Dr Ruth D’Souza
One of the painful fallouts of Covid-19 has been the economic downturn with many businesses struggling to survive. The result is manifested in downsizing or laying off people, due to closure of businesses and entire industries like travel and hospitality. Others have seen project work dry up and full calendars go empty because clients are focusing on survival. Whether you have been downsized, furloughed, laid off or seen contract work disappear, it is a highly stressful experience. Our work gives us meaning and are often an important aspect of our identity, providing our days structure and purpose. Job losses cause financial anguish but they also take a toll on our mental and emotional health.
Coping with the feelings
Job losses may lead you to experience a variety of difficult emotions and troubling thoughts.
These may include feelings of being angry and afraid, unappreciated, a loss of identity and purpose, a sense of being lost without a direction and anxiety about taking care of your family’s basic needs. They may manifest as anxiety, frustration, inability to sleep, increased/binge eating, panic attacks, mood swings, fear and depression. While a job is an important aspect of our lives, it is NOT our identity – we are so much more than our jobs. Our job is what we do for a living, it is NOT our life.
Here are a few things you can do to cope in this difficult time.
- Allow yourself to grieve for your present situation, remember it is not your future:
Grief is very natural and losing a job is a personal loss especially when it may be difficult to find another one for a while due to the pandemic. The key to dealing with grief is to accept and acknowledge our feelings. We may experience grief in the classic stages- denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance. Among other losses, you may grieve activities at your job that brought meaning and purpose to your life. You may grieve career accomplishments you feel proud of, feeling a sense of belonging and identity, a loss of relationships with co-workers and structure to your day. Remind yourself that this is not personal- it is not an assessment of your worth. Companies all over the world are trying to respond to the pandemic and your job loss may be a fallout of that. However this pandemic will pass and you will find a new job in the future. While this phase may be difficult, remember it is just a phase – a temporary setback in your life.
- Don’t obsess over what you can’t control, focus on what you can control:
We often think obsessively about what we cannot control and the pandemic is certainly one thing that we cannot control. Obsessing over it will only serve to depress and demoralise us. Rather let us focus on what we can do, what we can control. Some immediate areas include our time, our money, our emotional health and our spiritual health. Even though you have no job to go to, it gives us a sense of control to structure the day. Develop a routine to wake up, exercise, sleep, study, connect, do household chores and spend time with your family.
Another priority will definitely be finances and unless we plan our finances we will have sleepless nights. Focus on your budgets, how you can cut expenses and plan your finances. Learn to live in the present. Forget about the long term for the moment. Set short term goals which are 3 months to 6 months’ time frame.
- Practice Self Care:
Eating healthy, exercising and practicing mindfulness will help to ease the stress. Often anxiety causes us to make poor food choices leading to ‘lockdown weight gain’. This is a time when we can improve our health because we are eating home cooked food, have complete control on our diets and have the time to cook. Poor choices like stimulants – caffeine, alcohol and nicotine- will have an adverse effect.
Self-care also includes exercise. Fitness is key to improving ones immunity and developing a feeling of wellness. Within the constraints find some time for exercise. YouTube has plenty of videos from walking in one place to breathing to exercising at home.
Emotional and spiritual health is equally important. Focus on dealing with your negative thoughts and emotions. Develop a spiritual routine of prayer, Bible study or online prayer services to keep your mind stable.
Sleeping well is critical to how our body repairs itself. Try to have a routine for sleeping and waking up. Get at least 8 hours sleep.
- Build your skills
This is a perfect time to build your skills. There are plenty of courses available online which can help you improve your skills and add to your CV when you resume your job search. The world will change in many ways post pandemic and so will the ways we do business. Keep updated on the expected changes and upgrade your skills to enable you to get a head start. If your industry is facing a downturn, figure out what you are good at and which other industries can use your skills. Explore the newer areas in your field, attend webinars and seminars, reskill and upskill.
- Keep your CV current
Writing a resume is a skill. Recruiters complain that it is difficult to call people for an interview because they are unable to present their skills on a CV so that they stand out in competition. Update your CV to reflect your upgraded skills. Try to look at it from a recruiters point of view. In case you need help, ask a friend or mentor or use a resume building service to develop a sharp resume. Post it on relevant websites and send it to your contacts/ networks. Connect with your network regularly so that they keep you top of mind if something comes up in their organisation or someone asks them for a referral. Ask your network’s help to make connections. Update your social media especially your linked in profile to reflect a current photograph, current skills and interests.
- Use the time for hobbies and relationships
Spend time on your hobbies- perhaps you never had time for them till now. Connect with friends and family using the fantastic video conferencing technology available. Spend time with your immediate family – plan fun things to do together like baking or cooking or movies or games.
Talk to your friends about your struggles. Share your feelings. The other person does not have to offer solutions, he or she just has to be a good listener who will listen without passing judgment. You may want to resist asking for support out of pride but opening up won’t make you a burden to others. In fact, most people will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them and it will only strengthen your relationship.
- Talk to a professional if you’re struggling – If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, or you’re having difficulty functioning, contact a mental health professional. Talk therapy or medication may help you feel better. The website of the social apostolate has useful resources and free counselling service numbers listed on the archdiocese of Bombay app and website (www.socialapostolate.archdioceseofbombay.org)
In conclusion, remember that God is in control and that He loves us. He is in control of this pandemic too. As we go through our trials, let us grow in our trust in Him.
This article was first published in the Examiner issue Vol 64 no 20 dated July 11-17 2020