Remember: you are not alone.
Last month, new figures released by the Office For National Statistics revealed that UK unemployment rose to 4.8% in the three months to September – with redundancies rising to a record high of 314,000 for the same period. And with this week's announcement that both the Arcadia group and Debenhams have gone into administration, putting a possible 25,000 jobs at risk between them, unemployment figures are only set to rise further.
It would be naive to think that the Covid-19 pandemic has been the great leveller. Young people and ethnic minorities have been hit the hardest by unemployment in the past year. But people of all ages, and from all walks of life, have been swept up in the devastation coronavirus has caused.
While losing your job isn't on par with some losses—like the passing of a parent or loved one—it's still a major trauma. Paula Gardner, founder of Redundancy Recovery Hub, says it's important to recognise this in order to allow yourself to heal. "Just like a bereavement or a break-up, redundancy is a loss in its own right. You will go through similar emotions, often in one day".
Struggling to come to terms with your loss, feeling the mental strain of unemployment or know someone who may be? Let Paula and our team of experts help you to navigate this emotional rollercoaster with the below advice.
9 tips for coping with the trauma of unemployment
1. Realise that you are grieving
Just like when someone passes or breaks up with you, your mind and body will take time to come to terms with your new circumstances. "Your emotions will range from denial, to anger, to sadness, to depression, for some," shares Paula. "There may no be rhyme or reason to how you feel. Give yourself time to process your loss and don’t be afraid to feel what you feel even when others are telling you to 'stay positive'." Hear, hear.
2. Try not to blame yourself for unemployment
As clinical psychologist Dr Nicholas Johl (@drjohlclinicalpsychologist) points out, jobs are quite often cut for reasons totally out of your control or personal doing, especially in the current climate. Try and avoid playing the blame game where possible.
3. Don’t panic
It's important to monitor any spiralling negative thoughts and trying not to let them overwhelm you, according to Dr Johl. "It can be incredibly tough, but try and think, can this situation be re-framed? This mindset won't come naturally, but attempt to engage in logical thinking as much as possible." This means trying to reframe your worries as problems, and then sitting down and working through how to find the solution to them.
Paula agrees, pointing out that the tendency is to start applying for any and every job you can find. "This often leaves you feeling ungrounded and can be a waste of time." Instead...
4. Use unemployment as an opportunity
Yep, you read that right. While losing your job is a big emotional strain and something you'll need to work through, for some it could be seized as an opportunity to start afresh.
Paula expands: "If you're fortunate enough to be able to afford too, use it as a prompt. Ask yourself: did you love your job? Do you want your new one to be the same, or slightly different? What would you have changed about your job, if you could?"
If going back to University has been on the cards, consider it now. Start planning for your dream business. Learn the new skills you've been putting off. Switch career paths, if you weren't happy. Now could be the time.
"This may not work for all for us but there is something in seeing a situation differently on purpose", shares Dr Johl.
5. Face up to the money
Doing your best ostrich impression when it comes to your finances and sticking your head in the sand will only heighten the anxiety and fear you feel about the situation—fact.
"Seeking out financial guidance is one of the first things you need to do. You may have to ask for a reduction on loans, mortgages, credit cards repayments and the like—but there are professionals to help with that," shares Dr Johl. He recommends using services such as National Careers, Money Advice Service and the relevant Government related bodies.
Can't afford a professional? Be brave and assess your outgoings yourself. "Can you reduce them?", asks Paula. "If you own your own place, can you get a lodger? Can you take a mortgage holiday? Are you eligible to sign up for Universal credit? Look at what you can do to take the pressure off yourself. Once you have a clear view of where you are money-wise it stops your mind spiralling into anxiety."
As Dr Johl puts it, the smaller changes lead to bigger wins. "These minute behavioural changes will make you feel more in control of the situation and like you are doing something positive and productive."
6. Know your strategy
Now you've conquered inner calm and realistically assessed your finances, it's time to decide on your plan of action.
Paula shares that there are two main strategies available to you: you can get a job, any job, just to pay the bills, and take the pressure off, then look for the job you really want.
"Or you can hold out and put all your focus into the job you really want now. Getting clear on which strategy you are following is vital, as doing the two at once may result in you feeling ungrounded and all over the place." Got it?
7. Find a recruiter to take you on
Yes, the job market is tough right now. But no, the job market isn't impossible.
"Things are tough at the moment not just because of the current climate, but also because CVs are being increasingly picked by algorithms and key-words", shares Paula. Sometimes it feels like you're sending your CV off into the ether and getting nothing back.
The answer? "If you can find a recruiter in your industry who will be your spokesperson and your point of contact, you are staying connected with humans, which is always a good thing if you are feeling anxious or need some feedback. Don’t be afraid to approach recruiters or head hunters directly." She adds that LinkedIn is a very useful tool for this.
8. Do what's right for you
Whether that's vetoing the news as a way to avoid the redundancy figures, turning off phone notifications for a while or simply taking some self-care time, remember to focus on yourself and what you need to get through your loss.
"Managing your emotional response is vital," shares Dr Johl. "You'll no doubt be dealing with a range of negative emotions such as anxiety and stress. Counter these with lots of self-care and engaging hobbies which will keep you balanced."
Paula's words of wisdom? Concentrate on you and your life. "As Dr Johl said, boosting your feelings of relaxation and taking breaks is vital to protect your mental health. She recommends opting for active relaxation as it's more rewarding. Think yoga or walking over Netflix and a glass of wine.
9. Don't be afraid to ask for help
Remember, every single human will respond differently to the trauma of job loss. Some will need to work things through by talking, while others value their space and want to figure things out alone. "Let your family and those around you know what you need, and when," Paula recommends. This way, they'll be able to support you in the way you want and need.
Dr Johl's advice? "If you notice yourself or someone you know experiencing an intense change in functioning post-job loss, refer to your local GP. They have plenty of mental health services that'll be able to support you."
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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