Everyone copes differently with stress, and being laid off is certainly a stressful situation, but how you choose to react can affect your job search future.
When Robin McConnell lost her job as a corporate personnel administrator, she soon described herself as feeling, "lost and without direction; my self-esteem was deflated. I also worried that I would not be able to find a job that measured up to the one I had been forced to leave."
Dealing with anxiety and a damaged self-esteem are probably the most difficult aspects of being laid off. But remember that you are not alone. Thousands of people have recently lost their jobs. They had no control over their situations; no one will blame them.
You also should not blame yourself. Try to "reframe" your problem, thinking of it as a "temporary setback" and a "chance to do what you've always wanted to do." Reframing is a method of controlling your outlook through your beliefs. "It is nothing more than choosing to look at a glass at half full instead of half empty. You don't have to be overwhelmed by anxiety and self-doubt. In fact, you can choose not to be."
We deserve more than to waste time and energy blaming others for "bad breaks," "indulging in self-pity," "seeking revenge" or "focusing on past mistakes." We must understand our doubts, fears and poor self-image. A port self-image can't be erased, but it can be "reprogrammed." Anyone at any age or stage in life can change the way he/she sees himself/herself.
For those who choose to try, here are five initial steps:
- Make a list of your personal liabilities (past mistakes, failures, embarrassments). Burn this list, watch it turn to ashes and say aloud, "That's the last time I will let you get me down. I have more important things to do!" Why? Your actions always reinforce your dominant thoughts. Learn from those past bloopers and get rid of them. Get off your own back. There are enough monkeys in the world waiting to jump on it for you!
- Make a list of personal assets (your competencies, achievements, attributes). A realistic resume is a good start. Ask your friends for help. Read this list aloud three times a day for 21 days, and then read it as soon as you get up each day thereafter.
- Read or listen to something motivational or inspirational every day. Why? Positive imagery requires positive examples. You also need "OPE" (other people's experiences). Their research, techniques and results cut years off your learning curve and save you from painful trial and error.
- Write specific goals. Why? A true, written goal triggers your in-born automatic goal seeking mechanism. Even while you sleep, your subconscious will help you overcome roadblocks, obstacles and defeats. As you achieve your goals, the written proof supports you as a worthy, achieving person and plants good self-image seeds.
- Take responsibility for your emotional environment. It is hard to soar like an eagle when you're surrounded by a bunch of turkeys. Why? The law of emotional gravity is strong: You become like those with whom you associate.
These beginning self-image building steps may seem simplistic, but they are based on sound research and results. They are the foundation for a strong "internal net worth."
If I want change, I must act. When you and I believe in and support our strengths and values, and accept responsibility for being deserving, creative achievers, then we have begun to plant a new crop.
(This outline was adapted from "Recovering From a Layoff" by Scott Passeser in the National Business Employment Weekly and from "How to Rekindle Confidence and Esteem" by Jolene Brown in the March 1986 issues of Successful Farming).
The challenge to a person's self-esteem may be the most difficult consequence of an unwanted or unexpected job loss but our minds begin to churn out many other messages as well, that generate feelings. Being able to understand this process and figuring out how to use it can make the career transition successful.
There is no right, wrong or prescribed way to feel about job loss and/or career transition.
Our feelings tend to fall into one or more broad categories: afraid, mad, sad, and glad or indifferent.
We generally don't go through these feelings in sequence. We each may have a different pattern and it is likely that we will move from one to another and back again over time.
Often times, confusion, anger, and sadness are emotions that temporarily loom large. When those feelings are pervasive, it can complicate the task of finding new employment. It is important to remember however, that opportunity resides in crisis. Possibility and potential are also part of the career transition process.
Sometimes the emotional landscape has a tar pit or pot hole. You step in and find yourself stuck. "Stuckness" can come from emotions that are getting the best of you. Talk to trusted friends, your career counselor or a competent psychologist. They can help you get and stay on track.
Making Your Feelings Work For You
Each of the job transition feelings has a rational basis creating an expectable response to the transition. They also serve a purpose in making us successful in our efforts.
Our work world is coming to an end.
Our work routines are interrupted and we have nothing identical to replace them.
