If there’s one thing I know to be certain, it’s that change is inevitable. Everything could be going great, and in an instant, life as we knew it comes to a screeching halt. While this post is specifically about job loss, these lessons can be applied to any unwelcome change, like an economic downturn, breakup, or life-threatening illness.
This article was initially published in August of 2016 when everything was going great. The US unemployment rate was around five percent. And other than the talk of Brexit and a presidential election, it was a pretty normal year. Now four years later, we’re living through something most of us never imagined.
For many of us, it seemed to happen overnight. Everything was going fine. We were enjoying the fruits of a strong economy and making plans for the future. And then life as we know it came to a standstill with a global health crisis. In a matter of weeks, record low unemployment rates shot up to double digits and left many Americans wondering how they’d get through this.
From where we’re standing today, things look dire. But I feel confident that we’ll get through this. A decade from now, many will have forgotten the intense emotions of uncertainty and financial struggle. But others will use this as an opportunity to emerge stronger on the other side. What I’m going to share below is for those of you committed to the latter.
In recent weeks, I’ve been writing a lot about how we’re going to get through the financial side of this pandemic. I touted the benefits of doing a no spend month. I shared in-depth resources about living on one income. And I also wrote about eating well on a tight budget. Today I want to talk about dealing with job loss.
The experience of losing a job isn’t simply about the job and the loss of income. For many of us, it’s our identity. It’s what we’ve done five days a week, 48 weeks a year for five, 10, 20 years or more. Think about it. When you’re mingling at a party, what’s the most common question people ask you? It’s, “what do you do?”
Our jobs provide us with a sense of meaning and purpose. It’s our social outlet and where many of us make friends. And it’s the place where we feel a part of something bigger. So for most of us, it’s a loss that’s more than income. It should be no surprise that losing a job is the start of a grieving process.
As painful as they can be, these challenging moments are also a great opportunity for growth. In 2013, my friend John experienced this first hand when he was laid off. In this post, he shares how he and his wife went from not knowing how they would cover their monthly expenses to being able to thrive on one income. Although it seems dark while you’re in the middle of the storm, never lose hope that there will be sunny days ahead. You can read John and Lisa’s inspiring story here.
If you found this post because you’re in the middle of a job loss, know that my heart is with you. The same is true of your friends and loved ones. So please don’t forget to reach out when you feel overwhelmed or simply want to scream and cry. Job loss can make you feel like you’re all alone. I promise you that you’re not.
Below you’ll find 10 strategies to help you move through a job loss in a way that will help you come out of the other side better than before. When the fire stops burning and things return to business as usual, it might be tempting to let some of these habits go. But don’t forget that challenging times come and go. Sticking to these habits will put you in a better position to weather the next storm.
10 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR LIFE AFTER JOB LOSS
1 – Acknowledge Your Losses
As I mentioned in the last section, we lose so much more than a job when we experience a job loss. Some of us feel a loss of identity, a sense of purpose, and we miss our friends. Then there are the fears and financial pain that accompany the loss of income and health care. In the early stages, this can be hard to face.
Acknowledge your emotions and give yourself space to grieve. It’s okay to feel sad, hurt, and betrayed. Or maybe you feel relieved, excited, and grateful. Perhaps you feel all of these at the same time and that too is okay. Whatever you’re feeling, feel your feels.
Take the time you need to process your experience but don’t get stuck there. Too many people let one negative outcome become their life story. This is a great time to reach out for help. Talk to a trusted friend, your spouse, or even a therapist. If money is tight, check out this article for tips to find low-cost therapy.
When you start to feel a bit more stable, take some time to make a list of what needs replacing. Your income and benefits are at the top of the list. But don’t neglect to assess your social circle as well as where you find meaning and purpose. Write down everything you can think of that needs to be replaced. You can create a better map of where you’re headed when you know exactly where you’re standing.
Although you’re scared and everything seems uncertain, this might just be your chance to do all of those things you’ve always wanted to do. Job loss happens in all phases of life. Depending on where you are, this might be the right time for a big life change.
Have you always wanted to teach English in Spain? Have you been dreaming about getting your certification to become a golf pro? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to start your own business. Or travel the states in an RV. If there was ever a perfect time to take that leap, this just might be it. Feel free to add these ideas to your list.
2 – Face Your Finances
It’s easy to want to stick our heads in the sand with topics that make us uncomfortable but now is not the time. Set aside time to make a budget and find expenses you can cut. File for unemployment and any other benefits you may be eligible for. Look for bills that can be paused or renegotiated.
Our personal finances are about more than the dollar amount in our bank accounts. Our finances affect our health, relationships and so much more. You can find everything you need to know to take control of your finances in this link.
3 – Create a Plan
Now that you’ve made an assessment of your losses and know where you stand financially, it’s time to create a plan. Set some goals for what you’d like to accomplish over the coming weeks and months. Schedule time in your calendar dedicated to your job search and self-care. Created a detailed plan for how you’d like to structure your day. Don’t forget to include time for exercise, volunteering, and socializing.
4 – Fill Your Cup
Now more than ever, it’s critical to make time for self-care. But first, let’s take a look at what self-care is and is not. When things like the enneagram, keto, and self-care become part of popular culture, they’re easily reduced to memes showing what an Enneagram 1 orders are Starbucks. While I find these just as funny as everyone else, we mustn’t forget to go deeper. Especially when it comes to important things like self-care.
