From The Expert: Lost Your Job…What Next?

16 Jul 2020

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Money can’t buy happiness, agreed, but anyone who’s gone through rough financial times will vouch that lack of money can certainly make you unhappy. Mental health and financial status of a person tend to be tied with a thin string. Both of them may not be completely dependent on each other, but they do affect each other to a certain level. 

It is impossible to deny the fact that financial stress can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health. And it can only get worse in such difficult times where the pandemic has led to companies across the globe temporarily downsizing operations. It has caused a huge number of people to lose their jobs, several others have seen a significant reduction in their salaries, and the concept of incentives is history. All these factors have increased the levels of financial anxiety in people and disrupted their plannings and future goals. 

If you have lost your job, stop beating yourself up because you’re not alone. It’s time you pick yourself up and think about your next step. In this article, I will tell you what you can do about it.    

How Financial Status Affects Your Mental Health?

Losing your job is not the end of the world. But unfortunately, most people who lose their jobs feel like they no longer have a purpose in life, that their success and worth are measured by being employed, and that they weren’t or aren’t good at what they do. But can we blame them? Our society has punched this in our heads – ‘get good grades, get a good job, get respect’ – even before we could decide what we wanted to do, and before we could be out in the real world and explore. Such ideas have made it difficult for most of us to accept rejection in a way that we don’t see it as a failure. Therefore, instead of an opportunity to try something new, we see job loss as another stressor and a reason to question our worth and abilities. 

Having said that, losing a job can be really stressful for people who need the money to afford basic necessities; who are the only breadwinner of the family; and the ones with additional responsibilities like loans, debts, medical bills, etc. 

It may or may not impact your finances, but it can pave the way for negative feelings including anxiety and self-doubt. You may no longer feel motivated to do things, may even lose some of your skills and professional identity if you stop looking for another job and stay home for a long time. And worst of all, you may even develop depression if you spend too much time thinking about it and not doing anything to change it. 

How The Idea Of “Productivity” Can Be Harmful When You Are In Between Jobs

All this time that you were working, you were busy and productive for most of the day. You always had something to do, you were occupied. This habit of being busy and productive can make you feel anxious when you no longer have a job or schedule. 

You may also feel extreme performance pressure on you, as you see all friends and colleagues working and ‘achieving’ something in life. Such pressure can make things worse as it acts as a catalyst to spike up the feelings of anxiety and depression. 

Signs Of Stress And Depression 

It’s normal to feel worried after losing your job, it’s okay to be upset and even freak out for a bit, but if your negative feelings wander around for days, your problems may be more than just a lost job. Stress and depression can easily catch hold of you after such an event, but it becomes difficult to determine if it’s a mental illness or just common fears and worries. Following are the symptoms of the two illnesses, if you notice a few symptoms, you must seek professional consultation.  

Signs Of Stress:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Moodiness, irritability, or anger
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns
  • Physical pain

Symptoms Of Depression:

  • Depressive mood and thoughts
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Lack of interest in daily activities
  • Significant weight loss
  • Decrease or increase in appetite
  • Loss of energy
  • Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Reckless behavior
  • Concentration problems
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns

What You Can Do Instead

Losing a job can be a difficult event to deal with, especially if you worked really hard to get it. However, it wasn’t in your control, but what you can do next is. Here are a few tips for you. 

Plan For The Worst: If you haven’t lost your job, but you’re seeing or hearing rumors about downsizing in your office, or simply if everything around you is making you anxious and worried – plan! Plan for the worst-case scenario in which you lose your job and may not have one for the next six months or so. Think about at least 10 things that you can do. It could be anything, maybe do some freelance work (if that’s possible with your profile), or some project/contract based work, odd jobs even; or maybe you could invest that time in upgrading your skills and learn something new. 

Once you’ve planned for the worst, plan on how you can stop that from happening. Think about 10 things that you can do to improve your skills, secure your job while you have it, and a backup. Maybe you could save up some extra money, apply for a backup job, look up for sources of passive income, etc. 

Planning will help ease your anxiety and will make you feel secure and in control. 

Keep Yourself Motivated: If you’ve lost your job and if it came to you as a shock, give yourself a day or two to let that sink in, but try not to let negative thoughts and feelings catch hold of you. After a couple of days, get back to your daily schedule and spend your working hours doing something productive even though you’re no longer in your office. Look for new jobs, apply for jobs, go for interviews, or learn something new. 

One of the best motivation methods that work well is maintaining a mental bank. A mental bank is a book in which you have a list of tasks and a sum of money that you give yourself, mentally, upon completing that task. Say, for example, applying for jobs is 500 rupees, getting an interview is 1,000 rupees, and so on. Now, every job that you apply for, you reward yourself with 500 rupees in your mental bank, and if you get an interview, you give yourself 1,000 rupees. You can keep a note of how much you earn every day, as it keeps you constantly motivated and makes you want to do the tasks that you’ve listed.  

Avoid Beating Yourself Up: It may seem like but it isn’t your fault. So, it’s important that you avoid putting yourself down and stop blaming and criticizing yourself. Because doing so can bring down your self-confidence and that’s the last thing you want gone while looking for a new job. Try and combat every negative thought that comes to you. If you start to think, “I’m good for nothing, I’m a loser” tell yourself, or write down, “I lost my job because of the lockdown and the falling economy. I am good at what I do, that’s why I was hired in the first place”. 

Prepare A Budget: It may be overwhelming, but it’s important. Plan your finances so that you don’t exhaust your savings. Do every little thing that can help you save money. Even small amounts count. Cancel your cable subscription, look up for cheaper phone and internet plans, etc. 

Hit Pause On The Long-term Goals: This is not the right time to worry about the long term. Your new house, that fancy trip, can all wait a few more months. Focus on what can be done to get you through this financial setback. Plan about the next two months ahead of you, it’ll be much less overwhelming and will give you the flexibility to embrace opportunities that come your way. 

Remember, losing your job is not the end and certainly no reason to lose yourself. The times are hard, but things will get better, they always do. So, just take the time to upgrade your skills and plan. Do not lose hope! You are better than you think, so keep applying for jobs and giving interviews. It will be exhausting, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Good luck!

Authored by Priyanka Varma

Priyanka Varma is a Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor & Psychotherapist. Founder of The Thought Co. an organisation that works towards mental health awareness for all, she has successfully run MHAW (Mental Health Awareness Weekend) and is actively involved in Caregiver Support for Individuals with Dementia. She is also a consultant at Global Hospitals and Holy Family Hospital.

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