Job Loss and Emotional Distress
One way to visualize emotional equilibrium – that much sought-after sense of “balance” – is as a literal scale or balance. The weight on one side is made up of two factors: your individual vulnerability to distress, and the stressors presently in your life. The counterbalance is made up of your coping skills, and the quantity and quality of support you have or can access.
Individual vulnerability to distress is largely a measure of temperament; whether you are easy-going and handle change or uncertainty without much worry, or whether you have a more anxious or ruminating temperament and have a hard time bouncing back from upsetting events. By adulthood, our ‘vulnerability to distress’ weight is mostly set and doesn’t tend to fluctuate too widely. By contrast, the ‘stressor’ weight can vary broadly depending on events in our lives. For many of us, job loss is one of the weightiest of these events.
So what can you do when the stress of job loss has caused your emotional balance to tip into distress? You can start by identifying any aspects of this daunting stressor that you have the ability to eliminate or minimize. For example, is there information you need to acquire, are there resources it would help you to access, do you need to seek out legal advice, would it help to speak to yourself about the situation in a different way (i.e. not dwell on things that are out of your control but instead focus on the things you do have the power to change) etc.
You can also restore balance by increasing the weight of your support and coping skills variables.
To increase your level of support you can:
Reach out to friends, family, your community
Use available community and networking resources
Spend time with people who are confident in you and your future
Talk to those who have constructive ideas and advice
Seek help from a mental health professional if distress and sadness turn to deeper anxiety, depression, or despair
To maximize your use of coping skills:
Eat, sleep, breathe, move; be mindful of basic self-care in your nutrition, exercise and relaxation practices
Give yourself time to adjust. It’s normal to feel a variety of emotions and to need time to digest what has happened
Keep an appropriate level of busy-ness in your life. Build some structure and routine into every day, but also allow down time for processing and self-care
Practice problem-solving and assertive communication
Stay in the now; anxiety is always about the future – what do you need to do in this moment to take care of yourself?
Leaving a job – even a dreaded one – is an unsettling experience. Give yourself some time to re-settle, and decide what it is you want to settle in to.