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JOB LOSS AND UNEMPLOYMENT STRESS AMONG THE YOUTH (Part 1):

By Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Lawrence Robinson


While the stress of losing a job can seem overwhelming, there are many things you can do to take control of the situation, maintain your spirits, and find a renewed sense of purpose.

The stress of losing a job

Whether you have been laid off, downsized, forced to take early retirement, or seen contract work dry up, losing your employment is one of life’s most stressful experiences. Aside from the obvious financial anguish it can cause, the stress of losing a job can also take a heavy toll on your mood, relationships, and overall mental and emotional health.

Our jobs are often more than just the way we make a living. They influence how we see ourselves, as well as the way others see us. Even if you did not love your job, it likely provided you a social outlet and gave a structure, purpose, and meaning to your life. Suddenly finding yourself out of work can leave you feeling hurt, angry, or depressed. You might be questioning your identity, grieving all that you have lost, or feeling anxious about what the future holds.

Depending on the circumstances of your unemployment, you may feel betrayed by your employer, powerless over the direction of your life, or blame yourself for some perceived shortcoming or mistake. The stress and worry can feel overwhelming. But no matter how bleak things seem right now, there is hope. With time and the right coping techniques, you can come to terms with these setbacks, ease your stress and anxiety, and move on with your working life.

COPING WITH JOB LOSS STRESS:

Allow yourself to grieve

Grief is a natural response to loss, and that includes the loss of a job. As well as the loss of income, being out of work also comes with other major losses, some of which may be just as difficult to face:

· A feeling of control over your life

· Your professional identity

· Your self-esteem and self-confidence

· A daily routine

· Purposeful activity

· Friendships and a work-based social network

· You and your family’s sense of security

While everyone grieves differently, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to mourn the loss of your job. It can be easy to turn to habits such as drinking too much or bingeing on junk food for comfort. But these will only provide fleeting relief and in the long-term will make you feel even worse. Acknowledging your feelings and challenging your negative thoughts, on the other hand, will help you deal with the loss and move on.




· Give yourself time to adjust. Grieving the loss of your job and adjusting to unemployment can take time. Go easy on yourself and do not attempt to bottle up your feelings. If you allow yourself to feel what you feel, even the most unpleasant, negative feelings will pass.

· Write about your feelings. Express everything you feel about being laid off or unemployed, including things you wish you had (or had not) said to your former boss. This is especially cathartic if your termination was handled in an insensitive way.

· Accept reality. While it is important to acknowledge how difficult job loss and unemployment can be, it’s equally important to avoid wallowing. Rather than dwelling on your job loss—the unfairness, how poorly it was handled, the ways you could have prevented it, or how much better life would be if it hadn’t happened—try to accept the situation. The sooner you do so, the sooner you can get on with the next phase in your life.

· Avoid beating yourself up. It’s easy to start criticizing or blaming yourself when you’re unemployed. But it’s important to avoid putting yourself down. You’ll need your self-confidence to remain intact as you’re looking for a new job. Challenge every negative thought that goes through your head. If you start to think, “I’m a loser,” write down evidence to the contrary: “I lost my job because of the lockdown, not because I was bad at my job.”

· Think of your job loss as a temporary setback. 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.

· Look for any silver lining. The feelings generated by losing a job are easier to accept if you can find the lesson in your loss. That can be very difficult at such a low point in your life, but ask yourself if there’s anything you can learn from this experience. Maybe your unemployment has given you a chance to reflect on what you want out of life and rethink your career priorities. Perhaps it’s made you stronger. If you look, you may be able to find something of value.

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. 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 becoming distracted or passing judgement.

· As well as making a huge difference in 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.

When we lose our jobs, many of us also lose the friendships and social networks that were built in the workplace. But it’s never too late to expand your social network outside of work. It can be crucial in both helping you cope with the stress of job loss—as well as finding a new job.

  • Build new friendships. Meet new people with common interests by taking a class or joining a group such as a book club, dinner club, or sports team.

  • Join a job club. Other job seekers can be invaluable sources of encouragement, support, and job leads. Being around others facing similar challenges can help energize and motivate you during your job search.

  • Network for new employment. The vast majority of job openings are never advertised; they’re filled by networking. Networking may sound intimidating or difficult, especially when it comes to finding a job, but it doesn’t have to be, even if you’re an introvert or you feel like you don’t know many people.

  • Get involved in your community. Try attending a local event, mentoring youngsters, supporting your church or temple, or becoming politically active.

Involve your family for support

Unemployment affects the whole family, so don’t try to shoulder your problems alone. Keeping your job loss a secret will only make the situation worse. Your family’s support can help you survive and thrive, even during this difficult time.

  • Open up to your family. Whether it’s to ease the stress or cope with the grief of job loss, now is the time to lean on the people who care about you, even if you take pride in being strong and self-sufficient. Keep them in the loop about your job search and tell them how they can support you.

  • Listen to their concerns. Your family members are worried about you, as well as their own stability and future. Give them a chance to talk about their concerns and offer suggestions regarding your employment search.

  • Make time for family fun. Set aside regular family fun time where you can enjoy each other’s company, let off steam, and forget about your unemployment troubles. This will help the whole family stay positive.

(To be continued)

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