyone grieves differently, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to mourn the loss of your job. It can be easy to turn to habits such as drinking too much or bingeing on junk food for comfort. But these will only provide fleeting relief and in the long-term will make you feel even worse. Acknowledging your feelings and challenging your negative thoughts, on the other hand, will help you deal with the loss and move on.
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Give yourself time to adjust. Grieving the loss of your job and adjusting to unemployment can take time. Go easy on yourself and don’t attempt to bottle up your feelings. If you allow yourself to feel what you feel, even the most unpleasant, negative feelings will pass.
Write about your feelings. Express everything you feel about being laid off or unemployed, including things you wish you had (or hadn’t) said to your former boss. This is especially cathartic if your termination was handled in an insensitive way.
Accept reality. While it’s important to acknowledge how difficult job loss and unemployment can be, it’s equally important to avoid wallowing. Rather than dwelling on your job loss—the unfairness, how poorly it was handled, the ways you could have prevented it, or how much better life would be if it hadn’t happened—try to accept the situation. The sooner you do so, the sooner you can get on with the next phase in your life.
Avoid beating yourself up. It’s easy to start criticizing or blaming yourself when you’re unemployed. But it’s important to avoid putting yourself down. You’ll need your self-confidence to remain intact as you’re looking for a new job. Challenge every negative thought that goes through your head. If you start to think, “I’m a loser,” write down evidence to the contrary: “I lost my job because of the lockdown, not because I was bad at my job.”
Think of your job loss as a temporary setback. Most successful people have experienced major setbacks in their careers but have turned things around by picking themselves up, learning from the experience, and trying again. You can do the same.
Look for any silver lining. The feelings generated by losing a job are easier to accept if you can find the lesson in your loss. That can be very difficult at such a low point in your life, but ask yourself if there’s anything you can learn from this experience. Maybe your unemployment has given you a chance to reflect on what you want out of life and rethink your career priorities. Perhaps it’s made you stronger. If you look, you may be able to find something of value.
Tip 2: Reach out to stay strong
Your natural reaction at this difficult time may be to withdraw from friends and family out of shame or embarrassment. But don’t underestimate the importance of other people when you’re faced with the stress of job loss and unemployment. Social contact is nature’s antidote to stress. Nothing works better at calming your nervous system than talking face to face with a good listener.
The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to offer solutions; they just have to be a good listener, someone who’ll listen attentively without becoming distracted or passing judgement.
As well as making a huge difference in how you feel, reaching out to others can help you feel more in control of your situation, and you never know what opportunities will arise.
You may want to resist asking for support out of pride but opening up won’t make you a burden to others. In fact, most people will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your relationship.
Developing new relationships after your job loss
When we lose our jobs, many of us also lose the friendships and social networks that were built in the workplace. But it’s never too late to expand your social network outside of work. It can be crucial in both helping you cope with the stress of job loss—as well as finding a new job.
Build new friendships. Meet new people with common interests by taking a class or joining a group such as a book club, dinner club, or sports team.
Join a job club. Other job seekers can be invaluable sources of encouragement, support, and job leads. Being around others facing similar challenges can help energize and motivate you during your job search.
Network for new employment. The vast majority of job openings are never advertised; they’re filled by networking. Networking may sound intimidating or difficult, especially when it comes to finding a job, but it doesn’t have to be, even if you’re an introvert or you feel like you don’t know many people.
[Read: Job Networking Tips]
Get involved in your community. Try attending a local event, mentoring youngsters, supporting your church or temple, or becoming politically active.
Tip 3: Involve your family for support
Unemployment affects the whole family, so don’t try to shoulder your problems alone. Keeping your job loss a secret will only make the situation worse. Your family’s support can help you survive and thrive, even during this difficult time.
Open up to your family. Whether it’s to ease the stress or cope with the grief of job loss, now is the time to lean on the people who care about you, even if you take pride in being strong and self-sufficient. Keep them in the loop about your job search and tell them how they can support you.
Listen to their concerns. Your family members are worried about you, as well as their own stability and future. Give them a chance to talk about their concerns and offer suggestions regarding your employment search.
Make time for family fun. Set aside regular family fun time where you can enjoy each other’s company, let off steam, and forget about your unemployment troubles. This will help the whole family stay positive.
Helping children cope with a parent’s job loss
Children can be deeply affected by a parent’s unemployment. It is important for them to know what has happened and how it will affect the family. However, try not to overburden them with too many emotional or financial details.
Keep an open dialogue with your children. Children have a way of imagining the worst when they write their own “scripts,” so the truth can actually be far less devastating than what they envision.
Make sure your children know it’s not anybody’s fault. Children may not understand about job loss and immediately think that you did something wrong to cause it. Or, they may feel that somehow they are responsible or financially burdensome. They need reassurance in these matters, regardless of their age.
