How to Cope with the Stress of Unemployment

The more active you are, the less lost you’ll feel.

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Lindsay Olson
With the unemployment rate hovering at 9.1 percent, finding a job gets harder by the day. And while, sure, the sun will come out tomorrow (or next year, or in five years), it’s important to understand and cope with the stress that being unemployed can bring.

Most people underestimate the role grief plays in losing a job and looking for another one. Spending hours online applying for jobs can get you into a rut, and it’s easy to lose confidence when you don’t hear back from employers. Losing your sense of security that comes with having a steady income can put a strain on your relationships. You may find yourself applying for jobs you don’t want, or are overqualified for, in the hopes of simply securing gainful employment.

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You may feel a mix of emotions, ranging from anger to sadness to apathy.

If you do get an interview, you may still permeate your negativity. If you’re interviewing for a job you don’t really want, you may sabotage yourself so that you don’t get the job. And the cycle continues.

Helping Yourself

Stress in this situation is normal. Losing a job is a loss, similar to losing a person to death. You have to allow for the grieving process and find your new normal. The first step is admitting that you are stressed, and pinpointing what specifically is bothering you. Is it the lack of income, or being home all day with nothing to do? Do you feel like your spouse is pressuring you to find work, or are you adrift at sea, without the identity you affixed to the work you did?

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Keeping a journal can help you address these feelings and determine how to sort them out. You may also want to talk to your spouse or a therapist about your feelings. Finding a job search partner can really help you deal with the frustration, while keeping you motivated and on the right track. The key is to move on from the anger and frustration so that it will help you move forward and not affect your job hunt.

Finding the Silver Lining

Staying positive and active is what will help you through this dark time. Try to think about how things will improve once you do find a job. Don’t focus on how many jobs you’ve applied for or how many interviews you’ve gone on.

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Get into a daily routine. Start the day with a walk and breakfast. Focus on your job search for a while, then take a break and do something else. Set daily goals to help you stay on track. Your job search day should consist of applying for new jobs, follow-up, making new connections, reading, research, and a daily review. You should also schedule some time for reflection on your activity weekly and after interviews. Be honest with yourself about what is working and what isn’t in your job search, and take responsibility to make those changes.

A clear focus on meeting your goals may keep you from spiraling into depression. Use your calendar to schedule things like your job-seeking time, and add in other activities, like volunteering at your kids’ school, exercising, or meeting with a friend for coffee. The more active you are, the less lost you’ll feel.

All Bad Things Come to an End

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While it might not feel this way, your unemployment will end. It might not be how you expected it to end, and you might not get the job of your dreams, but change is inevitable. Open up the possibilities in your job hunt by looking for different types of work, changing fields, and look into part-time and contract work as well.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.