Life is now beyond control.
Fear and anxiety may be our best friend because it is there to wake us up in the morning, establish new routines, work out interim solutions to cash shortages and to pursue a job search with determination and competence. Using it to energize our job search is a way to reclaim control over our life.
Betrayed, left out in the cold, and deceived.
A normal response to "loss of control" and to hurt.
Anger can be a powerful motivator.
You can keep it for as long as it helps you mobilize you and your resources.
Keeping your anger simply means capitalizing on its adrenaline. It does not mean nursing a grudge, bad mouthing your old employer in job interviews, or poking holes in the tires of your former supervisors.
Means saying goodbye to the part of our lives.
We won't be seeing our co-workers each day.
Telling yourself not to feel sad and despondent is almost a sure-fired recipe to stay sad and despondent.
This feeling encourages us to slow down and take the time to heal.
Signified acceptance which is the willingness and readiness people experience to get on with their lives, following a major disappointment, loss or change.
For some it happens instantaneously. For others, it takes a little longer. It is very rare to not happen at all.
Its primary benefit is to temper the down sides of the other feelings and to kindle optimism and hope.
Typically, when people are under stress they are likely to let the power of the crisis affect them and may not even realize it. They tend to eat poorly, reduce their exercise, sleep less (or far too much), and may avoid friends and support persons. To decrease the impact of stress, research shows that you need to feel power over some area of your life. A first step is to admit that the crisis is important and needs attention.
Take one day at a time. Some changes in our lives are permanent. In time, they must be accepted if we are to grow. Until acceptance comes, take one step at a time. Set small goals and celebrate your progress. Don't try to resolve all your problems at once.
Plan, schedule, take notes, and keep good files. Organizing the daily nitty-gritty of life reduces stress. Save your memory for more creative and pleasurable things.
Take Breaks/Allow Time for Fun
When dealing with planned tasks, take a 10 minute break after every 50 minutes to maintain peak performance. Don't mistake working hard for working effectively. Don't work past the point of diminishing returns.
When you're facing a situation that you know will be stressful to you, rehearse it. Either mentally or with a friend, anticipate what might occur and plan your response. Being prepared reduces stress.
Do It Now
Do your most difficult or most hated task at the beginning of the day when you're fresh. Avoid the stress of dreading it all day. Procrastination breeds stress!
Know Your Limits
Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day. It's better to do less and do it well than to do more, poorly.
Train yourself to view stressful situations as a challenge to your creative thinking, rather than considering them insurmountable problems.
Learn to Say "No"
Say "NO" when your schedule is full; to activities you don't enjoy; to responsibilities that aren't yours; to emotional demands that leave you feeling drained; to other people's problems that you can't solve.
Schedule Your Stress
Scheduling stressful activities can reduce the number of stressors you must juggle at any one time. Don't invite your in-laws to visit the same week you have a big interview scheduled.
Treat Your Body Right
You will have more energy and self-confidence and be less susceptible to the physical side-effects of stress when you eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep and exercise regularly.
Use positive self-reinforcement: "I can handle this one step at a time," instead of frightening or depressing yourself by coming up with reasons why you can't cope.
Take responsibility for making your life what you want it to be. It is less stressful to make decisions and take action than to feel powerless and react to others' decisions. Decide what you want and go for it!
Unemployment can be devastating to any family, but there are steps you can take to help ease the pain. Remember that there are many people who are facing the same problem you are--fewer dollars to meet the same bills. Don't blame yourself. Blaming yourself won't get you anywhere. It's a waste of your energy. It's normal for you to feel stressed, but once you're over the initial shock, don't panic. Getting control of your personal finances is a must during unemployment. It is a time for you to get a handle on the situation--to take charge.
What you need to do at this time is to develop a plan to help you survive this setback until you can find another job.
Establish the Gap
For most people, job loss is going to create a gap between your new income and your expenses. Figuring out the size of the gap should be your first priority.
Make a List of Expenses
Until the list is in black and white many people do not know all they owe. Without the list it will be hard to create a plan to prioritize the use of your finances. Look through your checkbook stubs and your credit card statements to see where your money is going. This list needs to be as thorough as possible. You might divide your monthly expenses into three main groups:
- Fixed Expenses
Examples include: rent/mortgage, savings, car payment, monthly medical bills, alimony/child support, credit cards, etc.
