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How to Cope with Losing Your Job

If you’ve been laid off or furloughed, you’re not alone. As of early April, 22 million Americans have lost their jobs and applied for unemployment benefits.

Not having a job during the pandemic can feel especially devastating due to the sheer magnitude, loss of control, and uncertainty, said Jill Jacinto, a career expert in New York City.

You might be wondering: When will this crisis end? Which jobs and businesses will survive? Will we even get back to “normal”?

“It’s also hard to job search when there are barely any jobs on the market,” Jacinto said.

Consequently, you might feel terrified, overwhelmed, and powerless. Your anxiety might be skyrocketing, and you feel depressed before you even get out of bed.

It is awful. And there are many ways you can support yourself during this time. Here are 10 strategies to try.

Process your loss. California-based clinical psychologist Molly S. Tucker, Ph.D, suggested blocking out some time each day to feel your emotions. Find a quiet, safe space and observe what you’re feeling—without getting attached to the pain.

For example, according to Tucker, instead of telling yourself, “It’s hopeless” say, “I’m having the thought that ‘Things are hopeless.’” Instead of saying, “I’m anxious,” say, “I’m noticing the emotion ‘anxiety.’”

“The utility of this is to realize that although you are experiencing intense emotions or upsetting thoughts, you yourself are not the content of those thoughts and feelings. Rather, you are the space or context in which they unfold.”

These painful thoughts and feelings come and go. “But you remain through them all, intact and able to choose how you respond in any given moment.”

Figure out your finances. The first step is to apply for unemployment benefits, and you can find helpful guides at The Balance Careers website and Vox.com.

Aurora Meneghello, founder of Repurpose Your Purpose, suggested creating a bare-bones-budget for the next few weeks or months. Consider calling creditors to negotiate skipping payments or delaying them, she said.

In general, try to “distinguish between a healthy and productive concern with taking care of your financial needs versus fear of what might happen in the future,” Meneghello said.

Create and maintain a schedule. Work provides us with structure. Without it, it’s easy for your days to feel aimless, meaningless, and nebulous—and for your anxiety, sadness, and grief to deepen. To carve out a positive routine, Tucker suggested starting with the basics:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time
  • Eat regularly (e.g., three main meals plus snacks)
  • Move your body
  • Connect with someone
  • Focus on a productive project, such as researching work options or completing a chore
  • Practice self-care, such as reading, watching a movie, doing a puzzle, or taking a bath.

Job hunt. Meneghello advised against assuming you won’t find a job. “Even with massive layoffs, you are just one person who needs one job.” She suggested regularly checking job boards and looking into industries and companies that are helping to facilitate remote work and communication.

“In general, anything related to technology has not been affected as much or in some cases is growing because of the limitations put on in-person gatherings.” So, perhaps you can pivot and harness your skills for a different position.

Take care of yourself. Identify at least five consistent self-care activities—big or small—that you can engage in on a daily basis, said Erin K. Tierno, LCSW-R, a psychotherapist and founder of Online Therapy NYC.

This could be as simple as drinking enough water and taking a shower, she said. Consider what restores and refreshes you. Consider how you might meet your emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs.

Prioritize connection. Meneghello stressed the importance of staying in touch with others—since work might’ve been one of your primary sources of social interaction. For example, since the start of stay-at-home orders in Los Angeles, Meneghello has participated in group coaching, trainings, meditation gatherings, and get-togethers with friends, which have all been virtual.

You also might find connection and valuable information from joining industry-related Facebook groups. Meneghello suggested looking for groups and organizations in areas you’re interested in that are “having positive conversations and sharing resources.”

“This will not only help you find new opportunities, but might give you a good sense of how different professions or industries are reacting to the situation, so you can be strategic about your own career move.”

Focus on learning. According to Meneghello, if you’d like to deepen your existing skills or learn something new, many courses are available at significant discounts or for free. Tierno noted that some certifications and continuing education courses are also being offered at reduced cost.

Volunteer virtually. Check out VolunteerMatch.org to see if you can volunteer your skills, Jacinto said. Volunteering can provide you with a sense of purpose along with experience you can add to your personal portfolio, she said.

Also, “expanding your network by connecting with people who share your values and are doing good in the world can be a great way to stay connected during this time,” Meneghello said. Plus, your time volunteering could lead to other opportunities, including a new job.

Polish up your work materials. Both Jacinto and Meneghello suggested updating your portfolio, LinkedIn profile, resume, or website. Include new work history, credentials, skills, certifications, and/or services. According to Jacinto, doing this has the added benefit of reminding you of all the “great success you’ve had while you were employed.”

See a therapist. If you’re feeling distressed, Tucker underscored the importance of working with a therapist. Most therapists are offering virtual services over video or phone. Some also are providing reduced rates or even free therapy, noted Tierno. For example, you can learn more at CoronavirusOnlineTherapy.org.

“Although this situation seems scary since there are so many unknowns, …you will find employment again,” Jacinto said. It might look different from your previous job. It might even be an entirely new path, she said.

Either way, you will get through this. In the meantime, do whatever practical things you can—like creating a routine and job searching—and be gentle with yourself.

How to Cope with Losing Your Job


Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.


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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2020). How to Cope with Losing Your Job. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-cope-with-losing-your-job/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 22 Apr 2020 (Originally: 24 Apr 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 22 Apr 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.