A Pinch Of Thoughts

How to cope with Unemployment stress during COVID-19

The COVID pandemic that debuted in 2019 has left millions of people coping with mental duress, fear of infection, isolation; and thrown into this tizzy is unemployment.

We all know someone who has either been laid off or has had a pay cut. Along with the financial challenge posed due to the loss of job there is also the challenge of psychological/mental stress that one might deal with. Whether its permanent or temporary, unemployment can cause a lot of stress, anxiety, depression, affects one’s self-esteem and may other mental issues. And since 2021 is still facing a lot of “unknowns”, it just adds to the distress.

I guess we can call this a ‘pandemic of unemployment’.

This is a frightening time and the only question each one of us is asking: ‘When is it going to end?’

And no one has an answer.

But that does not mean we lose complete control of our lives. It is very critical that you identify and understand your stress. Recognize your anxiety and manage this unemployment stress.

I know it sounds like ‘easier said than done’, but honestly there is no other way. It is a fight that every person who is going through unemployment stress, must fight. Build your resilience. Take charge of the situation and move forward.

Before mentioning few ways on ‘how to cope with the unemployment stress’, lets first identify and recognize the symptoms of stress that you might be experiencing.

You might face:

  • A loss of self-esteem and lack of purpose
  • A loss of control over life
  • Reduced social interaction.
  • Worried about your family’s needs and security and uncertainty of the future
  • Loss of worth among family members
  • Fear of being unappreciated by family members.
  • A persistent feeling of anger, irritation, depression, overwhelmed or burnt-out.
  • In some cases, there is a possibility of jealousy towards those who are still employed.
  • And finally……. you might feel ‘lost’.

Here are some ways to maintain your mental health while dealing with unemployment stress:

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First, allow yourself to grieve.

Grieving your job loss is completely normal as it means changes in lifestyle, loss of identity, or sometimes you might just end up feeling numb. The feeling of hopelessness and fear of uncertainty of your family’s well being and the impact it might have on your everyday life can seem dramatic.

Instead of ignoring or trying to run away from them, acknowledge them. All you need to do is accept the fact that all these feelings are normal. Once you recognize them, you will find it easier to cope with them, get a grip on the situation and deal with it. Just be kind to yourself and give yourself some time to adjust to the situation.

Avoid unhealthy ways of coping with the situation.

(I mentioned this as the second point as it is normal for anyone to walk down this path).

It is obvious that anyone going through this phase might look for some immediate relief- and that could be alcohol, binging on unhealthy food or even substance abuse. Kindly refrain from opting for any of these alternatives. The future is already looking bleak and you really do not want to add bigger problems in your lives. As tempting as they seem, avoid going down that chasm.

Try opting for healthier coping skills.

Now this could be different for each person. If you see, some of the common coping methods that are generally suggested include:

  • Maintaining a journal and penning down your thoughts, talking to friends and family, increase social interaction so that you are distracted from your situation.
  • Some other options include, keeping fit and healthy, practicing meditation and yoga etc… These are known to keep stress at bay.
  • Eat healthy and avoid refined sugar, sodas, and unhealthy carbs as much as you can.
  • Reach out to your friends who would help you stay strong. Don’t let your pride get in the way. It is okay to lean on friends for support; emotionally and if need be financially. 
  • You could also seek professional advice if you feel that you are just not able to cope with the unemployment stress. Keep in mind that you need to pay per session, but if you are too distressed just go for it. Some people find it easier to open up to therapists than confide in people around them.
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My two cents: Unemployment affects not just you, but the entire family. Sit down and have a talk with your family as soon as possible. Some people might find this difficult, but it is especially important. Make them aware of what you are going through as it is common for your stress to rub off on other members of the family; and you do not want that. Keeping secrets is a bad move.

The kids especially will be the more difficult ones to deal with because they might not understand the gravity of the situation and the reason there is about to be a change in their lifestyle.

And if they do not seem happy, it is ok. You do not need to feel guilty. They are kids and in the end they will adjust. Just give them the reassurance they need.

In fact, you could also ask your family for suggestions regarding your search for new employment. This might give them some hope that things might get better soon, and this could also ease the stress.

Stop beating yourself up and accept the reality.

It is common to blame oneself and wallow. Do that; but then draw a line.

Accept the fact that you have lost one job and that is not the end of the world. The sooner you do this, the sooner you gain back your confidence to move to the next phase in your life. Remember, you were not bad at what you did; it was COVID!

Look for a break in the clouds and blue sky.

It is now time to bring your thoughts to the present. Time to focus! Make a list that will help you find yourself and a new job as well; something like:

  • What are you good at?
  • Any old skills that need a bit of brushing which could help you get smaller gigs to tide over this phase.
  • What is your current financial situation like and how can the entire family contribute to make things easier?
  • Maybe you could take up something new altogether and try giving it a shot (obviously nothing that adds to the stress). Update your skills or learn a new one which could help you land a new job.
  • What are your strengths and how can you put them to use?

Few other things:

  • Apply for unemployment– this might reduce the strain on your current financial situation.
  • Make a budget- it might give you better control over the situation.
  • Get in touch with financial institutions and ask them for an extension to pay your bills.
  • Check your Government website which could provide you information about financial assistance programs.
  • Try joining some network for new employment- there are a lot of job openings that are not always advertised. These are mostly filled via networking.
  • Try and volunteer. It gives immense joy and satisfaction when you help someone else smile while you are going through a rough patch. It might possibly help big time in regaining your self-worth and confidence.
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Other than these: Take up a new hobby, pursue activities that might make you happy, something that might help you define yourself better, take a break and maybe spend some time in nature. This can be very relaxing (but please do find your way back!)

Take good care of yourself. It is up to you how you react to a situation. It might seem unsure, unfair but just walk through it with confidence and you will come out on the other side-stronger and smiling. Stay blessed!

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