- Variable Expenses
Examples include: groceries, eating out, child care, postage, household/miscellaneous, clothing, basic telephone, etc.
- Periodic Expenses
Examples include: car repair/maintenance, income and property taxes, home repair/maintenance, gifts, etc.
Calculate Your Income
For most of us our income sources are few in number but since each person's situation is different, we have listed a number of potential sources. You should identify these for the entire household and calculate them on a monthly basis: net wages/salary, part-time work, self-employment, unemployment compensation, bonus/overtime/tips, child support/alimony, A.F.D.C., disability compensation, food stamps, pension, Social Security, National Guard/Reserves, other.
Figure the Gap
Subtract your spending from your income. This final figure will tell you whether you are in the hole.
Closing the Gap
All those who still have more income than expenses after completing these three steps can go to the mall. Everyone else might want to consider taking a few more difficult steps.
For most, the obvious places to cut are in our variable expenses such as groceries, eating out, entertainment, recreation and household costs.Go back through the list of monthly variable expenses and set for each the lowest budget for each you feel you can live with. You may find it helpful to change old habits so that it will be harder to spend. Some ideas are outlined below:
- Stop carrying your credit cards.
Pay in cash. If the temptation to use the cards is strong, try this. Fill a one-gallon jug with water. Put all your credit cards in the jug of water. Put the jug in the freezer. Freeze your spending. By the time the ice thaws, you will have time to think about the potential purchase and will not have used the card, but will have the card available in the future when your financial picture improves. This might be a good time to cut back to two or three credit cards.
- Take grocery buying seriously.
Prepare a list of the foods you need. Clip discount coupons from the newspapers. Bring only enough cash to pay for the things on your list. Shop at the supermarket. Stay away from convenience stores--convenience is very expensive. Shop once a week, buy the store brands. Try to stay away from the junk foods and prepared foods.
- Stay away from restaurants.
We spend 16 percent of our income on food. More than a third of that amount is spent in restaurants, snack bars, and fast food joints. It's a lot cheaper to eat at home or bring a homemade lunch.
- Stay away from malls.
Americans visit some kind of mall at least twice a week. It's too easy to spend money on impulse when browsing at a mall. Too many people have the notion that shopping is a form of fun and entertainment. Shopping is not entertainment. Shopping is an expensive and serious form of family business.
- Find cheaper ways to play.
We spend close to 10 percent of income on entertainment--movies, video rentals, cable TV, CD's, hobbies, sports, toys, and other recreation. Put a clamp on it.
- Economize at home.
Turn off the lights and the TV when not in use. Run the dishwasher, clothes washer, and clothes dryer with full loads. Set the house thermostat to 68 degrees in winter. Use fans instead of air conditioners during the summer.
Reprinted by permission from the booklet Surviving A Layoff. Copyrighted, 1995, Dahlstrom & Company, Inc.
Increase Your Income
At least for a short time the following tips might help you raise cash.
- Collect old debts.
Stop and think, does anyone owe you money? Well, now is the time to ask for it.
- Sell your skills.
Do you have a real skill like typing, doing taxes, taking photos, drawing, cake decorating, giving music or dance lessons, tutoring, or just about anything else? If so, put an advertisement in the classified section of the newspaper and cash in on your skills.
- Sell old valuables.
Walk through your home and take an inventory of the valuables you no longer use: baby furniture, kitchen sets, freezer, power tools, photo equipment, musical instruments. Put an advertisement in the newspaper and sell the stuff.
- Clean out the garage.
Have a garage sale. You could earn a bundle selling old junk such as books, hand tools, toys, clothes, dishes, lamps, fans, and other things.
- Sell the luxuries.
Unload the second car, the boat, the mink coat, or any other luxuries that you may have. Pay off the debt and pocket any profits you might have.
Reprinted by permission from the booklet, Surviving A Layoff. Copyrighted, 1995, Dahlstrom & Company, Inc.
