Coping with unemployment is never easy. However, the chances of falling prey to depression increase dramatically once job seekers have been out of work for six months or more.
As weeks turn to months, and rejection follows rejection, it begins to look as though all possible avenues have been exhausted.
The situation starts to feel utterly hopeless and the possibility of finding work begins to seem like an impossible dream.
Not only do levels of motivation plummet, making it harder and harder to focus on job searching, but often there is also the tendency for long-term job seekers to shut themselves away and become increasingly isolated.
Depression is an insidious and destructive condition which often creeps up on people and takes them unawares, but what can job seekers do to help keep it at bay? Here are a few ideas:
Don’t beat yourself up
Being unemployed is no personal reflection on you and, in fact, many people, no matter what they do for a living, are likely to experience job loss at some point in their lives.
Stay alert for self-critical or self-blaming thoughts and as soon as they enter your head, actively challenge them by writing down all the great skills and achievements you can lay claim to.
Avoid TV and newspaper reports that deal with the unemployment situation as these are enough to send anyone into a downward spiral of despair. Always remember that there are at least two ways to look at everything. For example, if the unemployment rate is sitting at around the 10 per cent mark where you live, that also means that 900 out of 1000 people are still in work.
Avoid negative people
As if it isn’t hard enough to stay positive when you’re weighed down by the problems of joblessness, there are always those people who seem determined to keep reminding you of how hopeless your situation is.
Although they probably don’t mean to bring you down, the effect of their words can be devastating.
Give pessimistic people a wide berth, at least until you’re back on your feet again.
Choose instead to mix with positive, upbeat individuals who will encourage and support you.
Share your problems
Force yourself to see friends and family members if that’s what it takes. Don’t shut yourself away with nothing but your own depressing thoughts. There’s a great deal of truth in the old adage, “A problem shared is a problem halved”.
Research has shown that people who have lots of friends live longer, almost certainly because they reduce their stress levels by talking about their problems. Many cities also have support and networking groups for job seekers, where people meet regularly to discuss tips, problems and opportunities.
Going for a walk or taking some other form of exercise might be the last thing that you feel inclined to do when the job search blues get the better of you, but in fact it really does help. Exercising causes the release of the body’s “feel-good” hormones and so helps to stave off depression.
Stick to your plan
Procrastination becomes all too easy in a long-term job search, but it’s also guaranteed to get you down. The last thing you need to add to any existing feelings of self-blame about being unemployed is more self-blame about the fact that you didn’t even manage to get through your day’s job search activities.
Plan what you are going to do each day and take pride and pleasure in ticking each item off the list. Remember, even if your activities don’t bring about instant results, everything that you do will help to move you in the right direction.