First things first – it’s normal to feel angry and upset at the unexpected loss of a job. These days, a job isn’t just a job, it’s the difference between floundering and surviving, between keeping your head above water and letting it sink. Losing a job is hard and that’s all there is to it. What it doesn’t have to be is an end. Unemployment might be an unsavory condition but it’s something that the vast majority of people are going to have to go through one day – like chickenpox or the flu. It’s not frightening if you know that it can’t last forever.
Depression is extremely common among the long term unemployed in this country and it’s a problem that our government continues to turn a blind eye to. Lack of money, structure and prestige can all affect an individual’s psyche rather dramatically, causing them to emotionally regress or internalize their anger. Men, especially, find it extremely hard to be out of work for a long time. Notions of the ‘male provider’ still linger over our familial systems and it can be hard for a husband or father to willingly give up this role.
If you’re unemployed and finding it a strain on your mental health – here are some tips and tricks to help you beat the blues.
One of the biggest shocks to the brain, when made unexpectedly unemployed, is the sudden lack of structure. It isn’t healthy for an individual to go from a fully structured day, with responsibilities and tasks, to a day with no routine whatsoever. CIO journalist Meredith Levinson advises the unemployed to maintain as many of their working habits as possible. Extra hours spent in bed, watching television or eating can lead to some very serious problems – the very best way to spend your time if you’re unemployed is in structured eight hour blocks, just like you would if you were at work. Devote 8 hours a day to finding a new job. Why not enrol on a work based learning programme and gain some new skills and qualifications whilst you’ve got the free time?
Regular exercise can make a huge difference to your mental health and self esteem. It’s proven to relieve stress, so if you find being unemployed extremely stressful – dig out your running shoes and go for a jog. It’ll fill your body with confidence boosting endorphins. If you do your day’s exercise early in the morning, you’ll feel great for the rest of the day. If you do it in the evening, you’re bound to have a restful night’s sleep, says HelpGuide.com journalist Melinda Smith.
Keeping your brain active is a proven way to preventing depression. Not only will you gain confidence in your own abilities, but you will also demonstrate to potential employers that you are interested in continued self improvement. training courses for the unemployed come in all shapes and sizes and positively effect your employ-ability.
There’s one thing that perpetuates depression and that’s silence. Experiencing worryingly intense feelings of loss, sadness or self doubt isn’t abnormal – it’s the brain’s natural way of reacting to a loss of status and control. It is absolutely vital though, that you communicate these feelings to somebody else, says PsychesCentral.com journalist Therese J. Borchard. They can only harm you if you keep them to yourself, bottled up and buried deep. It doesn’t matter who you talk to. It can be a friend, a neighbor, your partner, a grown up child or even a mental health advisor – it doesn’t matter who it is, just make sure that you give voice to the feeling you’re experiencing. It’s important for you to know that others know that these feelings are extremely real and not just a figment of your imagination.
If you’re following all of these steps and your emotions still threaten to overwhelm you, it could be time to get some professional help – not because your mad or crazy or dangerous, simply because you need a little nudge in the right direction. It happens to us all sometimes. Mental health professionals aren’t there to judge or to point the finger. They’re not interested in why you lost your job or how long you’ve been unemployed. They’re there to make you feel better – whether that means listening, coaching, advising, teaching or just spending time with you.
Forget being unemployed. Life is hard sometimes, it really is. Things don’t always go the way we’d like them to but that’s okay. Happiness comes not from control but the ability to adapt to whatever comes your way. Depression might be a product of unemployment – it doesn’t have to be a product of being you.
Olivia is a retired mental health counselor. She recommends training courses for the unemployed from Anne Clarke. She can be found blogging about the different things that effect mental health and how to overcome them.
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