No one chooses to lose a job. When the unexpected happens, the stress can prompt any number of negative emotions, from anger to depression. But here’s the good news: the “right attitude” really can help a person emerge from a job loss in great mental shape.
“Being optimistic in the face of job loss sounds like a Pollyanna approach,” admits Dr. Kathleen Kern, Executive Director of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health. “But our brains and bodies respond to optimism. When we talk a problem out with a trusted listener, for example, our nervous system calms down. When we slow down in an anxiety-filled moment, like a job interview, we give our cerebral cortex time to cool our reactions down, calmly assess and respond to situations.”
Our jobs are much more than just the way we make a living. They influence how we see ourselves, as well as the way others see us. They give us structure, purpose, and meaning. That’s why job loss and unemployment can be so stressful.
Beyond the loss of income, losing a job also comes with other major losses, some of which may be even more difficult to face:
Kern notes that a job loss is a real loss, sometimes feeling like the loss of a loved one. It makes sense to grieve and mourn. With unexpected loss, your immediate future becomes uncertain, often through no fault of your own. But a job loss is, thankfully, often a short-term loss.
Job loss doesn’t always have to be treated like a bad thing. In fact, Fast Company listed “Getting Fired Can be Great Leadership Training” as one of their 10 Best Business Lessons, arguing that losing a job can be a jolt that helps you define your professional life and find a better fit for your talents.
That might sound like millennial-centered advice to a mature worker who did not expect to be back on the job market before retirement. But according to LearnVest, “the 50-year-old who claims that ‘no one wants to hire someone my age’ would be wrong.”
Older adults, in general, are at a higher risk of poor health outcomes related to untreated mental health concerns. For example, as age goes up, risk for suicide goes up. Life stressors like job loss can exacerbate an underlying untreated mental health concern, which is why it is essential that anyone facing a stressful life change take care of themselves–and that is easier than it sounds. Even small daily actions can make a big difference for positive mental health.
No matter your age, if your feelings of anger, numbness, worthlessness, or other negative feelings start overwhelming your daily routine, and last for two weeks or more, get help. Treating depression can be quicker and easier than you expect. In Lorain County, call the Navigator to help find the right service for you: 440-240-7025.
HelpGuide offers other tips for staying positive in the face of job loss:
Keep a regular daily routine. When you no longer have a job to report to every day, you can easily lose motivation. Treat your job search like a job, with a daily “start” and “end” time, with regular times for exercise and networking. Following a set schedule will help you be more efficient and productive.
Create a job search plan. Avoid getting overwhelmed by breaking big goals into small, manageable steps. Instead of trying to do everything at once, set priorities. If you’re not having luck in your job search, take some time to rethink your goals.
List your positives. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself, including skills, personality traits, accomplishments, and successes. Write down projects you’re proud of, situations where you excelled, and things you’re good at. Revisit this list often to remind yourself of your strengths.
Find activities that give your life “meaning.” For many of us, our work gives our lives meaning and purpose. Following job loss, it’s important to find other ways to nourish your spirit. Pick up a long-neglected hobby, try a new hobby, get involved in your community by volunteering or attending local events, take a class, or join a club or sports team.
Focus on the things you can control. You can’t control how quickly a potential employer calls you back or whether or not they decide to hire you. Rather than wasting your precious energy on things that are out of your hands, turn your attention to things you can control during your unemployment, such as learning new skills, writing a great cover letter and resume, and setting up meetings with your networking contacts.
Need a way to connect with others, and boost your resume? Find a free class or learning opportunity. The Lorain County Board of Mental Health offers free trainings and classes that look great on a resume. For example, learn life-saving skills and earn a certification in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training). For FREE, earn the same credential that many military officials and health workers receive. It boosts your resume and communication skills – and requires NO PRIOR KNOWLEDGE. Offered multiple times per year.
Also take a look at our jobs page for local opportunities in the mental health network: lcbmh.org/join-our-team.