Published on January 6th, 2014 | by Joanna Holman

How to Care for Yourself While You’re Unemployed

The trials of unemployment can crash into your life for all sorts of reasons: downsizing, leaving an unhealthy work environment, post-graduation plans falling through, a failed performance review.

Whatever the reason, unemployment is often a traumatic experience. Recent research has found a strong correlation between unemployment and depression, but there are things you can do to protect your emotional wellbeing as you navigate the hunt for a new job.

5 Tips for Thriving When Your Career Isn’t

1. Be okay with grieving

Grieving is not just for loss when a loved one dies. It is natural to grieve all sorts of losses and disappointments, including the loss of a job or missing out on a role you’d expected to have.

This is true even if the job hadn’t been an entirely pleasant experience, you knew the job loss was coming, or you’re the one who made the decision to quit.

You may find that you experience some or all of the five stages of grief in the days and weeks following becoming unemployed. While you don’t want to be stuck mourning the job loss forever, it is totally appropriate to let yourself feel and healthily express the negative emotions that come up.

how to care for yourself while you're unemployed2. Set boundaries on your job hunting

You may feel that you should be submitting more applications and always have your phone nearby in case a recruiter calls.

Dedication to the task at hand is good, but never switching out of job hunting mode is terrible for your emotional health.

It is important that you know your limits and proactively plan to protect your wellbeing. To make it through the stressful and drawn out job hunting process you need to have regular time off. This might mean taking a full day away from hunting plans or just turning your phone off for half an hour and sitting quietly.

3. Feed your mind and soul

In addition to resting while job hunting, consciously feed your mind and soul.

Writing cover letters can be difficult.

Reading hundreds of job ads wears you down when so many initially fill you with hope but reveal in the fine print that you don’t qualify.

Lacking the mental stimulation that a job provides can compound the soul-crushing effects of the situation. You’ll probably need an activity that’s enjoyable and life-giving to balance it all out. Last time I was unemployed, I found this in online courses about obscure but interesting-to-me topics like the cultural dimensions of world music or the history of the internet.

Maybe for you it will be a creative pursuit, a sport, or some kind of volunteering. Whatever it is, make sure you find and do it.

4. Don’t feel obligated to take all the advice you get

Most advice you hear when you’re unemployed will be well meaning, but not all of it will be helpful.

You’ll probably hear from people who are lovely but who last hunted for a job before online job boards were a thing, or who really don’t understand your field.

Listen to all the advice, but don’t try to act on it all. If you try to take all the advice, you will go crazy (and waste a lot of time).

If the advice isn’t helpful, don’t try to appease the giver by using it anyway, or even try justifying why you aren’t taking it. Just thank them and move on. You’ll stay much saner if you do.

5. Try to keep your search in perspective

Perhaps most important is to remember that unemployment is a temporary phase. It is extraordinarily unlikely that you will be unemployed forever. If you engage effective strategies, you can continue to thrive well beyond unemployment.

Photo by Truthout under a Creative Commons license. 



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