Becoming unemployed can cause significant emotional distress. Becoming unemployed during a worldwide pandemic adds distress upon distress. It’s never been more important to protect your mental health.
Losing your job has a huge impact on so many aspects of your life.
But losing your job in the midst of an event such as this brings with it unprecedented upheaval. The normal stresses of unemployment, including financial hardship and a sense of a loss of purpose, are very much real. The fact that we’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic adds stresses we couldn’t have imagined a few months ago. Such as being isolated from family, friends and colleagues as well as feelings of fear, anxiety, panic and helplessness.
As you face those many challenges, it’s essential that you take care of yourself, both mentally and physically. The current situation may be stressful, but there are things you can do to safeguard your wellbeing and maintain a positive outlook.
Here, Beyond Blue‘s lead clinical advisor, Dr Grant Blashki, offers five strategies for promoting resilience if you’ve lost your job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Be kind to yourself.
“These are extraordinary times,” says Dr Blashki, “and for most people, the reason they’ve lost their jobs has nothing to do with their performance.” It may be obvious, but it’s nonetheless important to remember that losing your job does not mean you have failed.
It’s easier to be kind to yourself if you keep the following points in mind:
- Remember that you’re much more than your job. “Our work life is important to many of us, but it’s not what makes us who we are,” Dr Blashki says. “People have characteristics, skills, values and attributes that go well beyond their jobs.”
- Watch out for ‘thinking errors’. He notes that our minds often draw incorrect conclusions when we’re distressed. “People who have experienced a traumatic event, such as losing a job, often incorrectly blame themselves.”
- Remind yourself that unemployment is not permanent. The COVID-19 situation will improve over time, he says. “This is a time-limited thing. Yes, it’s going to be bumpy, but it’s going to end. Don’t lose that perspective. This is not a permanent state of affairs – this is temporary.”
2. Connect with family, friends, colleagues and professionals.
Communicating with other people in the wake of a job loss isn’t just about seeking comfort or sympathy – it’s also an important way to keep your mind occupied. Because, as Dr Blashki observes, “isolation just leaves too much room for ruminating, which can amplify depression and anxiety”.
It can help to talk to someone you trust about your situation, whether that’s a family member, friend, colleague or mentor. It may be beneficial to contact Financial Counselling Australia , which provides advice, support and advocacy to people in financial difficulty.
Equally important is recognising the importance of social connection in times such as these. Try to catch up regularly with family and friends by phone, video call or Skype. Set up a group chat with your workmates through a video conferencing system such as Zoom. There are also many places online where you can meet new people virtually and discuss common interests – check out Reddit and Whirlpool, or search Facebook for discussion groups that match your interests.
Or you may like to connect with others who are experiencing similar issues on Beyond Blue’s dedicated forums thread, Coping during the coronavirus outbreak .
3. Maintain a routine.
Structuring your day can help keep depression and anxiety at bay. “I encourage my patients to make a calendar for the week and divide the days into morning, afternoon and evening. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, and incorporate other regular activities, such as set mealtimes.”
Dr Blashki also recommends doing the following every day.
- One ‘pleasure activity’ that simply makes you feel good, such as watching something you love on television or eating your favourite chocolate.
- One ‘achievement activity’ that makes you feel like you’re functioning well, such as tidying up your CV or enrolling in an online course.
4. Exercise regularly.
“Exercise is key. There’s good evidence that it has a targeted effect on both depression and anxiety.”
Exercising regularly is even more important if you find yourself unemployed and therefore maybe less physically active in your day-to-day life.
- Identify areas of your home where it will be appropriate to exercise.
- Devise an exercise routine at home using online tutorials or YouTube videos.
- As long as it’s safe to do so, consider going for a daily walk, run or bike ride while maintaining appropriate physical distancing.
5. Clear your mind.
“At the moment, we’re all glued to the news. And, if you’ve recently lost your job, it can be even harder to switch off from what’s happening out there.”
But turning off the TV and not thinking about the pandemic can be a great way to alleviate anxiety. “In my household we have what’s called a ‘coronavirus time-out’ – which any one of us can call – and it means that we just don’t talk about it for an hour,” Dr Blashki says.
He also recommends participating in mindfulness, a psychological process that helps quieten anxious thoughts. “Mindfulness is a haven from the ongoing racing thoughts and worry. By practising it, you learn to slow down your thoughts and focus on the here and now.”
He recommends the Smiling Mind app as a great introduction to mindfulness.