Unemployed and Stressed Out

Marcelina Hardy, MSEd, BCC
Stop feeling stressed while unemployed!

If you are unemployed and stressed out, it's time to do something about it. That doesn't just mean you need to find a job, there are many other things you can do that will make this lull in your life much less stressful.

Understanding Why You are Stressed

You can probably make a list a mile long with the reasons why you are stressed while you are unemployed. You probably have bills to pay, people pressuring you to find work and frustration when you either can't find a job or can't get past an interview. While these are all valid reasons, lack of control, instability and the 'what if syndrome' encompasses all of these and much more.

Loss of Control

When employed, you have control over whether you get up and go to work. You may not feel like doing it, but you know if you don't, you won't be able to provide for yourself or your family. Having the option of going to work or staying home, gives you control. While unemployed, you don't have an option and this can make you feel lost and scared.

Instability and Unfamiliarity

Lack of control is not the only factor that makes you feel stressed, stability is another reason. When you get into a routine of getting up to go to work, doing your job and then coming home, you find comfort in knowing that tomorrow you will do it all over again. When you suddenly don't have that major part of your life, you are thrown off course into instability and unfamiliarity.

The reason why this causes you stress is because whenever you try something new or take a risk, your body enters an alert stage. You become tense and hyper vigilant because you don't know what to expect. The same goes for when you no longer have a job to report to each day. You are in unfamiliar territory, you don't know what to do with yourself when you used to be working, and you don't know what to expect for the future.

Anticipating the Worst

A common reason why people who are unemployed and stressed out is because they suffer from the 'what if syndrome'. While dealing with loss of control, instability and unfamiliarity with their new life, people also begin to think of the worst possible scenarios for their future. People suffering from this syndrome think, "What if I can't pay my mortgage and I foreclose on my home?" or "What if I can't provide for my family, my wife becomes disappointed in me and leaves me?".

The most important thing to remember when dealing with 'what if syndrome' is that 'what ifs' are not reality. These thoughts may be rational (they could happen) but they are not happening right now. What you need to focus on is what is going on in your life today; not what happened yesterday, last week or a month ago or what will happen tomorrow, next week or next month. You need to come to terms with the present and take back the control you lost when you lost your job.

What to do When You are Unemployed and Stressed Out

Now that you know the reasons why you experience stress during unemployment, you can do something about it. The following unemployment tips will help you get back on your feet and start working on a successful future.

Getting Back in the Game

Looking for work is a game. You search for jobs that match your qualifications, you apply, you may go on an interview, and then you wait to for an offer. You play the game many times and you only win when you accept a job. Looking at it this way, you can start having fun with it.

Your state of mind should not be, "Ugh, I'll probably apply to five companies today and not hear from one of them," it should be, "Let me see how many companies it takes for me to hear back!" If you are having trouble finding places to apply to, then you need to treat your job hunt as a treasure hunt. There's work out there, you just need to find it before someone else gets to it first (just like a race).

You ARE Working

Are you feeling guilty because you don't get up at 5 A.M. and inch your way to work in the morning traffic? Don't be! Looking for a job is a full time job minus the commute. Each morning, get up as you did for your old job and begin your new job. Set up a schedule for each day. Have papers ready and a list of websites saved in your browser's bookmarks section. The first thing you should do is make a list of the places you need to go or the applications you will fill out for that day. Then you can start making your contacts and going to places you need to go to. Always break for lunch and take regular breaks throughout your day to recharge. Once 5:00 P.M. rolls around, your workday is done and you can enjoy time with family or have some dinner.

Dealing with Money When There is a Lack of It

You may wonder what you should do about the bills that are accumulating while you are unemployed. All you can do is the best you can do. You need to call credit card companies and let them know of your situation. Many credit card companies will work with you by lowering your minimum payment or giving you an extension on your due date. This goes for your mortgage as well, call your lender, explain your situation, and see if you can work out a temporary payment plan that fits into your new budget.

Unemployment Is Temporary

Every morning or whenever you feel discouraged, tell yourself that unemployment is temporary. If you play the game by taking back control, you will find a job. It may not be today or tomorrow, but it will be soon and then you will think, "Why was I so stressed out?"

Unemployed and Stressed Out