Here are 10 ways you can take care of your mental health as you exit, look for, or rest from employment.
If you’ve recently lost your job because of the pandemic, you may be struggling to manage feelings of sadness and hopelessness as you worry about the future and your family’s well-being. At the same time, you may be coping with other troubling thoughts like:
- A loss of identity and sense of purpose
- Feeing useless
- Feeing angry and jealous of others who still have work
During this difficult time, it is all the more important that you pay attention to your mental health. Not doing so might cause mood swings, depression, and anxiety to dominate your entire life, leading to problems like substance abuse, deterioration of physical health, or withdrawal from day to day activities. In addition, mental health conditions might make you too nervous or lack the confidence to apply for a new job.
Here are some ways you can maintain positive mental health during this difficult period:
- Acknowledge (don’t ignore) your emotions. It is perfectly normal to feel bad and scared over losing your job. These feelings should never be buried or ignored; instead allow yourself the time and space to grieve. If it helps, call up a friend or loved one to act as a sounding board so you can sort through your feelings. However –
- Avoid self-recrimination. Be kind to yourself. Avoid negative self-talk like “It’s all my fault I lost my job,” “Nobody is going to want to employ me,” or “What’s the point of even trying?!” This defeatist attitude does not help.
- Don’t isolate yourself. It is normal to feel ashamed about having lost a job, which will make you want to avoid family and friends. But opening up to supportive friends or loved ones, even if it’s just a select few, can make a big difference in boosting your mental health. During the pandemic, you can still maintain social interactions through video chat, talking on the phone, or sending messages.
- Maintain a regular routine. Resist the urge to stay in bed all day, skip meals, or shy away from day-to-day responsibilities at home – these will only increase your sense of distress and will highlight the disparity between your pre- and post- employed lifestyle. Instead, continue to wake up at the same time each day, eat healthy meals, and make time for exercise. Working out can relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Focusing on your physical and mental health can help you feel better and more in control of your life.
- Set daily goals. Once you are up and about, write down a to-do list of goals that you want to accomplish every day. Whether that means sending out five job applications, updating your resume, catching up on housework, or finishing two chapters of a new book, setting goals gives you something to work towards. Staying busy will also keep you from ruminating about your job loss. Unemployment can definitely affect your self-esteem but if you’re constantly working towards a goal or doing something to improve yourself, you will feel more accomplished and start regaining your sense of self-worth.
- Set limits to job searching. Don’t let looking for work take over your life. Instead, allot a dedicated number of hours each day to updating your resume, looking at job openings online, or filling out applications. But also remember that you deserve to rest and relax.
- Volunteer. If you’re feeling stuck or isolated, consider devoting a certain number of hours each week to a worthy cause. Make face masks or face shields to donate to those who need them. Run errands for elderly or immunocompromised neighbors. Or cook meals and deliver them to medical frontliners or the less fortunate in your area. Volunteering can make you feel better about yourself, allow you to add a positive entry to your resume, or in some cases even result in a job opportunity.
- De-stress through healthy ways. Make sure you have plenty of healthy coping mechanisms at your disposal, so you can reach for something healthy when your stress or anxiety start to escalate. Writing in a journal, meditating, deep breathing, and yoga are a few examples. You may be tempted to turn to things that will give you immediate relief—like alcohol or food – but note that these things will cause more problems for you in the long term.
- Take up a new hobby. Use your new-found free time as an opportunity to do something you were always too busy for. New hobbies can give you something to look forward to and keep you busy. Build a bookshelf, organize your closet, or start growing your own herbs and vegetables. Consider learning a new language, instrument, or craft. Take advantage of free or discounted classes being offered online.
- Know when to get more help. If you’re experiencing a persistent low mood for more than two weeks or have difficulty functioning, please seek the help of a mental health professional. The pandemic has upended the jobs and lives of many other people – you are not alone.
If you practice healthy coping strategies to care for your mental health while unemployed, you’ll have higher self-esteem, more stable moods, fewer bouts of anxiety and depression, and more confidence to tackle the next stage of your life.