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How to Stay Sane During Unemployment

Being at home, inside every day, scouring the Web for jobs, can make people feel a little nutty.

What’s an unemployed, disgruntled worker to do? Focus on your physical and mental well-being, for starters, says careers writer Debra Donston-Miller in the article “Staying Healthy Through Troubled Times.” Donston-Miller writes:

Mental-health experts and people who have been through the job hunt themselves offer the following advice for maintaining your emotional and physical health during what can be a prolonged job search.

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a regular schedule, especially when it comes to sleep.
  • Stay away from anything that can dull your edge, such as alcohol.
  • Don’t try and go it alone. Connect regularly with other people, both in your professional and personal circles. If all of your connections were through your job, consider seeking out religious or community organizations.
  • Make yourself useful. Reaching out to others during this time is one way to help you feel valuable — and valued.

The article goes on to say that getting away from the traps of television and the Internet are good ideas, as well as finding free services, focusing on what you can control like improving your resume, sending them out regularly, and remembering that this is a temporary phase in your life.

Sticking to a routine is further explored in another Donston-Miller article “LOST: Identity! Stop Job Loss from Stealing Your Confidence.” In this one, she talks to clinical psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Friedman and Dr. Kevin Skinner. From that article:

“Take one day to feel terrible, and then get moving,” Friedman said. “It’s very important to keep basic routines. You can’t suddenly be up all night long watching ‘Law and Order.’ Get up in the morning; take a shower. If you’re a guy, shave; if you’re a woman, do your hair. Send out a million e-mails, contact all of your friends.”

A sense of identity loss can affect a person’s relationships and family dynamics, as well.

“When you’ve lost a job, you start to question your own identity,” said Kevin Skinner, who has a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy and shares expert advice at “Sometimes if it’s an extended job loss, you begin to feel guilty, especially if it’s affecting your family, and maybe your wife has to go back to work. You start to feel like, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ And it’s not about that.”

What it is about, said Skinner, is reaching out to others and focusing on realistic solutions.

It’s not an easy time being unemployed, but you can help yourself by keeping good daily habits and not beating yourself up for something you cannot control. There are many people in the same boat as you. Seek them out and befriend them. Having someone to talk to regularly should help ease some of the guilt feeling that will naturally occur after a layoff.

More Career Advice:

My Layoff, My Brain

Around the Web: Coping with Job Loss

Job Search Anxiety: Warning Signs

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