Surviving unemployment might seem a bit melodramatic of a title, but bear with me: unemployment is only fun is you know that there is an end to it. Otherwise, unemployment is a highly stressful time: it is only “FUNemployment” if there is an elective aspect of it. How did I survive unemployment with some semblance of sanity?
Linking up with Amanda to Think Out Loud!
Surviving Unemployment : How to Stay Sane and Productive
The first week of unemployment is fine: you feel like you are on vacation, you still have the momentum of being in the workforce to keep you going, and you just kind of revel in the fact that you can make your own lunch, watch TV (SO MUCH NETFLIX), workout whenever, and never change out of your pj’s, if you so please.
But then, the shoe drops. And you realize that there are only so many hours that you can devote to Deep Couch City (love that kiddo in the Swiffer Commercial). Everyone else is working, so they aren’t necessarily available, and you are on a budget, so, no, shopping or going to expensive group fitness classes isn’t the best course of action. Nor is going out to lunch everyday, going to the movies, going to museums… all of the things that you finally have time for. And, well, it is more fun to do those things with someone else, most of the time.
How do you fill the hours? How do you stay mentally engaged?
Decide the Course of Your Future
First and foremost, you search for jobs, write and revise your resumes and cover letters, and question the course of your work, past, present, and future. Now is your chance to strike out and claim your dream job, but a) what is that dream job? b) are you even “qualified”? c) if not, how do you get someone to take a chance on you? d) WHERE DO YOU EVEN START.
Basically, you balance the busy work of filling out job applications with the mental crisis of not even knowing what jobs to apply for. That means applying for everything from working at a Doggy Day Care to being the brand manager for a start up. You apply to seemingly safe options and reach pipe-dreams. Some you hear from immediately, others never. You hear from the reach options and not from the safeties (I’m still waiting to hear from the doggy day care).
You vacillate between hope and THIS WILL NEVER WORK. It is lovely, really it is.
But you must go through it. This is part of surviving unemployment: getting out of it, and figuring out who you are in the process. Or, at the very least, questioning and discovering who you have been and who you want to be.
Establish Some Sort of Routine
Those of us who need help surviving unemployment are likely those that have trouble on some level with a lack of routine. It is highly likely that we were previously in a situation that had a degree of normalcy, and unemployment completely upsets that equilibrium and expectation of long term stability. Each day is open, but each day also has requirements; you are still programmed to work on some level, but you also have some desire to revolt against the routine that you have just left.
My advice? Even if it is loose, establish parameters and some sense of routine, for the day: pick a time to wake up, workout, a general lunch and dinner plan, and designated time to relax. This designated relaxation time will come into play in a minute, but if you go free for all every day for a long time, think about what happens when you have to go back to a routine.
But Open Yourself Up to Spontaneity and Change Location. Frequently.
Unemployment is restrictive but also freeing: if you want to go for a walk in 37 minutes, you go, glen coco. You aren’t chained to that desk. Take advantage of opportunities for growth that wouldn’t otherwise be open for you.
As lovely as your home is, GET OUT OF IT. Put on real clothes, put on some make up, and leave the house. I had a rotation of coffee houses that I liked to go to, some close by, others a decent walk. Get fresh air in those lungs, movement in those legs, and a destination (even if it changes) in your mind.
Embark on New Pursuits
There are two versions of new pursuits: pursuits that will also enhance your career or knowledge, and vanity projects. I say that you need a mix of both. I took on or considered a number of new projects that would be productive for my career pursuits (such as Running Coaches Corner, the new link up for runners and coaches on Thursdays), working with new clients, and a few others that are still in development. And then I had a few vanity projects in the works, fun little things that were just for me.
Reach out. Don’t Let Connections Fizzle
You are unemployed. You aren’t dead, or a leper. If nothing else, engage in social activities so that you don’t revert to being a Neanderthal, not to mention so that you can network and stay engaged in the world and healthy.
You may not be ill, but you do need a support system. Reach out, talk about your frustrations. They are your friends and loved ones for a reason. You never know: maybe they can help in a new way.
Find a Way to Feel Productive Every Day
My biggest suggestion for surviving unemployment? Find a way to fee productive every single day. Because the inertia of being at a complete stop is like a heavy undertow: it just drags you down and down. Designate those times to relax because you deserve to relax and Netflix it up, but find something every day that you feel accomplished about, and tick one thing off your to-do list every day. And no, a complete season doesn’t count as that victory.
If you succumb to nothing but naps and TV and aimlessness, you will get too comfortable, to adept at accepting and dealing with those feelings. Inertia is very very powerful.
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I have now been through several cycles of unemployment in my life. What about you?
If you have been unemployed, what was your experience? What did you struggle with?