Children need to feel as if they are helping. They want to help and allowing them to contribute in ways such as taking a cut in allowance, deferring expensive purchases, or getting an after-school job can make them feel as if they are part of the team.
Tip 4: Find other ways to define yourself
For many of us, our work shapes our identities and defines who we are. After all, when you meet someone new, one of the first questions they ask is, “What do you do?” When we lose our jobs, we feel a loss of self. But it’s important to remember that being unemployed doesn’t have to define who you are as a person. It’s up to you define yourself, not the state of the economy or a company’s decision to lay you off.
Pursue activities that bring purpose and joy to your life. By pursuing meaningful hobbies, activities, and relationships, you can reaffirm that it’s these things define you as an individual, not your employment status. We all have different ways of experiencing meaning and joy, so choose something that’s important to you.
Try a new hobby that enriches your spirit or pick up a long-neglected hobby. If you’ve neglected outside activities in favor of work, now is the time to take a class, join a club, or learn something such as a foreign language or new work-related skill. At a time when money may be tight, look for events and activities that are inexpensive to attend.
Express yourself creatively. Write your memoirs, start a blog, take up painting or photography.
Spend time in nature. Work in your yard, take a scenic hike, exercise a dog, or go fishing or camping. Spending time in nature is also a great stress reliever.
Volunteer. Helping others or supporting a cause that’s important to you is an excellent way to maintain a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. Volunteering can also provide career experience, social support, and networking opportunities.
Tip 5: Get moving to relieve stress
If work commitments prevented you from exercising regularly before, it’s important to make the time now. Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress. As well as relaxing tense muscles and relieving tension in the body, exercise releases powerful endorphins to improve your mood. Trimming your waistline and improving your physique may also give your self-confidence a boost.
Aim to exercise for 30 minutes or more per day, or break that up into short, 10-minute bursts of activity. A 10-minute walk can raise your spirits for two hours.
Rhythmic exercise, where you move both your arms and legs, is a hugely effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body. Try walking, running, weight training, swimming, martial arts, or even dancing.
To maximize stress relief, instead of continuing to focus on your thoughts, focus on your body and how it feels as you move: the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the wind on your skin.
Tip 6: Eat well to keep your focus
Your diet may seem like the last thing you should concern yourself with when you’re facing the stress of losing your job and trying to make ends meet. But what you put in your body can have a huge effect on your levels of energy and positivity.
Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks or comfort foods such as pasta, white bread, potatoes, or French fries, but these high-carbohydrate foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.
Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine and chemical preservatives or hormones.
Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids to give your mood a boost. The best sources are fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines), seaweed, flaxseed, and walnuts.
Avoid nicotine. Smoking when you’re feeling stressed may seem calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant, leading to higher, not lower, levels of stress and anxiety.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol may temporarily reduce worry, but too much can cause even greater anxiety as it wears off.
Tip 7: Take care of yourself
The stress of job loss and unemployment can take a toll on your well-being and leave you more vulnerable to mental health problems. Now more than ever, it’s important to take care of yourself.
Maintain balance in your life. Don’t let your job search consume you. Make time for fun, rest, and relaxation, whatever revitalizes you. Your job search will be more effective if you are mentally, emotionally, and physically at your best.
Get plenty of sleep. Sleep has a huge influence on your mood and productivity. Make sure you’re getting between 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. It will help you keep your stress levels under control and maintain your focus throughout your job search.
Practice relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are a powerful antidote to stress. They also boost your feelings of serenity and joy and teach you how to stay calm and collected in challenging situations, including job interviews.
Tip 8: Stay positive to keep up your energy
If it’s taking you longer than anticipated to find work, the following tips can help you stay focused and upbeat.
Keep a regular daily routine. When you no longer have a job to report to every day, you can easily lose motivation. Treat your job search like a job, with a daily “start” and “end” time, with regular times for exercise and networking. Following a set schedule will help you be more efficient and productive.
Create a job search plan. Avoid getting overwhelmed by breaking big goals into small, manageable steps. Instead of trying to do everything at once, set priorities. If you’re not having luck in your job search, take some time to rethink your goals.
[Read: Finding the Right Career]
List your positives. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself, including skills, personality traits, accomplishments, and successes. Write down projects you’re proud of, situations where you excelled, and skills you’ve developed. Revisit this list often to remind yourself of your strengths.
Focus on what you can control. You can’t control how quickly a potential employer calls you back or whether or not they decide to hire you. Rather than wasting your precious energy worrying about situations that are out of your hands, turn your attention to what you can control during your unemployment, such as learning new skills, writing a great cover letter and resume, and setting up meetings with your networking contacts.
Help yourself to stay on task. If you’re having trouble following through with these self-help tips to cope with job loss and unemployment stress, HelpGuide’s free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit can help. By learning to manage troublesome thoughts, stress, and difficult emotions you’ll find it easier to follow through on positive intentions and regain control of your job search.