Let’s be honest – losing a job can wipe you out emotionally. That huge wave of sadness, anger, blame, fear, anxiety, and a whole bunch of other unpleasant feelings might be incredibly confusing and difficult to deal with.
If you’re going through a rough patch after losing your job, know that you are not alone. In fact, dismissal from work is often cited as one of the top ten traumatic life experiences, along with divorce and death of your spouse. For example, according to the famous Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale, it is one of the top ten most stressful life events you can experience in your life.
So, in short, losing a job hurts. Here are some guidelines on handling the emotional challenge of the job loss and, eventually, bouncing back from it.
Losing a Job Is Not the Reason to Lose Yourself
How many times did you say something like “I am a [job title]” when asked to tell something about yourself? The deep-rooted western-culture question: “What do you do for a living?” testifies of how significant a job title is for describing a person today. A professional role, for many of us, became an important part of how we see ourselves (and others). It became a part of our identity. For some, work is central for defining their self-image and self-worth. This is known as a “work-role centrality” – when you’re defining yourself mostly through your job role.
Looking from this perspective, losing a job, for some, is not only about losing financial safety but also can mean losing a part of an identity. It’s like losing a part of yourself, as well as direction and meaning. A layoff, therefore, can result in confusion on who you are and how you feel about yourself. Identity problems that emerge after a job loss are upsetting, and it’s important to recognize and address them.
It might be helpful to have one truth in mind:
Your job is what you DO, not who you ARE.
Personal identity is far more complex than your professional role. Yes, you might loved your job and contributed to society in amazing ways through it, but that is only one small part of who you are as a person. There are other parts of who you are as well that you may be overlooking. Your relationships, your core values, skills, passions, interests, they are all a part of your identity. All those traits may have influenced the career path you’ve chosen and the role you’ve taken on your former workplace. When you lose that job, these qualities are not gone with it – they are still yours, a part of who you are.
Feel the Feelings but Also Seek Support
As you can experience a layoff, as previously explained, as a loss, what often naturally follows is a grieving process. You may cycle through a range of different emotions, from anxiety to sadness to anger to vengeance to liberation and back again. It’s uncomfortable and distressing, but it’s normal and even necessary in order for you to process your new situation. Let yourself be sad about all the things that you have lost with your termination. You’re allowed to feel the anger for the unfairness of the circumstances you’re in. Give permission to that unsettling feeling of uncertainty about the future to be with you. Don’t suffocate your emotions because it will eventually only lead to more confusion and stress. Know that this unpleasant mix of emotions is normal and passable, and you’re able to handle it.
In fact, did you know that letting your emotions out on the paper after you lose your job can be healing and stress-reducing? What’s more, it may increase the odds of you finding new employment more quickly!
James Pennebaker, a reputable Texas-based social psychologist, has shown the powerful effect of expressive writing on the well-being and even reemployment of those who lost their jobs. In his research, 63 recently laid-off, unemployed individuals were separated into two groups. The experimental group was asked to write about their feelings and thoughts about the job termination, while the control group avoided the painful topic of their past job and wrote about job-seeking strategies, or did not write at all. The surprising result? 53% of those who wrote about their feelings landed jobs in the next few months compared to 18% of individuals from the control group. They all went through approximately the same number of interviews.
What’s important in this phase is that you don’t go through it alone. Reach out for support from your friends or family, your significant one, your therapist, someone you trust. Be clear about your needs and the type of support you need, and genuinely ask for it. Sharing your struggles with someone lessens the weight of stress and isolation you may be feeling and strengthens the connection with people who care about you.
Time for Self-discovery
It’s possible that you spent most of your time on your job, working for years with little to no rest. Even if you loved your job and enjoyed making an impact through it, maybe some other aspects of your life or other interests got a little neglected. It might be a good time to give yourself some space to rest and gain some clarity. This gap between jobs can serve as a valuable time for you to rediscover your interests and introspect about what you really want your career and your life to look like. It can be also a good opportunity to set priorities, learn from your past mistakes, make a plan and, eventually, when you’re ready, take action. But don’t rush yourself through this process. Give yourself some time to figure out your next step.
