Stress and Job Loss

A job is not who we are but rather what we do. It doesn't speak to your attributes as a person, as a friend, as a partner or as a parent. Nevertheless, the loss of a job feels devastating. It represents livelihood, identity, and life purpose. In today's economic times, the loss may not be the direct result of your actions but rather based on the business or financial position of the employer. There are some important steps to take during a transition.

  1. Talk with friends and accept their support.
  2. Grieve for the loss but try to move forward.
  3. Create a plan for next steps.
  4. Practice interviewing for jobs.
    • You need to present yourself in a positive light
    • Rehearse how will you respond to the question, "What is the reason for leaving your last position?"
  5. Consider the job search to be your next assignment. It can be a difficult process because there are many applicants and the employer is searching for the right match. If you are not offered the job, it is not a statement about you as a person; another person may have been a better match for the job from the perspective of the employer.
  6. Consider any job offer, carefully. Can you be successful in that position?

When a person's job ends it is normal to feel a sense of loss. It takes some time to begin to heal. You have lost things important to you including your daily work, your work colleagues, structure for your days, financial security and status. It can also be hard to tell your friends and family.

Loss and the Grieving Process

Loss involves grief. You may have a range of emotions in the days and weeks following the job loss.

  • Initial shock and denial: In some cases terminations come out of the blue. In other situations there may have been some warning. In either case, there can be a shock when the message is received that you no longer have a job. It may take some time to absorb the reality of the news.
  • Anger: You may feel anger toward your employer, toward yourself, and even toward your family. Such thoughts and feelings are a normal part of the grieving process, but it is important not to get stuck in this stage in order to move forward.
  • Resistance: Sometimes you may find yourself having difficulty fully accepting the reality of the situation.
  • Sadness: It is normal to experience feelings of sadness and to want to withdraw emotionally after a job loss. However, if your job search is goes on a long time or you have other predisposing factors, you may become vulnerable to clinical depression. Getting professional support is critical as depression can interfere with your energy and effectiveness in finding a job.
  • Acceptance: Finally, you will come to accept what has happened (you don't have to like it), and move on.

You may cycle back and forth between stages. Typically you will have good days and bad days as if you are on an emotional roller coaster. Be patient with yourself and the process.

Ways to Manage the Stress of Job Loss

  1. Give yourself time to adjust. Grief is a process.
  2. Keep open communication with others significant in your life. Accept support from those who care about you. They may also be a source of job information.
  3. Spouses, partners and children are also affected by your job loss. Explain the economic forces that led to the job loss. Reassure children that the family will work together to get through this time.
  4. Make a Job Seeking Plan. Create a strategy and consider the search as your current job. It requires planning, energy, and daily attention.
  5. Update your resume.
  6. Use every community and networking resource available.
  7. Practice how you will interview and answer questions about reason for changing jobs.
  8. Practice good self-care. Sleep, exercise, relaxation and good nutrition are more important than ever during the stress of unemployment. Use the extra time to set up that exercise program you never had time for when you were working so hard. Avoid the use of drugs and alcohol to deal with stress. Take scheduled breaks from your job search and allow time for fun. You need to be in good emotional shape to do your best in job interviews.
  9. Get professional help, when needed. If you find yourself being tearful, anxious, sad, irritable, having trouble with sleep (too much or unable to sleep) or are unable to motive yourself, you may consider getting help for depression from a mental help professional.

Think of the job loss as a temporary setback. The way we "frame" what happens to us has everything to do with how we cope and move forward. Success in any endeavor depends on how one views setbacks in life. This is a challenge not a failure or the "end of the world." Do your best to think positively, e.g. "I can handle this one step at a time."