In weeks since the outbreak of COVID19 over 30 million Americans have filed initial unemployment claims. While the numbers of weekly filings have been continuously decreasing since their peak at the end of March, the weekly filing rates are still in the millions.
In weeks since the outbreak of COVID-19, over 30 million Americans have filed initial unemployment claims. While the numbers of weekly filings have been continuously decreasing since their peak at the end of March, the weekly filing rates are still in the millions.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate in America was at a 50 year low of 3.5%. It is currently estimated that reports from April will show that the unemployment rate has increased to 14% or higher. In addition to increasing rates of unemployment, Americans are reporting increases in depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns. It is now estimated that at least 47% of Americans are experiencing heightened anxiety related to COVID-19.
Similarly, The Kaiser Family Foundation, has released an in depth examination of the mental health effects of the pandemic. The Foundation is reporting that increased unemployment and job loss leads to higher levels of anxiety, depression and lower self esteem. When combined, these psychological concerns are known to lead to higher rates of substance use disorders and suicide. Combined with the increase in isolation as a result of social distancing and safer at home guidelines leading to exacerbated struggles of those previously diagnosed with mental health disorders, Americans are seeing an unprecedented mental health crisis.
The statistics and reports make the outcome appear bleak, however we are seeing a rise in new and free resources being released to the public in order to assist those struggling during this time. There are increases in available telemental health services and mental health services providers, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, are releasing free products to assist Americans during this pandemic (check out the VA’s new COVID-19 Coach app here).
In addition to these new resources, coping skills are readily available to assist you as you process a recent loss in employment and other effects of the pandemic. To help you during this trying time, below are JournalOwl's five proven methods for coping with the effects of job loss amid COVID-19.
Do not let your emotions make your decisions. You’ve likely heard that saying before and it is sound wisdom.
After losing your job, your first instinct may be to begin catastrophizing and ruminating on your circumstances. You may feel overwhelmed by the emotions you are feeling and may begin making decisions in an emotional state just to make the feelings stop. While in a state of panic this may make sense, but it will likely only intensify the feelings you are trying to stop.
Instead of allowing your emotions to make your decisions, take some time to sit down and evaluate your circumstances. Ask the questions you need answers to: Is your job loss permanent or temporary? Do you qualify for unemployment? Are you eligible to receive a stimulus check? What financial resources do you have available? Write the questions down if you need and make a list that you can explore from logic and reality not overwhelm and anxiety.
Once you have the facts, you can begin to form an understanding of what your new reality looks like. With this knowledge comes empowerment and even if the reality of your circumstances is dire, you have power to make choices and create solutions.
While you may not be able to change all of your circumstances, you are likely to uncover several areas in which you can feel empowered to make changes that will benefit you. For some that may look like filing for unemployment. Others may find peace in creating a budget and eliminating unnecessary expenses in order to save more during this time (budgets have been shown to eliminate financial stress). Or you may choose to apply for one of the many industries hiring workers during the pandemic.
Your choices will be different than the choices being made by your friends, family, or colleagues. Remember that what is important is feeling empowered in the choices you make and choosing to control what you can and want to improve, not making the same choices as the people around you due to pressure, heightened emotions or confusion.
The wisdom and empowerment that you will receive from assessing your current reality will serve you far better than ruminating, catastrophizing or making decisions based off of your impulses.
While following social distancing guidelines may limit the in-person interaction you can have with others, you can still create a network of support for yourself in the midst of this loss. With over 30 million Americans filing for unemployment, the chances are you have friends and family who are also experiencing the loss of their job.
You may not be able to meet up in person, but you can still connect virtually with JournalOwl Channels to get community support from those who can empathize with your circumstances. Staying connected with the people who make you feel supported, loved, encouraged, and understood during a time of uncertainty and loss will be vital to your comfort and coping.
While you may think spending time connecting with coworkers who also lost their jobs may be beneficial, try to limit the amount of commiserating you do. Yes, sharing with the colleagues who are in the same position will provide you with a sense of camaraderie and empathy both of which can feel supportive. However, you may find yourself feeling worse if you spend excessive amounts of time sharing the difficulty of your circumstances and loss. Finding the balance between sharing in experience and sharing in misery with colleagues is a task only you can master for yourself and individual needs. Stay attuned and aware of your emotions and if you need to disconnect from some relationships during this time take care of yourself by setting up boundaries and investing in the connections that make you feel better and more positive.
