The instability of our current economy has created a new wave of unemployment, budget cuts, layoffs and an endangerment to the term, “job security.” With employment becoming more of a privilege than a right, there is an increase in stress both in the workplace and for those displaced from their jobs and their careers. Despite the feeling of hopelessness that losing a job can generate, it is very possible to learn how to manage this stress and to face the adversity of unemployment with a positive attitude. Choosing to learn some basic techniques and utilize them, can not only positively affect your stress level, but it can create a more likely scenario to find future employment.
Causes of Stress
The fear of being laid off can often cause the onset of work-related stress. The pressure to perform and prove oneself can lead to feelings of self-doubt and anxiety. A constant level of tension in the body can result in some of the common symptoms of stress. Some of these symptoms are:
• Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
• A loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
• Hypersomnia or Insomnia
• Difficulty concentrating • Muscle tension or headaches
• Upset stomach
• Social withdrawal
• Loss of sex drive
• Using alcohol, drugs or other self defeating behaviors to cope
How to manage the stress of unemployment
The first step to managing stress is taking responsibility. It is easy to place blame on other people, situations and lost opportunities when trying to make sense of why we lost a job or are having difficulty finding one. When we are under a great deal of stress and pressure to find or keep employment there is a tendency to place blame on a previous boss, co-worker or even on a larger scale, an entire company. The problem with shifting the blame is that it does nothing to address the root of our problems, not to mention that it is a waste of time that you could be using to make the necessary steps do go out and attain another job! When you take responsibility, and realize that you cannot change or control your past job experience, or loss of that job, you can finally begin to control what kind of person you will be when interviewing with your next prospective employer. Remember, your stress level is contagious!
We may frequently find that when we are experiencing a high level of stress, we are partial to curling up under soft blanket with a salty snack, a favorite television show and possibly a glass of wine. Although the immediate effect of these enjoyable activities is a lower level of stress, the long-term result is that all of the stress symptoms that led us to feeling the pressure and tension have not been released. Regular exercise, which can mean different things based on each person’s unique body, helps to release some of the tension and toxins that increase the levels of stress we experience in the first place. (It is important that if you have not established a normal workout routine to first consult with a medical professional when aiming to do so.)
One of the many benefits of using exercise to cope with stress is that exercise improves blood flow to your brain, bringing additional sugars and oxygen that may be needed when you are thinking intensely. This intense way of thinking increases toxic waste in your body, resulting in the “foggy” feeling that some people under stress experience. By exercising you speed up the flow of blood through your body, helping to rid your body of those toxins that can cause many of the physical symptoms of stress, such as muscle tension or a headache. And if all of those reasons were not enough, Exercise can cause a release of chemicals called endorphins into your blood stream. Endorphins positively affect your body, making you feel happier and increasing the sense of well-being. Believe it or not, even if you have never exercised before and can’t imagine enjoying it, your body can become addicted to these endorphins, thus you can become addicted to exercise!
There is no limit to what kind of activities can be considered exercise. Finding those activities that you find enjoyable and suite your body type will benefit you not only physically but mentally. Some examples of low impact exercises are; walking, golf, yoga, light aerobics, stationary bicycling and water aerobics. Medium impact exercise can include; jogging, weight lifting, outdoor cycling, advanced yoga classes, Pilates, tennis, baseball, hiking and swimming. And if you are someone who already uses exercise to cope with stress, but want to improve your health and continue increasing the benefits that exercise can offer, you can try; Bikram yoga, running, rock climbing, cycle racing, basketball, rugby, boxing, heavy weight lifting (with a spotter) and many other organized sports.
Whatever activity you decide to do, make sure to embody perseverance through stressful times and make exercise a habit and not a punishment. Once exercise becomes a natural to manage your stress, you will be at the point where you can begin to take inventory of your own body and become aware of what symptoms of stress you are suffering from. Each symptom you experience is a sign that there is something that you are not attending to. Pain is our brain’s way of communicating that something is wrong. The same can be attributed to the anxiety, depression and fatigue that the loss of a job can result in. This series will help to identify ways to address all of these symptoms, resulting in a better “you” for the benefit of your life, your family and your next career opportunity.