This document covers
the emotional/stress side of dealing with job loss. I extracted
heavily from a document I found on the National Veterans Training
I spoke with Cheryl Swears, publication manager (800) 451-5759
and received permission to use this material. Excerpted from Chapter
3 Coping with Unemployment.
Section 3.4 and 3.5
in the write up covers in particular, the section on emotion/stress.
I mentioned one specific counseling service and could use a few
more suggestions to provide some choices. If you can recommend
any, please let me know.
Chapter 3 Coping with Unemployment
Excerpted with permission
from The National Veterans' Training Institute, www.nvti.cudenver.edu
affects individuals both emotionally and financially. Typically,
the reduction of income is the first noticeable change in the household.
As the period of unemployment lengthens, the emotional impact and
the resulting stress become a greater burden. Together these factors
can damage an otherwise stable family environment or personal relationships.
Understanding and taking action to control the negative effects
of unemployment are the focus of this section.
action will require adequate planning if you are to be
successful. This planning should be based on a thorough investigation
and self-evaluation. It should be done along with those persons
having the greatest knowledge of your situation or those who will
be most affected by these decisions. Much of the planning and
decision-making, however, must be done by yourself. Be sure to
take enough time to think and collect information. Find a quiet
place where you will not be disturbed by others.
Plan a budget
soon as you become aware of a layoff or termination, you should
quickly face the financial realities of your job loss. Your income
will be lower. By developing budgetary plans early, you can forestall
or avoid completely, more severe spending reductions later. Once
your spending plans are in place, you will be free to concentrate
on your job search activities. Furthermore, taking these actions
tend to reduce anxiety and stress.
preparing a budget, the following items must be considered:
Cash on hand
Monthly living expenses
Sources of income
Job search expenses
are of two types -- fixed and discretionary. There are certain
fixed monthly living expenses that must be paid. These include
mortgage or rent payments, utilities and property taxes. Discretionary
expenses include entertainment and clothing. But some expenses
such as transportation and food fall into both categories. Reduce
or eliminate discretionary expenses at the first sign of your
job loss. Above all, do not take on any new debts unless absolutely
Plan daily accomplishments
the structure of the work environment is removed, it is all too
easy to "fritter" away your time. By planning daily goals into
your schedule, you are less likely to harm your self-esteem. You
should prepare goal lists both daily and weekly. As you complete
each task, you should check it off your list. Such routines organize
your days and make you aware of your accomplishments.
Understanding typical reactions to job loss
our jobs provide us with money and thereby a particular standard
of living, they also make us feel productive and useful -- to
ourselves, our families, and society. Our jobs give us a sense
of belonging and contributing to a group -- whether it be our
work unit, company, or our union. Frequently, when we are asked
about who we are, we describe ourselves in terms of our work (i.e.,
"I am an engineer"). Thus, our identities and self-respect are
dependent on our jobs to a great extent. The sudden loss of employment
causes disruptions in our lives, reorders our priorities (both
personal and financial), and damages our self-esteem. Many people
are not adequately prepared to handle the stress of unemployment.
They are unable to deal with the emotional strain upon family
relationships, friendships, or the anxiety of possibly relocating
to a new area.
all major changes in our lives, the fear of the "unknown" is a
substantial hurdle in coping with unemployment. When we lose our
job, we may experience a loss similar to a death of a close friend
or relative. And although the degree of emotional loss may be
less, most of us will experience a similar grieving process. The
Continuum Center of Oakland University has identified the typical
stages of grief following job loss. Read through the descriptions
below. If you find you are "stuck" in one stage, you may want
to talk to someone, perhaps even a professional counselor, about
1. Happiness or shock and denial
people at first feel wonderful -- happy at having a "vacation"
or relief that the waiting is over. For most of us there is a
numbness. We don't believe that we really have lost our job, we
hope for a recall when that is very unlikely. We don't act, because
we do not really accept our loss.
2. Emotional release
need to vent our feelings of anger, sadness, frustration, jealousy,
etc. Holding in feelings may lead to physical symptoms or may
delay moving on to action.
3. Depression and physical distress
feel lost and helpless. We doubt our abilities. We may feel hopelessness.
We show physical signs of stress like sleeplessness, loss of appetite
or back and stomach problems.
4. Panic and guilt
have trouble thinking clearly and cannot plan effectively. We
feel responsible for the layoff even though we had no control
over it. We keep thinking, "if only." We try to do everything
at once, and do nothing efficiently.
5. Anger and hostility
is an important part of the recovery process. Anger can be positive,
but we feel angry at those around us. We need to learn to use
these strong feelings to give us the energy to make plans and
move on to the next stage.
6. Renewed hope and rebuilding
begin to plan for our new life without the old job. We are able
to take constructive action toward obtaining new work.
let go of our anger and false hopes. We feel in control of our
lives again. The loss is still part of us but does not dictate
Dealing with stress/ Professional Counseling
is the body's response to demands made upon it. Change is a primary
cause of stress. Unemployment forces many changes upon our established
routines, spending patterns, and aspirations. Not only is our
source of income gone, but so is our daily structure, the social
interaction of the job, and most importantly, our sense of purpose.
And as time goes on, our self-esteem and sense of value are diminished.
But keep in mind that although we may be feeling disorganized
or not in control, there are many things we can do to relieve
our anxiety and diffuse stress.
with others is a key element in reducing stress. Isolation can
block our progress to becoming re-employed. Continued social isolation
may lead to depression. Any problem is easier to handle if we
share it with someone who is concerned. Our problems can be put
into perspective when we know people care about us. But they cannot
provide help and understanding if they are unaware of our feelings
is not easy to ask for help when you are "down" but often this
is the time when you need help most. If friends or relatives are
unavailable to you, then you should seek out others who are, such
as: previous co-workers, clergy, or neighbors. If serious problems
arise, professional counseling should be considered. Your doctor
or clergy at you church may be able to recommend counseling services
in the area. The following services may be of help as well:
Assabet Valley Pastoral
8 Church Street
David Russo Director
is an effective way to work off tension. Some form of daily exercise
is essential to your physical and emotional well-being, whether
you choose walking, hiking, aerobics, or running. Team or group
sports like softball or bowling provide both exercise and social
interaction. When confronted with budget considerations, be sure
not to shortchange yourself where sensible, low-cost recreation
is concerned. In the long run it is money well spent. Exercise
and healthy competition combined with the attainment of personal
physical goals can bolster your bruised self-esteem and enhance
your sense of accomplishment. They will leave you renewed and
refreshed to face your daily challenges.
others is another means of raising your self-esteem.
This can be done in many different ways. Some people use this
period of unemployment to establish close relationships with family
members. One study suggests that although increased stress is
created by job loss, in cases where this stress is handled successfully,
there may actually be improved communication between family members.
Sometimes you are able to acquire a greater understanding of your
family members' abilities and contributions. This may be a time
when family activities can be planned and shared together -- whether
it is a household project or a short trip.
activities can be rewarding and worthwhile. Occasionally,
volunteer work leads to paid employment, although this shouldn't
be the primary reason for volunteering. You may be able to upgrade
certain job related skills through volunteer experience. Before
deciding on a volunteer activity you should consider many factors.
The following questions will give you a starting point:
How much of your time is needed -- daily, weekly, monthly? Remember
your greatest effort must be used to seek employment.
there related costs and can you afford them?
this activity be continued after you are re-employed? Is it
a short- or long-term commitment (e.g., a season, a semester)?
Perhaps most importantly -- Will this volunteer activity give
you personal satisfaction, enjoyment, new skills, or a sense
you cannot answer yes to the last question, then this type of
volunteer experience may not be in your best interest.