Remember, support and connection can also come from sources other than people. Maybe you feel connected to your pets, nature, religious services, or other activities. These forms of connection can ground you and provide support and comfort to you in addition to friends and loved ones.
According to the American Psychological Association, grief is defined as “the anguish felt after a significant loss” and can include “physiological distress, yearning, confusion, dwelling on the past and apprehension about the future”. While most often associated with death, grief can be felt after any loss.
There are many unexpected areas of your life that changed drastically when you lost your job, including (but not limited to) your normal daily routine, commute, source of income, social connections at work, productivity, and career goals. When this many aspects of your life change overnight it is not uncommon to feel grief or some of the associated feelings in connection to all of the things you have recently lost.
Everything that felt secure, guaranteed or normal may have slipped away overnight so as you navigate through this process and begin to evaluate your circumstances do not forget to allow yourself to grieve.
While you do not want to be overcome by your grief or spend the majority of your day ruminating on it, acknowledging its presence may be one of the necessary steps in coping with your job loss. By acknowledging your grief, you can begin to interact with it to gain insight, understanding and acceptance.
Similar to how we discussed needing to understand your circumstances to feel empowered to change them, you need to understand your grief so you can be empowered to work through it. Understanding everything you have lost and the grief associated with it, will allow you to begin to decide what you want to replace or rebuild.
Chances are high that if you’ve recently lost your job that you’ve also lost much of your normal routine. Without the natural structure and schedule a job provides, you may feel lost in your new state of existence.
Maybe you find yourself sleeping more or less. Maybe you’ve let responsibilities pile up because there is no longer a pressing need to accomplish these tasks. Whatever loss of routine and normalcy you find yourself in, creating a schedule is likely to help you cope with this transition.
By having a routine and rhythm for your day, you are providing yourself chances to get excited and look forward to the things you have planned. You can have hope that the next day is going to be a good one because you’ve planned to do things that make you happy.
Schedules can also provide a feeling of accomplishment that is similar to the accomplishment you felt in your job. By recreating this feeling, you are allowing yourself to fulfill the same needs and parts of yourself that you may fear you lost when you lost your job.
Schedules also allow you to have control and autonomy. If you have struggled with feeling powerless as a result of losing your job, choosing to be empowered to plan how to use your time can help you feel confident and in control.
A schedule is not meant to be a hard and fast structure that you live by. Instead, it is an opportunity to feel empowered to creatively and intentionally structure your time in ways that help you feel productive, normal, and confident.
Even if all you want to do is veg out and watch Netflix, by building this time into a schedule you are reminding yourself that you are in control of how you utilize this time of loss and transition rather than settling into the belief that you are a victim to the circumstances of your life.
As you consider the uncertainty of job loss, the present moment and the future, it is possible that your thoughts and emotions may start running on a never ending cycle through your mind. If that is the case, mindfulness may be a practice you decide to implement to help cope at this time.
Mindfulness, psychologically speaking, is practicing present moment awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. Meaning, it is the process of allowing yourself to slow down the racing thoughts you are experiencing in order to become more aware of those thoughts. Mindfulness practices such as mediation and yoga have been shown to provide many benefits, including: reducing rumination (the never-ending cycle of thinking about the same thing) and stress, higher levels of focus and mental clarity, increased understanding of thoughts and emotions, and lower levels of emotional reactivity.
Similar to other coping skills we have discussed, mindfulness practices will empower you to slow down your racing thoughts and overwhelming emotions in order to have more peace and clarity. With lower levels of anxiety and depressive thoughts, you may begin to feel more confident and in control of your new circumstances.
While mindfulness is a form of self care, it may not be an option you feel comfortable practicing at this point in time. If this is the case, take some time to reflect on the activities you enjoy doing, the ones that bring you feelings of joy, peace, stillness and relaxation. These are the activities you may want to consider engaging in as a means of coping with the unexpected loss of your job. While you may need to get creative to adapt to the change in your finances and lifestyle, the options for self care are endless.
If you need ideas for inexpensive self care options, consider a quick google search and create a list of new self care techniques you want to try. This will, once again, allow for some control over a realm of life.
By showing kindness, compassion and love to yourself, you are allowing yourself to foster feelings of comfort, care, and relaxation during the midst of a stressful time. Similarly, you are allowing yourself to take a break, slow down and get some relief from the chaos and stress you have likely been experiencing.
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