Career Advice

Dealing With Unemployment Depression

In California, the current unemployment rate is 12.1 percent with some counties reaching the mid 20s. Long term unemployment is becoming a lifestyle as the economic downturn continues to grind away at local economies. Some things start to change once you’ve been out of work for a while.

In our culture, personal identity and employment are tightly coupled. More often than not, the first question you get asked at a party is “What do you do?”.  In the absence of a job, that question produces stutters, mumbles and embarrassment.

If you’ve been looking for work for more than six months, there’s a kind of situational depression that sets in. Situational depression (SD) is different from chemical or hormonal depression. SD is caused by circumstances that are, well, depressing.

For most of us, work provides a respite from the ongoing stresses of family life and finance. In an economic downturn with credit problems, cash shortages and home equity inversions, the job is a great hiding place. Throwing oneself into the next project is a great stress reducer. In fact, high stress on a job can be a great way to get a break from stress in one’s personal life. We depend on work to provide both challenge and relief.

Without a job, the pressure of personal circumstances is relentless. Options seem to evaporate while awful consequences loom closely. Feelings of anxiety, panic, depression, bewilderment and terror are commonplace. The combination of loss of identity and loss of respite make the strongest of characters wobbly.

So, what are the signs of depression related to joblessness?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • irritability, restlessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Here are some things you might try if you think you are suffering from joblessness related depression. Search for ideas about these things online:

  1. Tell someone. A burden shared is a burden halved.
  2. Make taking a walk the very first thing you do each day. Exercise makes you feel better.
  3. Eat well and check out some depression related diets (Sugar is not your friend nor is emotional eating)
  4. Breathe more slowly. Shallow breathing makes you feel uptight.
  5. Learn to meditate: 15 minutes/day will do wonders in a couple of weeks.
  6. Visit the local health food store and pick up St. John’s Wort. Talk with them about depression related supplements.
  7. Make real routines out of your job hunting efforts. Become your own boss and manage the job hunt like a business
  8. Measure some of the things you do. Being able to look at a chart that indicates your accomplishment helps with the feelings of worthlessness
  9. Tell someone around you how much you appreciate them. Every day.
  10. If you try some of these things and get no reprieve, call your local mental health department. Depression is a serious thing.

It would be interesting to know what’s worked for you. How do you raise your spirits during a long job hunt?