2017 started with a bang thanks to the presidential election. But, perhaps it was more of a “thud” in terms of the number of new jobless claims.
While many Americans made merry over the holidays, thousands of workers dealt with the cold reality of layoffs. Economic uncertainty breeds downsizing, and many companies — including big names such as GM, Walmart, Microsoft, AT&T and Oracle — have implemented or announced layoffs. It’s not a coincidence that The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Survey is giving some cause for pause.
Most people who have experienced a layoff begin to panic about how they’ll support their families while they search for something new — a process that can take weeks or months. Many of these stressors revolve around the uncontrollable elements in your life: “How am I going to support myself while I search for a new job? Can I even find a new position in my field? Will I have to take a pay cut?”
• Depression rates are much higher for people who have been unemployed for more than a year.
• Unemployed individuals are three times more likely to abuse alcohol.
• Unemployed men visited with doctors more often and took more prescription medications than men with jobs.
With countless questions swirling around in your head, you could have trouble sleeping, concentrating and relaxing. You might also suffer from fatigue, headaches or stomachaches. These are all classic symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
You’re probably thinking, “I’m screwed. As if finding a new job weren’t stressful enough, now I have to deal with a bunch of anxiety!” Maintaining your mental and physical health while you’re unemployed isn’t easy. But it is possible. Here’s how:
1. Get Moving
It might be tempting to spend all day lounging on the couch in your pajamas, but you’ll benefit from physical activity. Research has shown consistent exercise can reduce the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Workouts cause the body to release endorphins, adrenaline and serotonin, triggering positive mood changes and lessening depressive thoughts.
2. Lean on Your Support System
In addition to being a great song and film, “Lean on Me” should serve as a personal motto for anyone who’s unemployed. Emory University neuroscientist Seth Norrholm argues that social support is key to reducing stress and anxiety. Spend time with family, friends and other unemployed individuals — unless they’re sources of stress, of course. It will give you a chance to vent in a nonjudgmental environment.
This focus on networking will also increase your chances of getting hired by learning about job opportunities and others’ job-hunting experiences. The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself. Keeping to yourself during a time of crisis can fuel a vicious cycle that will only drive you further from your ultimate goal of re-employment.
3. Help Yourself
There are plenty of self-help treatments that can control your anxiety. These include yoga and meditation, whose daily practice has been shown to provide relief from anxiety and depression. Just make sure you’re using the proper techniques. For example, stress causes most people to breathe in a shallow manner. Focusing on slow, controlled breathing can help you get the most out of these mindfulness-based therapies.
4. Be Prepared
Job interviews can create a lot of anxiety, but proper preparation is the best treatment. Spend time researching your prospective employer, combing through interview tips online, anticipating questions and rehearsing your responses.
Not every interview will result in a job offer, but that doesn’t mean you should get discouraged. Replace any self-defeating thoughts (“I blew that interview; I’m never going to get a job”) with positive ones that focus on what you’ve learned (“I should emphasize my continuing education efforts more next time”).
Losing your job is a decidedly stressful life event with the potential to cause detrimental health effects. That’s why looking for a new job and managing your well-being go hand in hand. Keep yourself occupied by volunteering and exercising, lean on your support system and take time to practice relaxation techniques. These seemingly small steps should help curb your anxiety and could help you find a job much more quickly.
Bill Topaz, a publishing and content expert, is the president of Anxiety.org, which offers quality healthcare information contributed by top researchers and experts from around the world. Bill is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. His career has focused on consumer, educational and scientific/medical publishing in media corporations such as Tribune Company and Disney.