If depression makes it hard to handle everyday life, we’ve got supportive tips so you can find, interview for, and land a job.

Man working through depression and unemploymentShare on Pinterest
Stígur Már Karlsson/Heimsmyndir/Getty Images

Whether you already have a depression diagnosis or think you have the symptoms but haven’t sought treatment, now that you’re unemployed, a depressive episode may be underway.

In this competitive job market — with Zoom interviews, countless online submissions, and feeling more like an applicant number than a person behind a resume — it’s easy to feel detached or even hopeless, like you’re throwing carefully crafted cover letters to the wind.

Finding and landing a job is never easy, but it can be especially difficult when living with depression. There are several things you can do to manage.

The toll that job hunting can take on your energy, optimism, and self-esteem can be hard to grapple with.

You may be feeling hopeless, unmotivated to start applying to new jobs, or find that simple tasks take all your energy.

If you already manage depression, you may recognize your particular signs and symptoms.

But if you’re feeling down and a few days turns into weeks, or it starts to influence your everyday life, you may want to consider if it’s more than the typical ups and downs of unemployment. Is it depression?

You’re not alone

It’s not uncommon to experience symptoms of depression when you’re unemployed or struggling financially.

Some people in the United States called the 9.6% unemployment rate in the years following the Great Recession (2007–2009) a public health crisis.

A 2015 study referred to the high unemployment rate at that time as a public health concern due to the close link between unemployment and depression in young adults.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in April 2020, the employment rate was a whopping 14.7%. So it’s not a great leap to be concerned about the mental health toll the pandemic and unemployment rates are taking on us all.

Managing depression may feel like it takes all your effort, but there are several things you can do to cope with unemployment and depression.

Take breaks for self-care

If you find yourself consistently worrying and feeling stressed about your situation, try (as hard as it sounds) to stop and take a break.

When we’re depressed, we often don’t give ourselves the space to take breaks.

In some cases, not taking a break can be due to the restlessness and difficulty concentrating that goes along with depression.

While stress can sometimes be a good motivator, job hunting stress and the anxiety that comes with unemployment and financial instability can hurt your physical and mental health. In fact, unrelenting stress has been shown to harm body functions long term.

Searching for a job can basically be a full-time job. So you might treat it like one and reserve time to take care of yourself and do things in your downtime that you would be doing if you had a full-time job.

For example, you can try to clear your mind of stress — even for a few minutes — and take a walk outside or watch your favorite TV show.

It may seem like a small action, but there are benefits to taking breaks and grounding yourself in the present moment.

Work on your “selfies” — self-talk and self-esteem

If you’re living with depression, it’s difficult to see your own worth sometimes. But you have strengths, and it’s important to remember them from when you were employed.

Focusing on your strengths will help you reframe your own self-esteem and self-worth.

Prior to a job interview, practice answering the usual “why are you right for this position?” question. Knowing your worth in an interview will come through in your answer. And in the same way, if you don’t believe you’re right for the job, the interviewer may also see that come through.

If you need help silencing the voice of depression, you might be encouraged by this point of view.

Boost your endorphins and mood

You might’ve heard a lot about endorphins — how good they can make you feel and the positive effects of increasing your endorphin levels.

One symptom of depression is losing interest in the things you used to enjoy. If you feel like your current hobbies don’t bring a smile to your face or satisfaction to your hands and heart, this is the time to look into something new.

Taking up a hobby that brings you joy, doing moderate exercise, and even eating bold-flavored foods in moderation like dark chocolate and spicy meals can all boost your endorphins and improve your mood.

Reorganize your home, your finances, and your time

If your home is messy, your budget chaotic, or your daily schedule lacking, it can feel overwhelming and increase symptoms of depression. Many people are influenced by their environment — and disorder in your environment can cause disorder in your emotions, too.

Try to take small steps to organize the elements of your life that you can manage.

Set a small, manageable goal at first, and after it’s complete, set another small goal. Before you know it, those small steps will add up to a real change.

Connect with others

It’s easy to close yourself off to family and friends. This was especially easy during early pandemic lockdowns, where we were encouraged to stay inside and away from anyone we didn’t live with.

However, 2017 research suggests that strong social connections can be an indicator and possible contributing factor to better overall mental health.

Strengthening social connections is a good way to combat loneliness and establish your place within your social circles. You may even want to consider online support groups to connect you with people who relate to your situation.

It’s important to remember that there are people in your life that care about you and want to be there when times are tough. Chances are, when you give them a call or a quick text, they would love to hear from you.

Seek help

Maybe you think it’s just temporary and will go away if you find a job — and if your depressive symptoms are situational, it may.

But if depression is starting to take over your life or causes you to miss deadlines and commitments, you can reach out for help and support.

Starting with a primary doctor can help, since they can do an exam and rule out any other medical causes. They can then connect you with a mental health professional to screen for conditions and create a treatment plan.

An up-to-date treatment plan can help you better manage your symptoms, mood, and daily ability to function.

Some services may even be free or low cost:

  • local community mental health programs
  • federally funded health centers
  • local colleges and universities’ psychology programs

A note on job loss and benefits

Your healthcare may have been tied to the insurance you likely no longer have due to job loss. There are still many options that are either inexpensive or free to get mental health support:

Was this helpful?

Prepare for reentry

There are many people itching to return to the in-office days, but what if you aren’t ready to join that celebration just yet?

There’s no easy solution for re-entering the workplace, but as your return date approaches, put it on the calendar so you can prepare yourself.

Maybe you’ll want to practice your commute back to the office in the days leading up to your return, in case you think the commute might trigger your anxiety.

It may also help to read up on how to be productive at work when you’re depressed.

Depression can’t simply be waved away by telling yourself to feel happier. The stress that comes from unemployment is very real and entirely valid.

You haven’t failed because you haven’t found a job yet — many people are in the same situation.

In life, you can only influence so many things, like how much grace you allow yourself and when to ask for help. That job offer may not come when you want it, but it’ll come soon enough.

In the meantime, you can make sure you’re feeling at your best when it happens.