Unemployment Stinks. Here's What You Can Do About It


A recent New York Times/CBS News poll of unemployed adults pretty much confirms what we already knew: Unemployment stinks. Bad.

It can lead to emotional havoc, mental (and physical) health issues, relationship difficulties, poverty and foreclosures, even financial ruin. But what the poll doesn't mention-and what I firmly believe-is that unemployment can be a good thing.

Yes, it's hard. It's never fun to be told that you're no longer needed, that you didn't do a good job, or that your company is no longer. And it's certainly not pleasant to struggle financially. Especially since, for many years, we've gotten along expecting that we'd have jobs and that if we adhered to a certain career path and work ethic, we'd be successful.

All of a sudden, that's changed. And since there are fewer jobs in general, it's much harder to come up with a suitable backup plan.

But how many of us have been stuck in a rut at our jobs, simply going along day by day, not unhappy but certainly not thrilled to be there? And how many have actively hated what they do, or their boss, or their pay?

While I feel the pain of those who've lost jobs (and I'm one of you, twice), I also see unemployment as an opportunity. You don't get that many chances to redo in life. This is one of them.

A few tips for making the best of it:

Be Kind to Yourself.

Unless you were actually poaching from the petty cash drawer or back-stabbing the boss, your layoff is most likely not your fault. And even if you were fired for cause, there's a lesson to be learned. Learn it. Sometimes you have to fall down to pick yourself back up, and that's okay.

Find Others to Commiserate With.

The unemployment rate being what it is, there are thousands of folks out there with whom you can share your struggles, and your successes. That old stigma over losing a job? Pretty much gone. And feeling ashamed will get you nowhere, in any case. Make your newfound freedom work for you by connecting to others, whether in person or via the Internet. You never know who might lead you to your next job.

Get Outside-and Out of Yourself.

Hey, I know more than anyone how a Law and Order marathon can suck you in-and at least those people have worse problems than you and me! But you'll only feel depressed and trapped by the day's end if you sit in front of the TV all day. Whenever I feel most overwhelmed by my solitude I take a trip to the laundromat, my local coffeeshop, or the gym, where a friendly face and a little small talk goes a long way toward restoring positive energy.

Get Moving.

Make time each day take a walk or run, go for a bike ride, or hit the gym. The endorphins you get from exercise are amazing at boosting confidence, attitude, and spirits. Not to mention, you won't worry so much about the "unemployment 15." And a confident person is a person who gets a job.

Do Something for Someone Else.

A friend of mine was fired not once but twice by the same company. To top it off, he then had to leave the country, as his visa was attached to that job. It was a devastating dual blow, but he made the best of it by applying for a volunteer program that brought him to Africa, where he followed elephants in the wild for two months. Granted, not all of us can pick up and leave like that, but the spirit of the idea remains: Unemployment gives you a chance to do something you may have never thought you would be able to do. Take advantage of it.

Personally, losing my job was a step toward finding a new path doing something I really enjoy. I think we all deserve that.

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