Five tips for emotional resilience through unemployment

First published on: 8th June 2020

As part of our series on coping with unemployment in a pandemic, we bring you some advice on mental health. We hear from Megan Kennedy-Woodard is a Coaching Psychologist, committed to supporting people to develop through positive change and intentional actions. Read on for her tips. Edited by Sarah Bradbury.

Job loss can leave us not only with financial worry but also with a sense of lack of identity, value or direction. Coping with change can be difficult, especially if we are coming from a place of scarcity and insecurity. When faced with challenging new circumstances, our brain easily defaults to flight, fight or freeze mode, which doesn’t help us when we are thinking about next career moves.

Negative thinking about unemployment makes it very difficult to look for opportunities and positive possibilities. But, we can learn to manage our thoughts. If we can reframe negative thinking about this new situation as a time for curiosity, possibility, and prospect, this allows us to create and decide with purpose what is next.

When we steel ourselves with emotional resilience, we adapt with more ease and carve a new path with enthusiasm rather than reactive fear. We will be more prepared to put ourselves out there, cope with rejection, and be more inclined to persevere.

Five Tips for Emotional Resilience Through Unemployment

1. Treating yourself with compassion

Write down what you are feeling. Nod to your feelings, acknowledge them and allow them. These may be anger, worry, stress, relief, whatever you are feeling is okay. What is important is to acknowledge that your feelings are directly related to what you are THINKING about your current situation.
What would you say to a friend who finds themself in your situation? Empathise, but don’t overindulge. Turn that compassion inwards and apply it to yourself.

Next, make a list of your positive qualities, skills and strengths, reinforce your sense of self-worth. Remember that ‘we just find ourselves here’. We are shaped by our experiences and that’s OK. But we get to choose how we respond to each moment.

2. Keeping structure and routine

It’s the usual… exercise, eat well, limit alcohol and keep to healthy sleep patterns…

Yeah, yeah, we know…but just because the world has embraced the sweatpants/Netflix lifestyle, recent unemployment doesn’t mean that you should. A healthy lifestyle promotes mental wellbeing. Staying in an agile state of mind will help you stay motivated to apply for new jobs or get creative about a totally new path.

3. “Eat your frog first”

This is the idea that we should do the thing we are dreading at the start of the day. It might be updating your CV, making a list of potential new employers, telling your parents you have been laid off, a mountain of dishes or going for a run. Whatever you feel you are fighting against or procrastinating around: do that first.

These should not be, “Get a new job tomorrow,” tasks. This is about setting small achievable goals each day and committing yourself to get them done. Not only will this keep your productivity going, but also increase your sense of achievement.

4. Moving forward

“Don’t look back, it’s not the direction you are going.” Try to limit looking to the past for anything besides positive reinforcement of your capabilities. You did that degree, you got that internship, you got that job, or nailed that promotion. You did it once, you can do it again. We are so much better at problem-solving than we give ourselves credit for, but we are much better at it when we are coming from a place of positive abundance.

5. Deciding with purpose what is next

There is the fact: you no longer have your job. What you think about that fact will determine your emotions. How you feel about the thought will determine your actions. Your actions will give you your results. We can have the same fact, but two people that preserve this fact completely differently and this changes their thoughts, emotions, actions, and results.

Now for some examples…

Example 1:

Fact: “I was sacked”
Thought: “This is awful! What am I going to do?!”
Emotion: Panic, stress, anxiety
Action: Frantically apply to 12 jobs that may not be right for me, make mistakes
Result: I end up in a job that’s not what I wanted or without a call back because I spelled my own name wrong in my panic application

Example 2:

Fact: “I was sacked”
Thought: “This is awful! I am never going to get another job?!”
Emotion: Despair, discouraged, depressed
Action: I load up Netflix and glance over with dread at the CV on the desk every few minutes.
Result: Remain unemployed because of the fear of rejection and discomfort of putting my CV out there.

Example 3:

Fact: “I was sacked”
Thought: “I’ve done this before, I can do it again!”
Emotion: Excited, curious, hopeful, confident.
Action: Research new jobs and carefully apply to those that look right for me.
Result: It takes time, but I end up in a new job that’s right for me.

Example 4:

Fact: “I was sacked”
Thought: “This is exactly what I needed. I was suffocating there!”
Emotion: Inventive, inquisitive, ambitious.
Action: Dust off the side-hustle business plan I’ve been aching to try.
Result: Work hard to create my new business, it’s tough but so am I.

Unemployment can cause some very difficult emotions. If you feel you are really struggling and you need some professional support, it is important you seek the help you need.

  • Samaritans – for everyone. Call: 116 123. Email
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men. Call 0800 58 58 58.
  • Papyrus – for people under 35. Call 0800 068 41 41.
  • Talk to someone you trust. Let family or friends know what’s going on for you. They may be able to offer support and help keep you safe. There’s no right or wrong way to talk about suicidal feelings – starting the conversation is what’s important.
  • Who else you can talk to. If you find it difficult to talk to someone you know, you could call a GP – ask for an emergency appointment. Call 111 out of hours – they will help you find the support and help you need or contact your mental health crisis team – if you have one.

When we understand how much our thoughts impact our ability to affect results that we want to create for ourselves, it makes tackling difficult situations much more productive and empowering. We don’t fall victim to an event but view it as an opportunity to grow.

Megan Kennedy-Woodard is a Coaching Psychologist, committed to supporting people to develop through positive change and intentional actions. Find her on web or on Insta for more of her excellent advice.

Head to our other features on coping with unemployment during a pandemic:

How have you been impacted by unemployment?