10 Tips for Surviving the Holidays Jobless

A guide to toughing out all that mandatory good cheer.

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If you’ve been jobless for three or six or nine months or more, the holidays can be an especially difficult time. All that mandatory good cheer! Not to mention the pressure to spend, spend, spend. It’s enough to make a Grinch out of anybody, unemployed or not.

[See 9 insider secrets to getting hired.]

A big part of the problem, of course, can be summed up in the words of that old song, “Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Cry, and you cry alone.” Translation: Nobody loves a Gloomy Gus. And for the job-hunter, this creates a kind of double whammy: Not only do you have to put up with the holidays and all its ambient cheerfulness, you have to look as if you’re enjoying it.

So, here are 10 tips for tolerating holiday cheer:

1. Remember that it’s OK to be feeling down. Your emotions belong to you and if you happen to feel less than jovial, there’s good reason for that. So don’t beat yourself up. Why add guilt to your list of problems?

[See 20 tips for the office holiday non-party.]

2. You are allowed to fake it. There’s nothing dishonest about putting on a happy face, smiling, and saying “happy holidays” to all you meet, whether you mean it or not. Think of it as a gift you give others—a gift that doesn’t cost you a cent.

3. Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself feeling even more worried, down, and depressed than usual. The holidays have a way of intensifying whatever feelings we already have. And, guess what? It will all be over in just a few more weeks.

4. Steer clear of the "humbugs." Here's a strange mood phenomenon: While cheerful people don’t necessary make those around them more cheerful, gloomy people definitely can, and do, depress everyone in the immediate vicinity. You don’t need that extra negativity right now.

5. Step up the self-nurturing. What puts a smile on your face? A good long walk, coffee with a friend, playing with your dog, taking your kid to the park? Do more of that, whatever it is.

[See 10 things to do while you're out of work.]

6. Resist overspending. Whatever the ads may say, retail therapy is not the answer. Leave stimulating the economy to someone else. Be creative and look for inexpensive or even free ways to observe the holidays. You’ll thank yourself come January.

7. Seek perspective. Talk with Grandma and Grandpa about how they survived tough times, read memoirs of people who persevered, volunteer at the local food bank and meet some folks worse off than you. In other words, get out of your own head for a while.

8. Exploit the mind/body connection. It’s real. If your body feels good, your mind can’t resist following. So stretch, walk, sleep, laugh, eat, and dance. Savor your life.

9. Let go of your expectations of how the holidays “should” be. Just because you’ve always observed the holidays a certain way doesn’t mean you have to continue. Feel free to try a gift-less Christmas, or a Hanukkah without the cross-country trip to the relatives, or a New Year’s Eve without the Veuve Clicquot. Heck, you could even ignore the holidays completely. It’s allowed.

10. And, finally, here’s the biggie: Keep up your job search. December can actually be a good time to look for a job. Companies often put off hiring until the fourth quarter, hiring managers may be in a better-than-usual mood and may be easier to reach, fewer people job hunt this time of year so there’s less competition, and networking opportunities abound (those holiday parties!). All good reasons to keep on keeping on.

So hang in there. And, um, happy holidays.

Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.

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