Studies have shown that losing your job is the third biggest loss you can suffer, after the death of someone close to you and divorce.

It is wise, then, to give yourself time to heal. If you begin immediately to job hunt after being retrenched, your emotional reaction to having been laid off will leach into your conversations with contacts and any interviews you undertake.

Before starting your job search, "take 20" - 20 days, that is - to get ready for your career change.

You may have been to a fine restaurant where you were offered a sorbet between courses to "cleanse your palate". Your "Take 20 Programme" will act as a sorbet between your last job and your new one.

Research indicates that people who "take 20" get better jobs faster - when they do start to job hunt. So, by taking a break, you will actually be energising your job hunt, not jeopardising it.

Take 20 Programme

Here is a list of the things you have to do:

Involve your loved ones

Your significant other(s) may be very worried. Explain that you are taking a break and what the "Take 20 Programme" is all about. Invite them to join you in some of the activities.

Sleep and nap

Most people are sleep deprived. Now is the time to catch up.

Eat healthily

Before you were laid off, you were worried about your job and it was easy to fall into bad habits - snacking, eating on the go or buying fast food when you were too tired to cook. Now, you can slow down. Sit at the table with your family for meals and turn the television set off.

Exercise

Walking for an hour a day will release the endorphins that brighten your mood. Find a buddy or join a class. If you have an appointment, you will be less likely to give it a miss.

Get some sun

Target getting an hour of sunlight (wear sunblock, of course) every day. Catching the rays is another way to feel more upbeat.

Manage your emotions

Understand that you will be going through a predictable emotional journey. Your "take 20 programme" will help you move more quickly through these tough reactions.

Here is what you can expect to feel when you are laid off:

Relief: The worrying is over. Now you know.

Shock: You may feel numb.

Denial: You can't believe it. You think: "It's all a mistake."

Anger: You ask: "How can they do this to me?"

Bargaining: You think of all the steps you might have taken to avoid being laid off. You fantasise about what you could do to be re-hired.

Guilt: You ask yourself: "Why me?" You blame yourself.

Depression: You hit bottom.

Grief: You mourn, you cry. You realise it is really over.

Acceptance: You begin to re-emerge. You re-focus and begin to imagine what your new life will be like.

Keep a journal

In it, write for at least 20 minutes a day. Don't use your journal to make plans. Jettison all the negative stuff in your head - all the "Why didn't I", "Wish I had", "Why me?" and "How could they?" thoughts. Nobody will see your journal, so let all the anger and bitterness out on paper.

Re-schedule

When you are talking with friends or contacts and they want to talk about your job hunt, tell them about your Take 20 Programme.

Say: "I'm taking a break right now. Let's plan a time to get together later (after your 20 days are over). At that point, I'm looking forward to getting your advice and your help."

Make a loss list

Write down everything you lost when you lost your job. What will you miss about it? After you are done, rank those things. What are the most important?

For example, if you wrote "Most of my friends", you can see that you need to reach out to find friends who are not in your workplace. Your list will help you set priorities.

Have fun

Jot down 20 things you have never done - and want to do - and do one every day.

Here are some items from some "Take 20" participants' lists: sign up for flying lessons, bake bread, read an entire novel in one day, plant flowers, see a play, get a massage, clean out closets, visit the zoo, get a makeover at the spa, write a letter (not an e-mail) to someone you care about, go hiking at a nearby park.

With these activities, you jolt yourself out of your comfort zone, re-energise and rejuvenate.

Burn your woes

At the end of your Take 20 Programme, burn your journal. That is the end of the pity party and looking backward.

Now you are ready to launch your new job search.