It’s been three weeks since you lost your job and you are still in a funk. If your new normal is spending your days in your PJs trolling job boards and your nights staring at your bedroom ceiling concocting professional doomsday scenarios, you might be experiencing emotional stress related to losing your job.
Layoffs are painful, and although they are fairly common, the experience can leave you feeling disoriented about your professional future. Shame, rejection, sadness, and fear are common reactions to a layoff, according to Executive Therapeutic Coach Lisa Pepper-Satkin, but that’s not the only way the emotional impact of a layoff can manifest.
Losing your job can cause turmoil in your personal life and these can be equally difficult to combat or recover from. The stress of being unemployed may disrupt your sleep schedule, interfere with your relationships, lead to financial insecurities and take a toll on your physical and mental health.
Despite all of these emotional setbacks, it is possible to overcome the trauma of a layoff and move forward. With the right mindset, you can put down your carton of ice cream, change out of your sweatpants and regain the necessary confidence needed to get back out there and embark on the next chapter of your career.
Acknowledge your emotions and symptoms
Everyone processes the news of being laid off differently. Some people might feel relieved or excited about their newfound freedom and view it as an opportunity to travel or start fresh. However, for most, this sudden lack of financial security can throw them into an emotional frenzy.
When a person is feeling an immense amount of emotional distress, physical reactions are common. Pepper-Satkin lists weight gain and insomnia as examples of physical symptoms associated with grieving a layoff.
“Emotions are stored in the body. So, reactions always show up in symptoms. [But], the more we make the connection between the body and mind, the easier it is to move through the trauma,” she explains.
Linda, a former administrative assistant, recalled the experience of being told they were laying off everyone in her department.
“I had a feeling this was going to happen. When they called us into a meeting, I braced myself for it. I was not going to let these people see me cry,” she said. “I was shocked and mad and afraid because I was just turning 50 and worried about competing with a younger generation.”
Linda’s intense emotions at the time also manifested into serious physical reactions.“I had a lack of sleep and it caused my IBS to flare up horribly,” she added. “The reactions lasted on and off during the year I was laid off.”
No matter what’s running through your head or how your body is reacting to the news, it’s important to recognize that every emotion and fear is valid and perfectly normal. By acknowledging how you feel about the situation, you can give yourself the opportunity to fully mourn the loss and start working towards thinking clearly.
Remind yourself that you are not at fault
Pepper-Satkin states that shame is often the most serious and overwhelming emotion felt by people who are experiencing a layoff. But it’s important to not beat yourself up about it, especially if it was sudden and unexpected.
“It’s hard not to take it personally. It’s you that got laid off,” Pepper-Satkin explains. “But it is key to separate a strategic decision from a personal decision.”
She describes a “strategic decision” as getting laid off for factors outside of your control, like company downsizing, organizational changes or financial issues. If this was why you were laid off, try not to personalize the situation. Remind yourself that this layoff is not a true reflection of your performance within the company and discourage any temptation to blame yourself.
Surround yourself with supportive and positive people
It’s understandable to feel isolated after losing your job, but you don’t have to go through it alone. For Linda, her friends and family were also affected by her layoff.
“It freaked my partner out, it freaked my kids out, it freaked my co-workers out, and it freaked my friends out, especially the ones that are the same age as me,” Linda explained.
Despite the ripple effect her layoff had on her inner circle, Linda says that the advice and support she gained from reaching out and sharing her experience with others propelled her forward. “I learned to trust more in people and believe that they can and will help,” she said.
While socializing or networking may not be appealing after a layoff, simply reaching out to a friend or phoning someone close to you can be a great way to start moving on and even work together to find solutions for the situation.
“When you’re in shock or trauma, lean into your support system,” Pepper-Satkin urges.
Your support system should include trustworthy people you can confide in for comfort and meaningful advice. Pepper-Satkin stressed the importance of sharing your situation with people who know you well since they can empathize with you and your situation and encourage you to find confidence within yourself.
Practice daily affirmations to restore confidence
In order to move forward and start the job-hunting process, you have to believe that you can do it. However, feelings of shame, rejection or self-doubt can be difficult obstacles to overcome.
To steer yourself towards thinking positively, Pepper-Satkin recommends practicing daily affirmations. “Affirm what you know is true about yourself,” she says. She suggests writing down a few “I am” statements every morning to lift your spirits. These statements should be true facts that you appreciate about yourself.
To get started, fill in these “I am” statements with personal characteristics or traits you are proud of:
- “I am...
- “I am capable of...
- “I am good at…
- “I am open to…
Assemble a plan to manage your finances
Once your emotions are under control, it’s time to start planning your path to moving forward. Crafting a solid plan can help alleviate your stress and ease any feelings of financial uncertainty.
Ilyce Glink, CEO of Best Money Moves says the first thing you should do is review the details of your severance package and file for unemployment benefits. “It’s super important to stay on top of those numbers and understand what the company [can] offer you,” she explains.
She also encourages reaching out and networking with your former employer and employees to help you find work. After all, landing a job is all about the people you know. “It’s for your financial future. Get references from the company and find out what they can say about you,” says Glink.
Lastly, practice budgeting. Since you’re no longer receiving steady paychecks, you’ll need to start cutting your expenses.
“Re-evaluate what you are spending,” Glink advises. “You have to understand how much you spend every day and how long your cash can last.”
This means prioritizing essentials such as your rent or mortgage, cell phone bill, medical care, insurance, groceries, and any transportation fees over non-essentials. Non-essentials include less important items like concert tickets or your daily $5 iced coffee.
Though your income isn’t as constant as it used to be, resist any temptation to dip into your 401(k). By setting a strict budget for yourself and utilizing your resources, you should start to feel more secure and on top of your new financial situation.
While experiencing a layoff may have left you feeling down or disoriented, try to find peace in the fact that this stage in your life is temporary.
“It was a long, hard journey,” Linda said about her layoff. “But, just keep pushing forward and know that the journey will eventually get easier.”
Once your confidence is restored and you feel ready to jump back into the job-seeking process, update your resume with LiveCareer’s Resume Builder, which will show you step-by-step how to put your best foot forward as you search for your next great role.