And don’t forget to be kind to yourself. It’s okay to pinpoint your past mistakes, but don’t criticize or bury yourself with dwelling on “what if…” and “if only…”. Instead, remember everything you appreciate and like about yourself and what you do well. Keep your strengths in focus, set goals, and gently move forward.
Have you or someone you know ever unexpectedly lost a job? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Also, if you like this post, please share it on your social media – you might help someone going through a hard time of losing their job.
Do you experience stress on a daily basis? Do you often forget important tasks or where you kept things? Are you experiencing stress in your relationships? Do you experience difficulties in regulating your emotions? Are you having trouble losing weight despite having tried all diet and exercise versions? Are you striving to know the real you?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, this article is for you.
In the rush of things today, we often find ourselves multi-tasking. You may be talking to your kids while reading the newspaper, folding your laundry with an eye on the television, or calculating the monthly expenses while talking to your mother on the phone. Amidst all this rush to get everything completed on time, you may be losing out on your connection with the present.
Are you actually aware of what you are doing and how you are feeling? Or do you just go through each day without awareness of what is happening? Did you notice that little puppy wagging its tail at you during your morning walk or the fact that you woke up feeling a bit lightheaded? Or did you rush out of bed owing to the alarm’s buzzer and then went off on your daily routine without a pause to think or feel?
If this is how each of your days looks like, it’s time to turn to mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of consciously focusing your attention on the present and accepting it without being judgmental. Mindfulness nudges you to let go of the past and the future and be aware of only the present moment.
Often enough, we find ourselves lamenting on the past and wishing things could have been different or dreaming about the future. But in doing so, we let go of the present. Mindfulness helps us by slowing down the pace of our thoughts, letting us focus on each thought, in turn; giving us a clear head and helping us relax.
That is all good, you say, but why should I practice mindfulness? What does it have in store for me?
Well, here are 6 basic reasons why integrating mindfulness into your life is helpful.
1. Reduces stress
Know that thing which makes your heart rate rise, makes you sweat profusely, and unable to focus on anything with that unsettling feeling inside of you? Yes, that’s right.
The everyday stress and worry that hounds you all day can be gone with a poof with mindfulness.
Have I got your attention now?
Researchers now prove that mindfulness is associated with a decreased level of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, mindfulness has been seen to increase positive affect and decrease negative affect, as well as anxiety. The research findings suggest that mindfulness brings about a shift in people’s ability to use emotion regulation strategies resulting in their experiencing emotions selectively and processing them differently. Another manner in which mindfulness reduces stress is by helping people with accepting their experiences, including negative emotions, rather than reacting to them in unhealthy ways like avoidance or aversion.
2. Boosts memory
Do you often forget where you kept your car keys or why did you open the refrigerator? Or forget about important deadlines or miss scheduled meetings? This is another problem mindfulness can help you with. We have endless deadlines these days and even with multiple to-do lists, it is difficult to keep track of everything.
Research has found that those who underwent an eight-week mindfulness training had a stable working memory unlike those who did not undergo the training. The memory capacity was also seen to increase with the practice of mindfulness.
3. Improves relationships
If you’re looking to work on your relationship with your spouse, family, or friends, mindfulness can help you do so. Mindfulness equips you with the ability to respond well to relationship stress, enhances your skills in communicating your emotions and protects you against the emotionally stressful effects of relationship conflicts. Research findings support that mindfulness is seen to predict relationship satisfaction.
4. Helps you regulate your emotions
Many clients these days come to me with complaints of being hypersensitive. They say they get emotional easily, and they would like to be stronger and not get upset so quickly. Mindfulness acts as a wonderful antidote to this. It begins by helping you recognize your patterns, like when you ponder on why your ex cheated on you two years ago, or when you find yourself thinking about how you are not climbing the career ladder as fast as your contemporaries. Mindfulness helps you recognize this repetition in your thoughts.
Then it helps you label this thought or emotion. You begin to recognize that you are having the thought about not climbing the career ladder as fast as your contemporaries. This helps you recognize your thoughts and feelings for what they actually are.
