Featured Mental Health 101 Self Help

Stressed Because Of Unemployment?

Here are 10 ways you can take care of your mental health as you exit, look for, or rest from employment.

If you’ve recently lost your job because of the pandemic, you may be struggling to manage feelings of sadness and hopelessness as you worry about the future and your family’s well-being. At the same time, you may be coping with other troubling thoughts like:

  • A loss of identity and sense of purpose
  • Feeing useless 
  • Feeing angry and jealous of others who still have work

During this difficult time, it is all the more important that you pay attention to your mental health. Not doing so might cause mood swings, depression, and anxiety to dominate your entire life, leading to problems like substance abuse, deterioration of physical health, or withdrawal from day to day activities. In addition, mental health conditions might make you too nervous or lack the confidence to apply for a new job. 

Here are some ways you can maintain positive mental health during this difficult period: 

  1. Acknowledge (don’t ignore) your emotions. It is perfectly normal to feel bad and scared over losing your job. These feelings should never be buried or ignored; instead allow yourself the time and space to grieve. If it helps, call up a friend or loved one to act as a sounding board so you can sort through your feelings. However – 
  1. Avoid self-recrimination. Be kind to yourself. Avoid negative self-talk like “It’s all my fault I lost my job,” “Nobody is going to want to employ me,” or “What’s the point of even trying?!” This defeatist attitude does not help. 
  1. Don’t isolate yourself. It is normal to feel ashamed about having lost a job, which will make you want to avoid family and friends. But opening up to supportive friends or loved ones, even if it’s just a select few, can make a big difference in boosting your mental health. During the pandemic, you can still maintain social interactions through video chat, talking on the phone, or sending messages.
  1. Maintain a regular routine. Resist the urge to stay in bed all day, skip meals, or shy away from day-to-day responsibilities at home – these will only increase your sense of distress and will highlight the disparity between your pre- and post- employed lifestyle. Instead, continue to wake up at the same time each day, eat healthy meals, and make time for exercise. Working out can relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Focusing on your physical and mental health can help you feel better and more in control of your life.
  1. Set daily goals. Once you are up and about, write down a to-do list of goals that you want to accomplish every day. Whether that means sending out five job applications, updating your resume, catching up on housework, or finishing two chapters of a new book, setting goals gives you something to work towards. Staying busy will also keep you from ruminating about your job loss. Unemployment can definitely affect your self-esteem but if you’re constantly working towards a goal or doing something to improve yourself, you will feel more accomplished and start regaining your sense of self-worth.
  1. Set limits to job searching. Don’t let looking for work take over your life. Instead, allot a dedicated number of hours each day to updating your resume, looking at job openings online, or filling out applications. But also remember that you deserve to rest and relax. 
  1. Volunteer. If you’re feeling stuck or isolated, consider devoting a certain number of hours each week to a worthy cause. Make face masks or face shields to donate to those who need them. Run errands for elderly or immunocompromised neighbors. Or cook meals and deliver them to medical frontliners or the less fortunate in your area. Volunteering can make you feel better about yourself, allow you to add a positive entry to your resume, or in some cases even result in a job opportunity.
  1. De-stress through healthy ways. Make sure you have plenty of healthy coping mechanisms at your disposal, so you can reach for something healthy when your stress or anxiety start to escalate. Writing in a journal, meditating, deep breathing, and yoga are a few examples. You may be tempted to turn to things that will give you immediate relief—like alcohol or food – but note that these things will cause more problems for you in the long term. 
  1. Take up a new hobby. Use your new-found free time as an opportunity to do something you were always too busy for. New hobbies can give you something to look forward to and keep you busy. Build a bookshelf, organize your closet, or start growing your own herbs and vegetables. Consider learning a new language, instrument, or craft. Take advantage of free or discounted classes being offered online. 
  1. Know when to get more help. If you’re experiencing a persistent low mood for more than two weeks or have difficulty functioning, please seek the help of a mental health professional. The pandemic has upended the jobs and lives of many other people – you are not alone. 

If you practice healthy coping strategies to care for your mental health while unemployed, you’ll have higher self-esteem, more stable moods, fewer bouts of anxiety and depression, and more confidence to tackle the next stage of your life.

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Happy Hour: 8 Simple Ways To Unwind After A Stressful Day

At the end of a long and tiring day, it’s tempting to just plop down on the bed and sleep off the stress. But research has shown that doing so has the adverse effect of keeping you up at night because you did not give your body and brain the time to detach from work mode.   

