Shock. Anger. Disappointment. Shame. Confusion. Being laid off can evoke many complex and heavy emotions. For those who are already facing mental health challenges, loss of employment can cause extreme distress.
With the current economic environment and round-after-round of tech layoffs occurring across the country, many people feel that they can no longer rely on their jobs for stability. On top of inflation and the increasing costs-of-living, getting laid off can have major lifestyle and mental health impacts.
I’ve been laid off — now what?
Whether you were given advanced notice or faced an abrupt ending to your job, those who get laid off find themselves with an unwanted abundance of free time. They also become highly aware of their financial responsibilities. This situation can leave individuals feeling overwhelmed with change.
So, what comes next? What should you do after getting laid off? The first step to taking care of your mental health after getting laid off is to process through your emotions. Naming these emotions and seeing them as a natural reaction to a distressing event can help you come to terms with your current situation — you might not like the situation and you might not agree with the way that it happened, but you can allow yourself to react authentically and without judgment. Many people find journaling helpful when they’re processing through their emotions, and others might prefer to talk about it with friends and family members.
After honoring your emotions, the next step is to make a plan. For many people, having a plan helps them feel more in control of their lives. When you’re ready, write out what you want to do next. This might include plans for your finances, networking or to work on your resume. Even if you aren’t yet ready to start on your plan, having one written out can create a sense of security.
If making a plan feels anxiety-provoking for you, allow yourself some time to let yourself rest if you’re able. It might take a few days of rest before you’re ready to look ahead, and that’s okay.
The psychological and physiological effects of being laid off
The reason why it’s important to process through your emotions after getting laid off is because there are many psychological and physiological effects that might occur. Many people feel a sense of achievement through their work, and when that’s taken away, it can impact their self-worth — not to mention the shame and embarrassment that many people face after getting laid off. If you turn to self-blame after your layoff, you might find yourself feeling sad, depressed, or helpless. And without seeing your coworkers each day, you might also feel lonely or isolated.
Physiologically, there are many ways that getting laid off can impact you. If you’re used to getting ready for work each day, suddenly being at home all the time can feel debilitating. If you rely on going into the office for your daily source of movement, being at home can lead to a decrease in your regular exercise. If you’re worried about what’s next for you, your anxiety can negatively affect your sleep, causing fatigue. Many people turn to drinking or substance use after major life changes like layoffs, which can also have negative physiological effects. There are many ways that emotional well-being connects to physical well-being, making this situation even more significant for those who are already facing mental health challenges.
Ways to maintain your mental health while laid off
Because there are so many negative impacts on both the mind and the body after a layoff, it’s important to maintain your mental health while you’re between jobs. Maintaining well-being as you’re looking for another job means that you’ll arrive at interviews feeling ready to connect with prospective employers on a meaningful, authentic level. You might also find that having strong mental health during this time can help you grow from the experience in the long term.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you cope with the loss of your job:
- Have I faced difficult situations in the past? How did I bounce back after these challenges?
- Who can I talk to that will help me feel better? Who is in my support network?
- How can I change my perspective so I can overcome my negative emotions? Is there a bright side to this situation?
- What can I do now that I couldn’t do when I worked in my old job?
You might not be able to see the silver lining immediately after the layoff, and that’s normal. However, if you can see the layoff as an opportunity for healthy change, you might start to place distance between yourself and the negative emotions you’re feeling.
“Being laid off from a job can naturally bring up a lot of fears and anxieties. The mind can speed up and have us fixated on the worst case scenario. While this is an attempt to keep us safe, it's rarely helpful and tends to intensify the situation. It's crucial to surround yourself with supportive, non-judgemental people — who tend to not give unsolicited advice. Also, many folks find it helpful to sit down and make a concrete plan of action. Lastly, although it can be hard, it's vital to take some intentional time to do something that you love — a self-care activity,” says Erik Karff, LMFT
If you’re still feeling intense negative emotions after several weeks, you can always seek the help of a therapist.
How to juggle job searching and taking care of yourself
When you’re ready to start job searching after getting laid off, it’s important to make taking care of yourself part of the plan. Job searching can be exhausting and time consuming — it can be grounding to take a few moments every once in a while to check in with yourself.
If you find that you’re becoming overwhelmed with the job hunt, then it might be time to take breaks. By prioritizing your well-being during this time, you can sustain your momentum and have an overall better outcome for your mental health.
How to support a loved one who has been laid off
If a loved one has recently been laid off, it can feel tempting to offer to help them find a new job. Jumping into solution-mode might not be what they need from you. They might instead need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to vent to, or a warm hug to ground them. How will you know what they need? Ask them.
Here are a few ways to open the conversation with a loved one who has been laid off:
- “Hey, I know that it’s been a difficult time for you the past week. Just wanted to see how you’re doing and if there’s anything I can do for you?”
- “I’m so sorry to hear about work — that’s really not fair, you worked so hard for that company. What do you need right now?”
- “Just wanted to let you know that I’m here for you, even if you just want to talk or sit in silence. Are you doing okay?”
Your loved one might also need space away from other people as they process through their emotions. If you notice they continue to struggle emotionally after a longer period of time, it might be a sign that they would benefit from professional support. You could offer to help them find a therapist in their area so they can talk to someone about their experience.
How therapy can help you through a layoff
Many therapists specialize in work-related mental health issues. These therapists are trained to provide empathetic listening while also providing tangible well-being skills to implement in your daily life. If you’re still processing through the emotions that come with getting laid off, therapy is a good place to talk through them and make sense of what you’re feeling. Your therapist can offer you coping strategies to try, or they might offer a gentle perspective about your situation. Many people find that experiencing a layoff can bring up past memories or traumas, and a therapist can help you see this connection and work to overcome it.
Your therapist can also support you as you go through the job search, cheering you on during the highs and being here for you during the lows. Finding the right therapist can be pivotal, and Zencare’s therapist directory is a great way to connect with a therapist that makes you feel comfortable.
Additional Layoff Resources
During your job search, see if you can access any career counseling in your area. You might also look for job search assistance programs, which can help you find suitable roles for your skillset. Upskilling through additional training and education can also be a good way to spend your time in-between roles, if it’s accessible for you.
In the end, getting laid off is a major challenge for many people. But don’t forget that you’re resilient and that you will overcome this roadblock, especially if you take care of yourself along the journey.
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