How to mentally bounce back after losing your job
Like all eventful moments in life, you just never know how you’ll react to being laid off until it happens to you.
I had always considered myself fairly resilient until I was made redundant at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Like so many others, I witnessed the breakdown of an entire organisation overnight and felt every emotion experienced by everyone involved as we navigated the next steps confined to our homes. While I was fortunate enough to still have my husband working to support our family financially, nothing could have prepared me for the long downward spiral of depression that followed.
Despite my best efforts to ignore thoughts of it being a reflection of my work, my family watched the slow deterioration of my confidence and self-esteem as I lost my routine, identity and purpose. I’d worked hard to build my career again after having children, and this was the first ‘back in the office’ position I had had in a decade, and I loved it. So for me personally, it wasn’t so much the financial worry that was getting the better of me, but the defeated attitude and limiting beliefs around starting over and the ‘what if’ of rejection if I tried again. The exact opposite of my normal positive approach to anything I put my mind to! I was unrecognisable in demeanour, even to myself.
Admittedly there were extreme external circumstances adding to the pressure during this period living in Melbourne (hats off to anyone that continued homeschooling by choice after school went back!) but as I’ve come to learn over the last few years, depression and the deterioration of our mental health can happen at any time and to anyone.
Mental health affects how we think, feel and act. It also affects our everyday life, such as work, relationships and study. So looking after our social and emotional well-being is just as important as keeping our bodies healthy. When we’re feeling emotionally healthy we can be fully present with our family, friends and community, as well as become more aware of when we may be coming undone.
Based on my experience and countless conversations with others who have also been there (with and without the addition of lockdowns and homeschooling) here are some tips that may be helpful for keeping your mental health in check or bouncing back from a stressful situation like the loss of a job:
- Allow yourself time to grieve: Losing a job can be similar to losing a loved one, and it is important to give yourself time to grieve and process your emotions. Allow yourself to feel sad, angry, or whatever emotions come up for you.
- Create a routine: When you lose your job, you may feel a loss of structure and purpose. Creating a daily routine can help provide a sense of normalcy and keep you focused on your goals.
- Stay active: Exercise can help boost your mood and reduce stress. Even if you don’t have access to a gym, try going for a walk or doing some at-home workouts.
- Get creative. Find a hobby or pick up an old one to find joy, relax and keep you busy.
- Connect with others: Social support is important during difficult times. Reach out to friends and family members, join support groups or professional networks, and seek out career counselling or coaching. Seeking professional support from your GP, psychologist or counsellor is also important.
- Get out in nature: Research shows countless benefits from spending time in nature such as improving your mood and reducing feelings of stress and anger. A change of scenery from your loungeroom is also a good idea!
- Keep a positive attitude: It’s important to stay optimistic and don’t let the loss define you or your worth. Focus on your strengths, stay motivated, and take steps towards creating new opportunities to ensure momentum.
- Stop scrolling: Limit your social and mainstream media consumption to avoid negative news or worse still, FOMO.
- Sleep and eat well: A well-rested mind and body is like pressing a restart button.
- Cut back on alcohol: Not only does it heighten your emotions, but it also limits your ability to think clearly and will disrupt your sleep.
The great news too is the job market is still strong, despite news of high-profile layoffs. Gaps on your resume are no longer viewed with question marks, and employers are looking for strengths just like yours that show resilience, adaptation, perseverance and personal growth during periods of change. So be sure to reflect on how these skills can be transferable to a new position and what you can bring to an organisation when applying for new roles.
My personal journey with depression is not one of resentment or blame. Instead, it’s one of awareness. I have always looked after myself in the sense of what I eat and exercise regularly, and I also considered myself mentally tough – so I had never given my social and emotional well-being another thought. But looking back now I recognise I was on the brink of burnout, almost as if I was a ticking bomb that would have gone off even if the pandemic and layoff hadn’t happened. It was just a matter of time. So these days, mental health maintenance as I like to call it is a priority, and learning how to support others has become just as important. I now have a fantastic job here at Working Parents Connect too!
It goes without saying that experiencing a layoff can be a difficult and stressful time regardless of your situation, and not just for those directly affected. Colleagues are left with the anxiety of wondering if they’re next, and families worry for their loved ones on top of financial stress. So it’s important that we equip ourselves with practices to maintain mental well-being, as well as recognise how to support others to avoid stigma and creating cultures of fear and uncertainty in the workplace.