Four Ways to Protect Your Emotional Health When Facing Unemployment

200238403-001Are you or someone you know struggling with unemployment? You aren’t alone. During the past year, the unemployment rate throughout central Illinois, including Springfield, Decatur and Peoria, has increased.

Losing a job can lead to challenging times for many people. The loss of an income is significant, but unemployment can also cause stress, which can bring about emotional and physical problems.

 “Unemployment can cause a sudden shift in roles within a family, and that can have a negative impact on someone psychologically,” said Trish Fehr, a licensed clinical professional counselor with Memorial Counseling Associates. “When someone who saw themselves as an employee and wage earner suddenly finds themselves standing in the unemployment line, it’s common for a grief process to begin because of the loss of employment status and their loss of status within their family and society.”

The stress of unemployment can lead to thoughts of hopelessness and feelings of anxiety and failure. When under stress, many people experience sleep problems and depression. Just like with other major life changes, it is imperative that individuals take care of their mental and physical health when they are unemployed.

Fehr provided these tips to help people who are unemployed remain optimistic and mentally healthy:

  • Seek support: Make sure your family and friends help you stay solution-focused, rather than allow you to get down on yourself. Do not isolate yourself from social interaction.It is always nice to know we are not alone and have an advocate in our corner,” Fehr said. “If stress becomes too much or you find yourself depressed for more than two weeks, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional.”
  • Take on new responsibilities at home: Having tasks to complete will give a sense of purpose and allows someone to know they are contributing. “They may discover a new affinity for cooking or organizing that had eluded them when their 9 to 5 duties demanded more of their time,” Fehr said.
  • Enhance yourself: Find out about opportunities to further your education or skills. “Learning can help someone see a situation like unemployment as an opportunity rather than the end of something,” Fehr said.
  • Don’t forget about self-care: Take a daily multivitamin and make physical exercise a priority most days of the week. Eat a healthy diet and limit your intake of caffeine and sugars.

Even though it will be difficult at times, Fehr encourages people who are unemployed to focus on the positive as much as possible.

“When you become unemployed, you realize there are many hours in a day that used to be dictated by an employer but are now open for self fulfillment. Take some of that time to job search, but also seek opportunities to not think about being unemployed — consider volunteering,” Fehr said. “When you become involved with an organization, you will experience the feeling of being appreciated and that can definitely make a difference on a person’s mental health.”