Instead of trying to go straight to sleep, do some fun and relaxing activities first to clear out the stressful and negative emotions that stayed with you throughout the day. Once you have sufficiently decompressed, you will sleep better and wake up the following day more refreshed and prepared for the challenges ahead. 

Here are some suggestions for unwinding:

  • Take a warm bath

A warm bath is perfect for relaxing because it activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for the rest-and-digest response that occurs in our body when we’re at rest) and it relaxes the muscles. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to truly enjoy the bath. A rushed shower will not help you feel very relaxed.

  • Use aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit. Oils like lavender and lemon in particularly are used to improve sleep. If you are hesitant about lighting scented candles, purchase a diffuser instead and plug it in your bedroom or bathroom. 

  • Listen to music

Music is a powerful stress management tool – it has been proven to help slow heart rate, decrease stress hormones, and lower blood pressure. Singing along to your favorite songs can also take your mind off your worries. So listen to your favorite playlist or CD while you get ready for bed.

  • Drink tea

Tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that reduces mental and physical stress and keeps us calm. If you have the time, brew a pot from loose tea leaves rather than simply dunking a tea bag in a cup. 

  • Meditate

Science has shown that controlled breathing can help manage stress. Find a quiet spot where you can sit properly, then take slow, deep, measured breaths that swell your abdomen rather than your rib cage. Stay this way for five to 10 minutes. You can even use meditation apps like Headspace or Calm to guide you.

  • Indulge in some comfort food

If you have three or more hours to spare before bedtime, have a proper dinner. Avoid caffeine or sugary foods though, because these can mess with your sleep. Instead, fill your plate with whole grain carbohydrates, leafy vegetables, fatty fish, and fruits.

  • Ignore your phone

Responding to messages and repeatedly checking social media can amount to a serious energy drain and increase in stress, so switch your phone to silent mode as soon as you get home, and put it someplace where you cannot readily see it so that you won’t be tempted to take a peek when temptation strikes. 

  • Laugh

Laughter is the best medicine for stress. It relaxes the whole body, triggers the release of endorphins, and reduces stress hormones. Watch a few episodes of your favorite sitcoms, goof around with pets or children, or go to karaoke bar with friends.

Always take time to relax after a long day at work. Simple things like taking a warm bath or eating a warm dinner with friends can rejuvenate your mind and body and get you ready for a brand new day tomorrow.

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A Boxful of Comfort

Find out what a comfort box is, why you need it, and how you can make one (it’s easy!)

Anytime you are feeling stressed, anxious, or unwell, it is helpful to have access to tangible things that can make you calm or provide comfort. This is where a comfort box comes in handy. 

Also known as a wellness box or a self-soothe box, a comfort box is any container where you keep items that will help make difficult emotions easier to bear. They can be anything from a pack of your favorite sweets to souvenirs from memorable places. 

Comfort boxes act as emotional first-aid kits – anytime you are feeling distressed, just reach into the box and get something that will either distract you from your worries or help you feel safe. 

How to make a comfort box

  1. Get a container for your things. 

Your self-soothe kit doesn’t have to be a literal box. Trunks, baskets, or even bags can do as long as they can fit the items that you need.

  1. Decorate the box. Optional, but it can be fun to do!
  1. Fill it up with your favorite things, making sure that all 5 of your senses are engaged.
  • Sight. Examples – memorable books, movies, photos; posters or clippings containing positive affirmations; a vision board; old letters or cards from loved ones
  • Hearing. Examples — a compilation of your favorite songs; a CD of your favorite artist
  • Smell. Examples — your favorite essential oil scent or perfume; scented candles or incense; lotions
  • Taste. Examples – your go-to comfort food; teas that can help you relax  
  • Touch. Example – something warm and soft to the touch like a blanket or stuffed toy; massage oils or other self-massage tools; stress balls
  1. Include other items you find soothing like an adult coloring book, your journal, your yoga mat, or a small pillow for sitting on when you want to meditate
  1. Put the box in an easy-to-reach place so that any time you feel out of sorts, you won’t experience added stress while looking for it.

A comfort box is an easy and inexpensive way of showing self-care. It reminds us that whenever we are feeling bad, we should seek comfort instead of ignoring the emotions or punishing ourselves. As an added project — once you’ve completed your box, try making another box to give to a loved one!