Here’s what I wrote about self-care in a previous post.
A detox bath is nice, but real self-care is getting your sh!t together to a point where you don’t have to drown your real life in bubbles and wine. We need to feel healthy enough that we’re not dependent on coffee to get through the day and bourbon to get through the night. This means setting financial goals that include getting to the point where we don’t panic when our car breaks down or AC goes out. It’s also essential to identify the unhealthy relationships in our lives and begin to set boundaries within them. We must finally commit to personal growth in a way that encourages us to fulfill our potential while enjoying life to the fullest. We owe it to ourselves and our families to build the foundation that allows us to live this life.Holly Scherer
Self-care is spending time with people that make you feel good. It’s taking care of your physical and emotional health. Good self-care means not procrastinating and taking care of the things that need to be taken care of promptly. It means enriching your life through self-initiated learning and consuming positive and uplifting content.
Self-care makes your life better today and in the future. It’s not meant to solely numb your short term problems. Self-care means strong daily habits and sometimes that includes a bath, wine, and chocolate cake.
Exercise is the cure for whatever ails you. Exercise has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety while increasing energy.
You finally have more flexibility in your schedule. Use it to get outside and hike, run, swim, or bike. It might not be fun at first, but a few short months from now, it will change your life.
The inclination in our culture is to turn to food when we’re feeling down. Watch any sitcom and I guarantee that when the main character gets dumped, she’s going to cry over a quart of ice cream. (Can we stop using this stereotype already?)
There’s more and more research that shows that you feel better, both physically and emotionally, when you eat better. Check out this post to learn more about eating well, especially when budgets are tight.
Feed Your Mind
Just like diet and exercise, how you fuel your mind determines what you get back. Sit and watch daytime television and your life might start to look like the midday drama.
Fill your mind with positive content instead. Listen to podcasts while cleaning. Spend your evenings reading good books. Or take this opportunity to learn a new skill. Whatever seeds you plant in your mind are the ones that will grow once this challenging time is over.
Everything will work out. It always does. Try to think of the last time you didn’t have what you needed.
Faith is like a muscle that gets stronger with practice. It’s letting go of what we thought we wanted to allow space for what we truly need. Faith is my personal belief that the worst is behind me. It might not seem like it now, but years from now you’ll be in a much better place.
5 – Love Yourself
As I wrote in the beginning, this is going to be a sensitive time for you. Job loss is a grieving process for many so you’re likely to feel all the feels. Be extra gentle with yourself during this time. Meditate, get outside, and find other ways to practice self-love. And don’t forget the healing power of therapy. You can find other resources to nurture self-love in this post.
6 – Be Grateful
In good times and bad, the first thing I’ve done every day for the last eight years is to list everything I’m grateful for. It’s changed my health, my perspective, my relationships, and my future. Grab a notebook and start your own gratitude journal today.
7 – Reach Out
I heard a saying once and I believe that if we all lived our lives by this mantra, we’d live in a very different world.
Make friends, not contacts.
Make it a point to connect with someone outside your home daily. Text, call, or grab a coffee. And let go of the idea that it’s all about networking. People help their friends and people they like, not the people they’ve “networked” with. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be proactive with your job search. Get the word out immediately. All while making friends, not contacts.
8 – Generosity Wins
Money might be tight right now but I bet you have a little extra free time. Get out and volunteer. Volunteering will replace many of the things you lost with your job like social interaction and your sense of value. Plus, you’ll be out making friends and getting closer to your next opportunity. Everyone feels better when they give.
9 – Own Your Story
You are the author of your own story. And the story that you tell about yourself becomes your reality. It’s not about lying to ourselves or others and living a life of delusion. It’s about changing your perspective and reframing negative beliefs.
Job loss can feel extremely negative. It’s typically accompanied by painful stories like my boss was a jerk, my coworkers were crazy, and nobody understood me. And while all of this may be true, if you keep repeating this narrative, it will eventually rob you of your power.
You can choose to write a more positive story that sounds like this—that wasn’t the best fit for where I am in my life right now. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to start fresh with something that better aligns with my dreams and values. I learned a lot from being in that situation and I can use what I learned to help others in my next adventure.
10 – Prepare for the Next Storm
When everything works out, just as it always does, it’s time to think about how you can prepare for the next storm. It’s not a matter of if there will be another storm, but when.
It’s so much easier to survive an unwanted change when you’re not worried about finances. I suggest having three to six months’ worth of living expenses on hand at all times. You can learn more about emergency funds in this post.
If money is tight, don’t worry. You can start small. First, save $100. Then build up and months’ worth of expenses, then three, and maybe more. It may take months or years to get there, but you’ll be grateful when you do. You can read about all the ways financial freedom will improve your life in this post.
This is also a great time to think about what you learned from this experience. Is it possible that your behavior helped create the situation? How can you learn and grow from the way things went down? There are surely some powerful lessons to be found.
Job loss is no doubt one of the scariest experiences of our adult lives. But like so many who have gone before you, I know that it’s possible to come out the other side better and stronger.