How To Survive Unemployment: 15 Tips for Your Mental Health

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Navigate the emotional rollercoaster of job loss with these sanity-saving tips.
Updated Jan. 2, 2024
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A sudden job loss can be a difficult emotional blow. As you search for work and try to stretch your savings, it's essential to look after your mental health.

Here are some to help you practice self-care and stay strong during this challenging time until you find a job to help you get ahead financially and further your career.

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Grieve

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We expect to grieve after the loss of a person, not a job. However, loss of employment can also be a traumatic experience.

Job loss can derail your sense of identity and self-esteem. It might signal the end of several close relationships with people you used to see every day.

In light of this, take time to grieve the change in your life. Consider writing your feelings in a journal or talk to a trusted friend to work through feelings of loss.

Stick to a routine

Svitlana/Adobe curly-headed pretty lady brushing her teeth

Most of us rely on work to help set our daily routines. We get up, shower, dress, and leave the house based on when we go to work.

Without these cues and no obligation to be somewhere, it can be tempting to lounge around in pajamas all day.

While we won’t judge you for a few pajama days, formulating a routine is a way to keep your mental bearings in the absence of a job.

Choose a time to wake up each day. Shower and get ready as if you were going to work. These actions will help improve your self-esteem and boost your productivity.

Move your body

Jacob Lund/Adobe senior man jogging

Exercise has well-documented benefits for both mental and physical health.

So, even if you’re ditching your gym membership to save money during lean times, go for a bike ride or walk around your neighborhood to get the blood and endorphins flowing.

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Keep your spaces separate

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One way to reduce the stress of the job search is to create a space in your home that is solely a workspace.

Separating your workspace from the rest of your home helps you clearly divide the time for sending out resumes from the time to enjoy dinner with your family.

Meditate

microdot/Adobe african american woman sitting on floor meditation in sunlit room at home

Taking the time to stop, breathe, and get in tune with your body can offer amazing mental health benefits.

Whether you’re employed or not, meditation can reduce stress and bring a sense of calm to your body and mind. If you’re not sure where to start, look up guided meditation videos online.

Network online and offline

Inti St. Clair/Adobe business meeting in lobby of colorful modern office space

These days, most job searches take place online. Use the internet to sift through job postings and to connect with recruiters and others in your field. Sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter are good places to start.

It’s also important to engage in some real-world networking. Schedule lunch or coffee with former co-workers or recruiters to strengthen relationships with key people in your industry.

Alert neighbors, softball league teammates, members of the church congregation, and fellow PTA parents that you’re in the market for a new job. They may have a key connection for you.

Treat your job search like a job

Rene La/peopleimages.com/Adobe online typing for communication

It can be tempting to send out a bunch of applications and then wait around to see if anyone gets back to you. But being more proactive is a better approach.

Of course, you don’t want to burn out. So, establish a certain number of hours to work on your job search each day. Or, choose a specific number of applications to complete daily.

When you’re done with your job search for the day, clock out and relax — just like you did when you had a job.

Let others help you

Drazen/Adobe businesswoman reads resume of female candidate during job interview

Unemployment can feel embarrassing and demoralizing. However, this isn’t the time to be shy about accepting help.

If someone volunteers to assist you with a resume, connect you with a colleague, or even bring you dinner, let them do so.

If any of this makes you a bit uncomfortable, remember that there is a good chance you will be able to return the favor in the future.

Mind your expenses

Pormezz/Adobe young woman using calculator calculating monthly expense from invoice receipt for manage personal finance and mortgage loan on the floor at home

The median length of unemployment is typically around nine weeks, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Of course, this is just an average. Plenty of folks are out of work much longer.

Even if you have a severance package and unemployment to help shore up your finances, remember that this is a time to tighten your belt. Trim your expenses where you can.

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Take breaks

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Hunting for a job 24/7 probably won’t get you to a new position faster, and it very well may lead to burnout. So, take breaks throughout the day.

During breaks, stretch, eat, move around, and do something besides sending out resumes. This will help ensure that you’re at your best mentally when someone calls for an interview.

Practice self-care

Adriana/Adobe happy women eating ice cream

Self-care takes a different form for each person, so be sure to do things that rejuvenate you when you can. Go for a walk, take a long bath, or talk with old friends. Or perhaps read a new book.

Don’t let your job search consume all your mental and emotional energy. Just because you’re hunting for a new position doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invite some fun and joy into your life.

Talk to a mental health professional

rh2010/Adobe woman visiting male psychologist

Nearly everyone feels down during their job search. But if those feelings linger or deepen, you might want to talk to a mental health professional.

If you’re concerned about the cost, know that many mental health professionals work on a sliding scale based on your income.

Explore your benefits

simona/Adobe woman surfing the web

Talk to the HR department at your old employer about the benefits available to workers when they become unemployed. For example:

  • Are you eligible for government unemployment benefits?
  • Does your employer provide severance pay to employees who have been laid off?
  • How long will your health insurance remain available?
  • When does COBRA coverage begin, and how long is it available?

Find the answers to these questions to ensure you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to. These resources can give you a necessary financial cushion and some peace of mind.

Find a support group

Tom Merton/KOTO/Adobe hugging in group therapy session

Finding people who understand the emotions and struggles you’re going through can boost your morale. Connect with a support group so you don’t have to go through unemployment alone.

This could be a group of former co-workers or an online forum. Wherever they are, find and connect with your people.

Look for alternative income sources

ChayTee/Adobe woman records video on tiktok

Especially if the job search drags on, you may need to get creative when it comes to your income.

So, look for side hustles or other ways to earn extra income so you can shore up your finances during this period of unemployment.

Bottom line

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If being unemployed is taking a toll on your mental health, you’re not alone.

More than half of adults say they struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues due to their lack of employment, according to a Pew Research study.

The tips on this list can help you feel stronger and healthier and lower your financial stress as you look for a new job.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.

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