Whether you’ve just been laid off or have been unemployed for a long time, losing your job can make you feel trapped and unable to take the steps to find a new job. What can you do to maintain the energy, health and confidence you need to reenter the job market? Dr. Michael F. Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer of the Cleveland Clinic, founder of RealAge.com, and co-author with Dr. Mehmet Oz of the best-selling “You” health books, offers a smart prescription for job seekers.
The Effects of Job-Loss Stress
“A job loss creates financial stress, it creates psychological stress, and it causes you to reexamine your friendships and life goals,” says Roizen. Not surprisingly, it can also affect your health. “It causes you to recoil from physical things you might do to stay healthy, such as keeping up a gym membership,” Roizen says.
The emotional impact can be more subtle. “When you lose a job,” he says, “it diminishes the feeling you have about yourself.” Anger toward your ex-boss and grief, fear and frustration toward yourself and others can lead to depression. You may begin to regret the career choices you’ve made and doubt your options for the future. You may become more socially isolated from being out of touch with former coworkers. According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, a measure used to assess the stress in a person’s life, losing a job is a top 10 stressors, alongside the death of a spouse, divorce, imprisonment and personal injury or illness.
The good news is that you can repair much of the damage that job-loss stress wreaks on your mind and body. Here are Roizen’s top tips.
7 Strategies To Get Back on Track
Eat only healthy foods. This is still possible to do even if your income is low. “There are ways to eat healthier on a cash-strapped budget,” Roizen points out. “Nothing’s quite as cheap and good for you as peanut butter.” Lentils, beans and kale are also cheap, rich sources of nutrients. Farmers’ markets can be economical sources of wholesome fresh foods.
Stay connected to others. Eat with friends. E-mail or call someone daily. Share your feelings about what you’re going through. If you feel you can’t do this with people you know, or if you feel depressed, seek professional help. These actions can reduce the intensity and duration of grieving, clarify your goals and values and help you network.
Exercise with a buddy. Exercise not only keeps your muscles strong, it boosts your mood and immunity, aids with sleep, libido and digestion, and reduces stress hormones. If you work out with a friend, he or she can hold you accountable to sticking to your routine.
Set up a schedule for yourself. Go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day. And include volunteer work in your routine. “The sense of warmth you feel from doing good work can give you a purpose in life and provide regularity to your days,” Roizen says. “It might also make you rethink the job you’ve been doing and give you some ideas of other careers you could pursue.”
Learn something new. Read books in unfamiliar subject areas, try a new craft or hobby, or study another language. Search the lnternet and take advantage of your local library. Enrolling in free community classes can provide the triple benefit of adding to your knowledge, boosting your brain health and increasing your circle of job networking contacts.
Take advantage of any health insurance you have before it ends. If you sense that a layoff is coming for you or if you are still on COBRA, schedule the checkup with your doctor, the eye exam, and/or the dental visit you may have been putting off. And make sure you are current with your vaccinations and screenings.
Most important of all, be committed to making healthy choices, no matter what you do. “There’s an overall feeling that as long as you have your health you can survive anything, including a job loss,” Roizen says. “If you lose a job, rather than blame yourself or get angry at your employer, find things you like to do and use those things to maintain your health and find a new meaning and direction in your life. Don’t dwell on the past. Figure out how you’re going to get ‘younger’ and stay younger in the future.”