Cut your bills
For some, the suggestions above will be enough but for most it will be necessary to see if we can get our bills cut back temporarily. Almost any bill you pay on regularly--utilities, telephone, taxes, rent, auto loans, credit cards, medical bills, day-care, insurance--should be considered for your budget ax.This is the step that for most people would create the biggest savings in their monthly cash needs. It is also the step that most have the hardest time doing or doing right because it involves dealing with creditors. The best approach is to call your lenders before they call you and use one of the following approaches to work out a budget program with them.
- Pro-Rated Payments
If you were paying $600/month for your total debt payments but can now pay only $300/month or one-half (50%), offer to pay 50% of the normal payment for each bill.
- Percentage of Total Debt Payments
If you have $3,000 in total debt and you have four creditors, figure out what percentage each is owed of the total debt. For example, one might be owed $1,500 or 50% of the total. If you can now pay $150/month against your total debt, that one creditor could receive $75/month which is 50% of the total you can pay.
- Interest-only Payments
Payments due on loans and most credit card bills include a portion that goes to pay against the principal and a portion that is an interest payment to your creditor. Some creditors may be willing to accept a payment only of the interest portion, especially for a short period. In most cases this could reduce the monthly payment due to a creditor by 70-90%.
Sometimes, the financial concerns after a job loss can distract you from focusing on your main objective...finding a good job or the training to get one.
How can you concentrate on your interview skills when you are in turmoil about your daily needs? Make sure they are taken care of. Sometimes that will mean you should consider the use of public resources. Why not? When you get back on your feet financially, you will probably pay back in taxes any money or services you use. Anyway, if you access some of the following sources you will be more able to:
- focus on your job search/training
- keep your family healthy and together
- keep yourself health and together
Credit Counseling Services
Be informed of how these agencies may or may not assist you. Make sure you understand all costs involved and how using their services might affect your credit. You should be able to negotiate most payments with your creditors directly.
Missouri Department of Social Services
Apply for any assistance for which you are eligible. After all, while you were working you helped pay for or these services. Some of the programs for which you might be eligible include:
- emergency assistance
- food stamps
- child care assistance
Many other programs offered by the Department may be accessed if your unemployment is prolonged. In addition, agency staff are typically familiar with the network of community resources in your area.
Severe and prolonged stress associated with job loss may seriously affect your physical and mental health. In addition, stress contributes to many types of accidents through human error, fatigue, worry and haste.
Consider professional advice from your family physician, mental health professionals, lay groups, community agencies and clergy if your problems become an emotional burden. These outsiders can help you deal with extreme stress and the physical and emotional trauma that may accompany it.
Many community agencies exist to help you. The Missouri Department of Social Services as well as other social service agencies may be available in your area. Family services, mental health centers, crisis centers, suicide prevention centers, drug crisis centers and emergency hotlines are available at little or no cost to those needing help.
Statewide 24-Hour Crisis Hotlines:
Missouri Department of Mental Health
1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433
Burrell ACI System
Counties: Ballenger, Cape Girardeau, Christian, Dallas, Douglas, Dunklin, Green, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Polk, Reynolds, Ripley, Shannon, Stone, Taney, Texas, Webster, Wright
Missouri Crisis Access Response System (MOCARS) ACI Hotline
Community Care ACI Hotline
Counties: Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Caldwell, Cass, Clay, Clinton, Daviess, DeKalb, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Linn, Livingston, Mercer, Nodaway, Platte, Putnam, Ray, Sullivan, Worth
University Behavioral Health
Counties: Boone, Chariton, Carroll, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau, Morgan, Pettis, Saline, Randolph
Ozarks ACI Hotline
Counties: Barton, Jasper, McDonald, Newton, Vernon
Behavioral Health Response ACI Hotline
Counties: Franklin, Jeffferson, Lincoln, St. Charles, St. Louis, Warren
Arthur Center ACI Hotline
Counties: Audrain, Callaway, Monroe, Montgomery, Pike, Ralls
PATHWAYS - Family Mental Health ACI Hotline
Counties: Barry, Bates, Camden, Cedar, Cole, Crawford, Dade, Dent, Gasconade, Laclede, Lawrence, Maries, Miller, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski
Counties: Barry, Dade, Lawrence