The Psychological Implications of Job Loss - Part Two

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When we are unemployed, we may try to reach out to those people who previously were friends and discover that now they are making themselves scarce, or they are not relating to us with the same respect they had before.
We may explore other related fields for opportunities, and may discover that the experience and knowledge we have may not easily translate into marketable skills in other areas of work.
We may have to compete with people who have much less experience and education than we do for a position we wouldn't even have considered in the past.
This is, needless to say, a very humbling experience.
And, indeed, this situation feels like a gradual death, because the professional identity we had previously is now defunct.
In its place there is an individual with currently unmarketable skills, often too old to compete with young people just out of college, and whose responsibilities far outweigh his or her earning capabilities.
In the previous blog we listed the main losses caused by having no jobs.
Now we discuss what not to do and how to cope in healthy ways.
First of all, let's start with what we SHOULDN'T DO.
We may tend to use denial and avoidance, particularly at the beginning: we don't believe what is happening to us, we minimize its impact, or think the problem will go away soon.
Then we want to distract ourselves by focusing on things that are pleasant.
We may seek refuge in alcohol and/or drugs, so we can forget for a while what is happening.
At first we may feel brave.
After all, this is happening to a lot of people, we say to ourselves, not only to us.
After a while, however, we may be more likely to isolate, because we don't know what to tell people when they ask us "How is your job search?" We are tired of the same answer, "Nothing yet, still searching...
" We feel like losers, and become argumentative, withdrawn, fretful, irritable and discouraged.
We may become depressed.
While all this is understandable, we need to get hold of this situation if we are to survive these tough times.
The first thing we can do is shift from areas of our lives over which we have no control to areas where we have some, and work at improving those.
We may decide to work out on a regular basis, lose a few pounds, spend more time with family, get more involved in our kids' lives, take time to go for a walk, to chat with a neighbor, to get involved in a community project.
Above all, we want to stay connected with work-related organizations and activities.
It is helpful to be with colleagues who are going through similar experiences, and share with them what helps and what doesn't.
If interested, we may want to sign up for a few yoga classes and see if we like them.
Above all, we shouldn't isolate, even if it is uncomfortable to be in social situations.
We need to remind ourselves that the more we isolate, the more difficult it will be to get out again and re-connect with people.
We shouldn't oversleep: eight hours of sleep a day are plenty for most of us.
If we sleep more than that, we may feel sluggish and without energy for the entire day.
We should not stay up late at night, but maintain regular sleeping patterns, similar to the ones we had when we were working.
We need to limit television and computer time.
And, although we need to continue to explore what job opportunities may be there for us, we shouldn't obsess about our situation.
Our days should be structured in way that allow for a healthy balance between work search, social activities, activities of self-care and some down time.
And, last but not least, we need to work at staying connected with the people we love.
Let's make sure we don't displace our frustrations and irritations on them, just because they are there and they are safe.
Let them support and soothe us when needed, and let's make an effort to communicate our feelings with them.
If necessary, we may want to schedule an appointment with a counselor and process what is happening to us internally, so we don't let things build up and create further stress.
As bad as this situation is, let's not forget that opportunities are often borne from the experiences of challenging times.
This is a time to reflect on who we are, who we want to be ad prioritize our goals.
We may look back a few years from now and, who knows, see this was the best thing that could happen to us.
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