Becoming unemployed can cause significant emotional distress. It’s vital to protect your mental health while experiencing job and financial instability. Here, we look at ways you can support your mental wellbeing.
Losing your job has a huge impact on so many aspects of your life.
As you face those many challenges, it's essential that you take care of yourself, both mentally and physically. The current situation may be stressful, but there are things you can do to safeguard your wellbeing and maintain a positive outlook.
Here, Beyond Blue's lead clinical advisor, Dr Grant Blashki, offers five strategies for promoting resilience if you've lost your job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Be kind to yourself
"These are extraordinary times," says Dr Blashki, "and for most people, the reason they've lost their jobs has nothing to do with their performance." It may be obvious, but it's nonetheless important to remember that losing your job does not mean you have failed.
It's easier to be kind to yourself if you keep the following points in mind:
- Remember that you're much more than your job. "Our work life is important to many of us, but it's not what makes us who we are," Dr Blashki says. "People have characteristics, skills, values and attributes that go well beyond their jobs."
- Watch out for 'thinking errors'. He notes that our minds often draw incorrect conclusions when we're distressed. "People who have experienced a traumatic event, such as losing a job, often incorrectly blame themselves."
- Remind yourself that unemployment is not permanent. The COVID-19 situation will continue to improve over time, he says. "This is a time-limited thing. Yes, it's going to be bumpy, but it's going to end. Don't lose that perspective. This is not a permanent state of affairs - this is temporary."
2. Connect with family, friends, colleagues and professionals
Communicating with other people in the wake of a job loss isn't just about seeking comfort or sympathy - it's also an important way to keep your mind occupied. Because, as Dr Blashki observes, "isolation just leaves too much room for ruminating, which can amplify depression and anxiety".
It can help to talk to someone you trust about your situation, whether that's a family member, friend, colleague or mentor. It may be beneficial to contact Financial Counselling Australia, which provides advice, support and advocacy to people in financial difficulty.
Equally important is recognising the importance of social connection in times such as these. Try to catch up regularly with family, friends and colleagues. There are also many places online where you can meet new people virtually and discuss common interests - check out Reddit and Whirlpool, or search Facebook for discussion groups that match your interests.
3. Maintain a routine
Structuring your day can help keep depression and anxiety at bay. "I encourage my patients to make a calendar for the week and divide the days into morning, afternoon and evening. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, and incorporate other regular activities, such as set mealtimes."
Dr Blashki also recommends doing the following every day.
- One 'pleasure activity' that simply makes you feel good, such as watching something you love on television or eating your favourite chocolate.
- One 'achievement activity' that makes you feel like you're functioning well, such as tidying up your CV or enrolling in an online course.
4. Exercise regularly
"Exercise is key. There's good evidence that it has a targeted effect on both depression and anxiety."
Exercising regularly is even more important if you find yourself unemployed and therefore maybe less physically active in your day-to-day life.
- Get outside and exercise if you can – being active outside in nature is an excellent mood booster.
- When exercising at home, using online tutorials or YouTube videos to devise an exercise routine may help keep things interesting and fun.
- Remember that all exercise counts, even going for a walk or short jog will benefit you both physically and mentally. Aim to do some physical activity for at least 20 minutes a day, every day.
5. Clear your mind
"If you've recently lost your job, it can be even harder to switch off from what's happening in the world right now, particularly in terms of the economy and job market."
But turning off the TV and not thinking about the global pandemic and the ongoing impact it’s having on employment can be a great way to alleviate anxiety. "In my household we have what's called a 'news time-out' - which any one of us can call - and it means that we just don't talk about.
He also recommends participating in mindfulness, a psychological process that helps quieten anxious thoughts. "Mindfulness is a haven from the ongoing racing thoughts and worry. By practising it, you learn to slow down your thoughts and focus on the here and now."
He recommends the Smiling Mind as a great introduction to mindfulness.