A job loss can be overwhelming and stressful as it is such a spontaneous change to your life. If you recently lost your job, understand that you’re not alone. According to the ILO Monitor, 114 million jobs were lost during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown. Many individuals are mourning the loss of their job and experiencing stress due to unemployment – understand that it is OK to be grieving right now.
There are coping mechanisms out there that can help you better manage your stress and improve your mood. We spoke to Dr. Nina Vasan, MD, MBA, founder of Silicon Valley Executive Psychiatry, Chief Medical Officer of Real, and Executive Director of Brainstorm: The Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation, about how to take care of your mental health after a job loss. Here are eight expert-approved tips you should try:
Understand how you are feeling.
“It is normal, expected, and healthy to feel sad,” Dr. Vasan says. “Give yourself time to mourn your loss. Your feelings are valid.” It is completely normal to be experiencing intense emotions like sadness or frustration. Do not downplay or push away your emotions. Recognizing what you are feeling will help you process everything. Some of the most helpful ways to document your emotions include journaling or even drawing. If you are looking for apps to track how you’re feeling, you may want to try MoodKit, Daylio, and MoodPanda.
Incorporate more time for self-care in your daily routine.
This new situation can be a sudden shock, and it may take some time for you to overcome your intense emotions. In the meantime, try little things everyday to take care of yourself and uplift your mood. “Be kind to yourself by finding small things that bring you joy,” Dr. Vasan suggests. “Enjoy a warm bath, lighting a candle with a soothing scent like lavender or sandalwood, or drawing or painting a piece for your home.” It may be helpful to continue a routine with more time allocated towards rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.
Seek out silver linings instead of focusing on the negative aspects of a job loss.
During this challenging time, it’s natural to focus on the downsides of losing your job, but try paying attention to the silver linings you can take advantage of right now. “It’s okay to let yourself be sad for a bit, but flip things around and think about what you can do now that you wouldn’t have in your regular life. Reframe this as an opportunity to be creative, try new things, and add something rich to your life,” Dr. Vasan says. Embrace this time as an opportunity to do things you didn’t have time for while you were working, such as engaging in passion projects, traveling, or spending more time with family.
Connect with a supportive crew of your loved ones.
It’s easy to think that you may be alone in your struggles, but that is totally not the case. There’s probably someone in your network that is also experiencing the stress of unemployment right now. Reach out to loved ones around you to gain support and empathy during this tough time. “Talking to friends and family about what happened can relieve stress. Do not hesitate in reaching out to loved ones when you need help,” Dr. Vasan says. It may be beneficial to also reconnect with old friends or distant family members at this time to establish a sense of community and belonging.
Join a recurring activity, like a club or class.
It may be rewarding to join a recurring activity, not only to enhance your learning but also to gain some social interaction that you may miss from your job. Sign up for something you enjoy with others to help you meet people who have similar interests as you. When it becomes a regular event, you’ll have something to look forward to. Start with your existing skills and interests — whether it’s art, drama or gardening — and use this as an opportunity to advance to the next level.” Engaging in activities can help distract you from loneliness and isolation,” Dr. Vasan says. There’s a lot of virtual or socially-distanced activities you can take part in such as a group fitness class or gardening club.
Practice mindfulness or meditation techniques.
You may be worried about the future, but stay in the present moment. Mindfulness refers to a psychological state of awareness and it boasts many benefits – like improved concentration and relaxation. Dr. Vasan recommends activities like mindful breathing exercises and journaling as it helps with staying in the present moment. Some digital tools that are beneficial for starting mindfulness practices include Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer.
Remember to take care of your physical health.
During this tumultuous time, please be mindful of your physical health. While you may be tempted to use addictive substances like alcohol or drugs, they have harmful effects that can lead to long-term stress and unhappiness, Dr. Vasan says. Eat healthy and sleep well to achieve mental wellness. “Exercise — especially cardio — is one of the easiest ways to decrease anxiety and improve mood,” she says. There are multiple ways to stay active like taking a walk in your neighborhood or doing an at-home workout.
Speak to a mental health professional.
In some cases, it may be helpful to seek therapy to process and work through your struggles. Mental health professionals can suggest beneficial coping mechanisms that might work best for your individual situation.” The most important thing you can do for yourself is asking for help when you need it. Medical professionals are out there and want to help you get better,” Dr. Vasan says. Reach out to your healthcare provider or a mental health expert like a psychiatrist or therapist to discuss treatment options.