Unemployment – looking after your mental health!

Depression (emotion )

Losing a job is one of the most difficult things we have to deal with in life.  It ranks right up there with losing someone you care for or going through divorce.

“It’s a serious fracture in one’s world view,” says Robert London, M.D., a staff psychiatrist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “It doesn’t matter if you’re an executive or a bus driver–your identity is very much wrapped up in your job. And to suddenly be without that identity can be devastating.”

That is why it can make you feel down in the first few weeks and seriously depressed if unemployment stretches over months.

It is all too easy to start believing that there must be something wrong with you personally or that you lack some vital characteristic that the rest of the world seems blessed with.

Sometimes you may not realise you are depressed.  You just want to sleep all the time, you don’t want to mix with other people and/or suddenly you start feeling mysterious aches and pains.

Now that you are depressed, of course, finding a job becomes even less likely and you may not feel you can make the effort.  If you do feel like this, then please do seek help from your doctor, coach or counsellor.

But how do you intervene before things become quite that bad?

Well, first, recognise the risk! Then, you need to take responsibility for looking after your own mental, as well as physical, health.

Being jobless can make you feel you have no control over your own life and that makes you feel insecure and unhappy.  So start to take control by giving yourself a set schedule for every day of the working week.

Make finding your new job your new job.  Set a time to start each day and make sure you are showered, dressed and in your new work space (allocate a space at home for this, if you don’t have a home office) by that time each day.

Work to a flexible but firm timetable for the day.  Explain that you will be working at home during the day to family and friends.

Each morning and evening allocate a time to check and revise your work-search “to do” list.  Make sure you build in some networking time – either by telephone, face to face or on social networks – social contact with others will be refreshing as well as part of your job search.

Make some time as well for your own personal development – are there new skills you would like or need to acquire?  The internet and your local library will help you to find free or at least inexpensive resources.

At the end of your working day, if you can, close the door on your working space or at least make it look different.  Then spend time with family and friends doing what you usually enjoy.

Resist the temptation to hole up in your house and wait for the world to come to you. As Dr London say “Isolation is a dangerous thing. When you live in your head, you ruminate and feed your depression,”

Try each day to find either something to be inspired by – nature is great for that – or something to laugh at.  Laughing at old comedy programs should probably available for us all as part of public health services.

Wendy Mason works as a Coach, Consultant and Blogger. She works with all kinds of people going through many different kinds of personal and career change, particularly those wanting to increase their confidence

If you would like to work on developing your own confidence, Wendy offers the Wisewolf Learn to Be Confident Program at this link

You can contact Wendy at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com  or ring ++44 (0)2084610114

  • 12 Tips for Confident Interviews (leavingthepublicsector.blogspot.com)
  • 6 Tips for Confident Networking (leavingthepublicsector.net)
  • “Gratitude Moments” (heatheregartshore.wordpress.com)

Redundancy and the Family – it is change for them too!

In my last post, I described how difficult things at home are now for Dave.

Changes in life like redundancy affect us all deeply. They change us and they change our relationships. Redundancy is like bereavement and can leave you with the same gut-wrenching sense of loss, the furious “why me?”. Everyone says it’s not personal, but of course it feels that way to the one who has lost their job.

But that sense of loss isn’t just felt by us, it is felt by those close to us as well. Their lives have been changed and probably in ways they would never have chosen for themselves.

Sometimes in mass redundancies you can turn that anger outwards and on to the employer or the perceived cause of the problems for example the Bankers. Then the group binds together against the world.

If a whole community is facing difficulty, there is likely to be lots of support from within that community – think of the pit villages in the North East of England between the thirties and the seventies. Under siege you pull together. But most of us live in communities without that kind of tradition.

Dave’s wife has made a life for herself at home. Now change is being forced on her and, of course, she will resist it and be shocked by it. Dave probably felt the same when he realised he wasn’t needed any more at work. Now his wife is frightened!

Anyone who has spent a long period at home feels quite daunted by the prospect of going out to work again. And she is worried that life probably never will be the same again!

So she is in pain too and she has to deal with a whole mix of conflicting and confusing feelings. This may include feelings of resentment towards Dave. It feels as if he has brought this down on them even though he has not chosen to do so! So she feels guilty too!

In these circumstances most counsellors and coaches will tell you to share your concerns with each other. But this can be very hard to do.

Sitting down opposite each other over the kitchen table can end up being very confrontational. Sometimes, it is better to start talking when you are both facing the same way and maybe doing something else. How about going for a walk together or just for a drive. What about when you are sitting together on the sofa watching TV, but not when anyone’s favourite programme is on!

It helps if you can both admit you feel rotten and miserable about what has happened – Dave has lost a job and both are in danger of losing a life style.

Share the misery – you are in it together.

Try talking about it and really seeing it from each other’s perspective. Don’t pretend it isn’t grim for you both. Share it and then start to work together to manage it. Neither of you is responsible for this and neither should feel guilty.

Sometimes when the feelings just overwhelm you, it helps to write get it all down in a letter. When you have finished, put what you have written to one side. Decide later, when you feel calm, whether to send or destroy it.

If the anger and the depression continue, talk to your doctor or find a counsellor because these are signs you need some outside help.

Above all acknowledge the change for both of you and that both of you are suffering loss. It is not about whose loss is greater. If you can, start to work for and not against each other! You can be a team again, I’m sure!

I would welcome your thoughts on all this and I am very happy to answer questions.

  • 31st May 2011 What’s up with Dave? (leavingthepublicsector.net) 
Wendy Mason works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her awendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439