Losing your job can be one of the most stressful things people experience. This isn’t to say that there are more stressful things to go through, but for many folks this is the thing that breaks them. Being prone to anxiety and worry myself, I had to learn how to keep calm when my job disaster struck.
It doesn’t matter how your job disaster comes around. The stress involved with it centers around one thing: you’re going from stable to unstable; income to no income. It can happen to anyone. Don’t assume that your loyalty to your company or all your hard work will protect you. Let me share some strategies that helped me cope and keep calm when my own job disaster hit.
Prepare for the Worst
Preparation is the best way to keep calm in the midst of losing your job. The old adage says it’s easier to get a job while you already have one, but this isn’t always feasible. Your job loss might be totally unexpected, or you might have been applying and not getting any replies, or all the replies are rejections.
My preparation involved a couple things. One, keep my resume up to date and network open. And two, save an emergency fund. One should save three to six months of living expenses (not income) depending on how soon you think you can get a job after losing one. It’s easy to create a savings category like this with a budgeting tool, like YNAB or Mint. I use and recommend YNAB.
If you have an emergency fund saved up and your resume is in tip-top shape you can expect the immediate panic of job loss to abate.
Apply for Unemployment
Eligibility rules vary by state, so check with your state’s unemployment office for full details. Unfortunately, at least in Washington, you can’t apply for unemployment until you’ve actually lost your job.
But for sure apply as soon as you lose your job, heck, you can even apply the day you lose your job. The wheels of bureaucracy turn kinda slowly, though, so it could take a few weeks for your application to be approved. Once it is, though, unemployment checks will be prorated to include the weeks you waited.
There are additional requirements that vary by state in order for you to remain eligible for unemployment, so it’s best to stay on top of things. Click here to find unemployment information in your state. (USA only, sorry!)
Your Job Doesn’t Define Your Worth
This one might be hard to come to terms with. There is no shame in any job, and no job is beneath you. You are working to support yourself and your family, and no one should make fun of you for being in retail or working in a call center. As a general rule (at least for those positions) people can be difficult to deal with, but that doesn’t mean they know you or understand your situation. No one’s opinion should matter but your own.
Any time you begin to feel worthless or a failure, especially if you’re in a long period of unemployment, stop and remind yourself of all the good you have in your life. Your spouse still loves you. Your kids are still excited to see you (unless you have teenagers, in which case, I’m sorry). Remember that you can go outside and enjoy the sunshine.
Keeping this mantra on hand can help reassure you and keep your confidence from flagging. You have talents, skills, interests, and passions that define you way more than a job does.
Remember People Still Care About You
Unless your partner is the pettiest and most self-absorbed lump imaginable, he or she will still care about you even if you lose your job. If you don’t have a significant other, you can lean on your family and closest friends. If you feel like you’re completely alone, please reach out to a therapist.
This ties into your worth. Just like your job doesn’t define your worth, it also doesn’t define who cares about you.
As Dr. Seuss so whimsically assures us:
“Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
For the longest time, I had difficulty believing that yes, people do actually care about me, and it’s not a long con. Even now that thought sometimes sneaks in before I can stop it, but I’m swiftly reminded by my support system how wrong that thought is.
Go For a Walk
Exercise can do miracles for the stressed out mind. It can bump you out of the fog of “what just happened?” and help you gain clarity. Go for a walk or a run. Take some deep breaths. It’s okay to let yourself be upset.
Try building exercise into your routine. You might find yourself with more confidence, clarity, and less worry. All of these will help you keep your stress levels down regardless of your job situation.
(You don’t need to go to a gym for this. There are thousands of at-home workouts available on Pinterest.)
If you think you might face unemployment for a long time and you’re worried about gaps on your resume, volunteer somewhere. I’d go with an animal shelter for a double win: it’s proven that petting puppies reduces stress levels. Why do you think colleges host Pet the Stress Away events during finals week?
Volunteering helps develop your skills, put you in contact with people who can become references or refer you to a job, and help you feel accomplished. It gives you that feeling of doing something.
Sometimes volunteering can even lead to a full-time job, depending on the agency or organization. Don’t discount any opportunity as too small or not worth it.
A Job Disaster Isn’t the End of the World
You’re still alive and the world’s still spinning around the sun, right? If you can afford it (and your stress levels will thank you if you can) take a week off. Spend it relaxing, reading, playing nonstop video games, whatever…just don’t stress for that whole week. Don’t let the worrisome thoughts invade your day.
But is it really that simple?
It might feel like the end of the world, and I totally understand. It eases the terrifying void of joblessness to realize that the things that matter won’t go away.
Consider Alternative Opportunities
The 9-5 grind isn’t the only thing out there. The beauty of the American Dream allows for millions of different ways to make a living. Small businesses employ most Americans, not Fortune 500 companies with 10,000+ employees.
Do you like dogs? Advertise that you’re available to walk dogs or pet sit. Check out sites like Care and Rover to reach a wider audience in your city.
Recognizing the vastness of opportunity will help lower those stress hormones.
Remember, deep breaths. You’ve got this.
What methods for de-stressing have worked for you? Let me know.