Job Loss and Unemployment Stress
Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Lawrence Robinson, and Robert Segal, M.A.*Last updated: December 2016.
Losing a job is one of the most stressful life experiences, so it’s normal to feel angry, hurt, depressed, scared, grief at all that you’ve lost, or anxious about what the future holds. Job loss and unemployment involves a lot of change all at once which can rock your sense of purpose and self-esteem. While the stress can seem overwhelming, there are many things you can do to take control of the situation, maintain your spirits, and come out of this difficult period stronger and more resilient.
What you can do
- Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club
- Volunteer to help you maintain a sense of meaning and purpose
- Reach out and stay connected to supportive people
- Move your body frequently—don’t sit for more than an hour
- Reduce your intake of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine
- Get all the restful sleep that you need to feel your best
Why is job loss so stressful?
Our jobs are much more than just the way we make a living. They influence how we see ourselves, as well as the way others see us. They give us structure, purpose, and meaning. That’s why job loss and unemployment can be so stressful.
Beyond the loss of income, losing a job also comes with other major losses, some of which may be even more difficult to face:
- Loss of your professional identity
- Loss of self-esteem and self-confidence
- Loss of your daily routine
- Loss of purposeful activity
- Loss of your work-based social network
- Loss of your sense of security
Grief is normal after job loss
Grief is a natural response to loss, and that includes the loss of a job. Losing your job forces you to make rapid changes, which can leave you feeling upset, depressed, or out of balance. Try to accept your feelings and go easy on yourself. While everyone grieves differently, the following coping tips for job loss stress can also help you deal with the grieving process in a healthy way.
And remember: 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.
Avoiding the pitfalls of job loss
Taking refuge in your “cave” may provide temporary comfort, but is little help if your time spent there is not constructive. Surrounding yourself with positive, supportive family and friends may better help your self-esteem.
Venting your anger and frustrations may only make you feel worse if you find yourself in the middle of a “pity party.” There are people who actually enjoy misery and the misfortune of others.
Drinking is at best a temporary relief, and for some people, can lead to a crippling addiction.
Source:*The University of Georgia
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. Since the face and heart are wired together in the brain, 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 being distracted or judging you.
As well as making a huge difference to 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....
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Job Loss & Unemployment Stress: Coping with the Stress of Losing a Job