“When you lose something, don’t think of it as a loss. Accept it as the gift that gets you on the path you were meant to travel on.” - Unknown.
Working as human resources professionals, we have collectively found ourselves at one point or another in the unenviable position of repeating this phrase to many employees; “We are going to have to let you go”. Some of it has been bittersweet, most very bitter, yet all very difficult. For the most part, every job represents a source of income, a social connection, and a means of livelihood. As such, when people are let go, it is often met with high emotion and anxiety. We have known individuals who lost their jobs and successfully moved on quickly and quietly to resume their normal lives. We have also known others who could not even bring themselves to accept the news let alone relay it back to close family and friends. I once worked with a man who when he was made redundant told no one for up to six (6) months. Every day, this gentleman would dress up and leave home, find somewhere to spend the day, and then return home after 5 pm.
This behaviour may seem extreme to some, but it is something we completely understand and recognise. You see, he was grieving! When it comes to losing a job, the impact or lack thereof can often be narrowed down to a few key considerations; do you have another opportunity in the pipeline? Did you want to quit anyway? How financially solvent are you? Among others. In voluntary cases where employees are the ones tendering their resignation, the effects are often minimal to non-existent, and in some cases – we have seen emotions of relief. Conversely, when organisations are forced to terminate employees due to budget cuts, business relocation, restructuring, or bankruptcy, then there is a higher probability that the affected employees may suffer some level of emotional trauma. Globally, job loss is a well-recognised risk factor for mental health challenges among many professionals, and recovering from this trauma requires a lot of effort and dedication. In this article, we will share three (3) tips to overcoming job loss depression.
1. Dealing with the impact
When dealing with job loss depression, we recognise that the impact of the loss is not felt by you alone but by everyone with whom you are connected. Job loss threatens many key aspects of your quality of life: managing health care expenses, the cost of education, or even paying rent or mortgage. This can compound stress-levels and negatively impact self-esteem.
One of the ways to prevent job loss depression is to first allow yourself to experience all the range of emotions as they happen; such as anger, sadness, anxiety among several others surrounding your job loss. Losing your job can lead to many different feelings. Depending on your financial stability, you may suddenly have to worry about how to support yourself and your family, and more importantly, how soon you may find another position that matches your skills and capabilities. These thoughts can cause you to lose sleep and so coming to terms with them is an important step toward improving your mental health. Trying not to be self-critical is very helpful — questioning whether something you said or did could have cost you your job. Instead, it is important to remember there are many factors that may have led to your job loss and may likely have nothing to do with you personally.
2. Stay connected
Another way to prevent depression after job loss is to stay connected with others. If you have recently lost your job, then it’s important to stay connected with others now more than ever. You can do this by reaching out to your support networks such as family and friends or former work colleagues. Speaking to someone you trust and feel you can confide in can go a long way toward helping you cope better. This is more so important because your support network can help you think through your situation from a different perspective, or even serve as a convenient distraction. A sense of social connection is a basic human need that impacts not only our mental health but physical health also. Research shows that people who feel more connected to others have lower rates of depression and anxiety. They also have higher self-esteem. Consider reconnecting with friends you haven’t seen in a while, and reignite these relationships. Make plans for a night out on the town, schedule up a zoom with your girlfriends (it's free), or text your loved ones so you can absorb the emotional nourishment you need.
3. Get out there
In addition to the above, it is crucial for you to involve yourself in activities that are meaningful, important, and valuable to you during this time. As you look forward to future opportunities, I recommend that you keep yourself active by learning and building employable skills that will increase the likelihood of landing your dream. First, consider your strengths, abilities, and skills, then make a list of other relevant skills that you would like to develop. Consider developing transferable skills such as; effective communication, agility, and flexibility among other power skills that are needed at every job. Keeping yourself busy in this way can also boost your mental health. Alternatively, you can choose to explore a new hobby or focus on your physical health by taking up an exercise regimen, and while at it, consider how you can incorporate these various benefits into your next job.
Job loss can happen at any time in anyone’s career. By law, employers have a duty to their employees to have clear policies on termination. Employers must therefore take the appropriate steps to ensure that there is communication and engagement between employees exiting the workplace. Providing them with outplacement services to help them with the transition to a new job, together with employee assistance programmes like counseling could go a long way in helping existing employees deal with and overcome depression.