The third step then involves accepting these thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness helps you accept them without being judgmental while at the same time not resigning yourself to negative thoughts and emotions. You pay attention to them and experience them without responding to them. The last step involves acting not out of emotion or an impulsive thought but on your values, the place of long-term conviction that you hold. This is important because your emotions are ever-changing while your values are stable.
5. Helps you achieve your weight-loss goals
Have you changed your diet, started an exercise regime and still aren’t losing any weight? Mindfulness might help. A survey by the American Psychological Association involving 1328 licensed psychologists revealed that they find mindfulness training to be a good approach to losing weight. They reported emotional factors are important not only in causing weight problems but they also pose as a major barrier in overcoming them. Mindfulness training helps in training people to allow negative thoughts and emotions to come and go without dwelling on them. It focuses on enjoying the present moment. Doing so helps with weight reduction when teamed up with a proper diet and exercise regime.
6. Helps you know the true you
Mindfulness helps you go beyond those black or rose-tinted glasses and see the real you. It helps you analyze yourself objectively and also conquer blind spots which amplify or diminish your own flaws in your eyes. Mindfulness lets you observe without being judgmental and increases your capacity to attend to stimuli. It lets you get to really know yourself without feeling any negative emotions towards yourself.
How do I start practicing mindfulness?
Well, it’s not that hard. For starters, try to stay present and to pay attention to your physical senses and your surroundings. Here’s a basic mindfulness meditation procedure to give you a little push.
- Sit in an upright posture in a relatively quiet space.
- Close your eyes.
- Focus on your natural breathing or a word (for example, ‘Om’).
- Repeat it silently.
- Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment.
- Return your focus to your breath or the word.
Why don’t you begin practicing mindfulness and let me know the benefits that you experienced?
Most people believe we have many emotions. However, according to Dorothy Lee, all our feeling and reactions are based on just two basic emotions – love and fear. The closer you can come to identifying your emotions as love or fear, the closer you are to determining which emotion is driving you. Further, knowing the base of your emotions will lead you closer to inner peace and personal empowerment.
One of the most important things that will help you live a happy and healthy life is to get rid of your fears. We also talked about fear in our article: “Overcome Your Fears and Transform!” According to Dorothy, fear is the background for numerous negative emotions that can cause physical and mental health problems. For example, emotions such as anger or hate have their roots in fear. We can all choose how we react and how we feel; emotions are not something out of our control, as many believe. Here is the whole article: http://www.edgemagazine.net/2010/03/you-have-a-choice-love-or-fear/
So, what is your choice today?
Have you ever felt like you don’t understand your emotions? Why you acted out in that situation and why you’re crying in another? Or, have you ever felt others don’t understand how you feel? Above all – are you running away from your emotions?
The most important thing in order to live a happy and healthy life is to learn to understand and express your emotions. They are of immense importance to accept yourself and others and to have healthy relationships.
Understanding Your Emotions and Feelings
Mary Buchowski-Kurus put together a nice article called “Emotions – How To Understand, Identify and Release Your Emotions”. It will help you recognize your emotions and feelings, understand them and manage them in the right way.
“Different people define emotions in different ways. Some make a distinction between emotions and feelings saying that a feeling is the response part of the emotion and that an emotion includes the situation or experience, the interpretation, the perception, and the response or feeling related to the experience of a particular situation. For the purposes of this article, I use the terms interchangeably.
John D. (Jack) Mayer says, “Emotions operate on many levels. They have a physical aspect as well as a psychological aspect. Emotions bridge thought, feeling, and action. So, they operate in every part of a person, they affect many aspects of a person, and the person affects many aspects of the emotions.”
Emotions control your thinking, behavior and actions. They affect your physical bodies as much as your body affects your feelings and thinking. Thus, people who ignore, dismiss, repress or just ventilate their emotions, are setting themselves up for physical illness. In other words, emotions that are not felt and released but buried can cause serious illness, including cancer, arthritis, and many types of chronic illnesses.
I wholeheartedly recommend you to read the whole article here: http://www.mkprojects.com/fa_emotions.html
As a little bonus, here is a beautiful video on emotions:
What is the lesson to be learned?
Tip: Listen for the total message. Hear what emotions are being shared, and how the person feels. Showing genuine care and empathy goes a long way.