Losing your job can be traumatic. Whatever your feelings about your employer or situation, being let go unexpectedly can produce many emotions, including fear, anxiety and depression. Many people spend most of their time at work, and suddenly losing that connection can mean a loss of your income and identity, possibly leaving you with feelings of inadequacy.
Dealing with sudden job loss can leave you floundering, wondering what to do next. While it’s essential to take care of the practical things like filing for unemployment and looking for a new job, it’s equally important to take care of your mental health and well-being.
Listen to this week’s episode of the rich & REGULAR podcast about sudden job loss, and keep reading for some tips to help you mentally deal with being laid off.
Prepare in advance
Although you probably won’t see a layoff coming years in advance, laying the financial groundwork to manage a job loss well ahead of time can make the process easier. As you spend time reviewing your budget and financial accounts, consider creating a plan of actions to take and things to remember if you should face an unexpected job loss.
Having a healthy emergency fund and focusing on paying off debt while employed will help you on your financial journey and make an unexpected job loss easier to manage. Focus on building your network of connections both directly in your industry and outside it. If your industry is hit with an unexpected blow, you can connect with others outside your immediate circle to let them know you’re looking for work.
Like with many things, the more you financially and mentally prepare in advance, the better off you’ll be.
Before you do any of the practical things, allow yourself to sit and grieve. Losing a job is complex and can force a lot of feelings to the surface. Take some time to sit with your journal and write about what you’re experiencing, even if it’s a stream-of-consciousness rant about how unfair the situation is or how scared you are. It’s usually better to have those feelings out on paper and process them in healthy ways instead of keeping them bottled up.
Short-term damage control
Once you’ve allowed the dust to settle a bit and feel more clear-headed, there are plenty of practical things to do to manage a job loss. If you’re eligible, consider filing for unemployment, starting to look for a new full-time job or, if that’s not feasible, finding something to help cover the bills like freelancing, part-time work or consulting.
If you were provided a severance package as part of your job loss, vacation, sick day payouts or other means of compensation, determine how long that will last based on different budgeting scenarios. If you have questions, speak with your former HR department to clarify details. Be sure to also account for any unemployment assistance and other sources of income you may have from a side hustle or investments.
Long-term coping strategies
After the immediate shock has worn off, start to look at more long-term solutions to help you cope mentally with searching for a new job. Not only will managing your mental health help you deal with any feelings about your previous position but staying in a positive frame of mind will also help in your job search.
If you already have a health and wellness routine, keep it and use it to provide some structure to your days. If you need to develop a new habit, consider the following:
While it can be tempting to do nothing but watch tv or scroll on social media, it will be better for you mentally and physically if you find a routine that helps you add structure to your day. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, eating well and sleeping consistently.
It’s important to note that just like sitting around doing nothing isn’t helpful, obsessively hunting for your next job can also lead to health problems. Use your routine to help you find the right balance of work and play.
Isolating or hiding from family and friends after a job loss can be tempting. So much of our identities are wrapped up in our work that we can feel ashamed and guilty when we’re looking for new opportunities. Talk about your job loss with the people you love, and try to authentically express the emotions that come up for you.
Being vulnerable is tough, and hopefully your family and friends can provide the right kind of support. If you’re struggling, consider speaking with a therapist or counselor to help you work through all of your feelings regarding the situation.
Focus on finding a job that aligns with your values
It can be tempting to take the first position that comes along just to get back to normal, but instead of hopping into the first company that makes an offer, take some time to consider what you want your work life to look like.
Even though it may not feel like it, this downtime is an opportunity to determine what you want from your life and work. You might need to initially work at a company that doesn’t align with your values just to put food on the table, but continue to reflect and look for opportunities that give you more of the life you want.
Look for positions that fit your skills and core values, and consider what you want your life to look like in this new chapter. Searching for work that offers you a healthier balance or culture than your previous position can mean a happier you in the long run.
A sudden job loss can make you question your capabilities and skills, and it might take a while to get back to normal after a painful situation. Be gentle with yourself and take care of your physical and mental health. Work to frame this unexpected turn of events as an opportunity to create a life more aligned with who you are.