Staying positive and confident is something that will help your health, it will help your ability to sell yourself, and it will help your self-esteem. It is also unbelievably difficult to do in a society that reminds you constantly that you need cash money in order to participate. Here are some suggestions on managing your sanity. (Be sure to check out the first things to do when you lose your job, and setting up a system to manage your job hunt.)
Find a reason to get out of the house.
You have to get out of the house. It is too easy to sit in front of the computer all day running Google searches looking for job leads, reading Twitter, or bingeing on reality TV. Here are some suggestions you can try incorporating into your routine.
Exercise: If you have a gym membership, use it. Take a class in something, anything so you can interact with other adult humans. If you don’t have a gym membership, then go for a walk. Pick a direction, walk for 15 minutes, then turn around and come back. Voila! You have now exercised for half an hour. Commit to doing this three times a week. Do it more if you can, because the endorphins go a long way towards elevating your mood. I hate exercising with a fiery passion that burns, but I feel so much more positive when I walk out of the damn place. (Plus all the other health benefits, blah blah blah.)
Volunteer: Find an organization nearby that could use some help. Don’t worry about the volunteer shift conflicting with interviews or that you’re definitely getting a job soon. They don’t care. They will work with you on this. But you’ll get out of the house, you’ll do something for other people, and you get to have conversations with people who aren’t your friends about things that aren’t the fact that you sent out 10 resumes last week and nobody sends a goddamn ‘Thanks but no thanks’ email any more.
Babysit: Do you have any friends or relatives with small children? Now is the time to offer to babysit, even if it’s for an hour so someone can run an errand. Kids take your mind off of a lot of things, mostly because you are too busy watching them like a hawk. Plus, your friends will be happy to see you.
Free stuff: Every city or town has some kind of free activities. Maybe you already know about them, but this is the time to actually use them. It is worth the bus or subway fare to get to the place. Bring a bottle of water and a sandwich or a piece of fruit from home so you’re not tempted to buy things. Movies, workshops, lectures, classes. Check with the local universities to see what they offer that’s open to the public. Does your local museum have a free night? Does your community have a First Friday (or similar, a night when all the galleries are open late)? I know the world is available to you on the internet but standing and interacting with art or culture or music in person will help shift your mind. It is too easy to get trapped in your head when you’re unemployed.
How to deal with well-meaning friends and relatives.
There is nothing worse than spending a day sending out a pack of resumes and cover letters than to have some well-meaning soul pop into your Facebook feed later that night and tell you to do something so incredibly basic it is insulting that they didn’t stop to consider that. Guaranteed, your mom will call and tell you that she read an article in USA Today that you need to make sure you are groomed appropriately for your interviews, as though you weren’t already an actual grown-up who had a job up until three weeks ago. And there’s going to be a friend who connects you with another friend who works at a company that is not at all related to what you do and won’t let up until you tell them you will email them about having coffee.
Here is how to deal with all of these people: Just thank them.
This is not some Oprah-like thing about expressing gratitude, nor is this some kind of movement to be nice to everyone. This isn’t even really about them, it’s about you.
First of all, it’s good manners and will stop you from devolving into someone raised by wolves after being out of work for a couple of weeks. Second of all, thanking them keeps things positive. Literally, you are facing so much negativity by not having a job and having to do the plodding job hunt that a moment to just say, “Thank you for thinking of me, I appreciate it,” instead of writing six paragraphs why this isn’t helpful is important. It is better for YOU and it is also better for them.
Finally, thanking them means that the next time they actually have a good idea or a real connection, they will still call you, instead of thinking, “Well, the last time I emailed Julie about a job lead, she told me she already knew about it, so I won’t bother her.”
How to deal with friends who don’t get that you really don’t have any money.
The last thing you want to do is completely drop off of everyone’s radar. So try to stay in touch with the people you normally stay in touch with. Answer the texts, respond to the Gchats, don’t ignore Facebook Messenger. Many people just want to hide and not deal with the outside world, but it is not good for you to do that when you are stuck at home, trying to find work. Try to stay involved in the general level of chat.
When people invite you out for drinks or lunch or dinner, think about saying ‘yes’ and going instead of reminding everyone you are unemployed. You can then turn up and drink water, or just order a cup of coffee, or have one glass of wine. “Oh, I already ate, but I wanted to see you” or “I had a big lunch” or “Gah, wish I could drink, but I have an interview in the morning.” I know it should not be on you to make these excuses for people but we are human beings and sometimes we are not the most perceptive people in the world.
If someone invites you somewhere expensive, it’s totally okay to suggest somewhere else. “You know, I’m trying to watch my budget until I get a new gig, how about we meet for a drink beforehand?” or “I would love to go see that show, but I’m kind of on a tighter budget now. I’d love to see you, how about we go to the rooftop movie, they’re showing Labyrinth next month?”
Yes, some people are just completely oblivious and nothing you say will have an impact. Yes, it would be great if all of our friends were as proactive as we’d like them to be. Getting angry at them will just make you feel sad, and then it turns into, “No, don’t call Heidi, remember, she’s not working right now,” when there is absolutely a way to include you.
Have a routine but don’t be afraid to change it if it’s not working.
I like to get up and go straight to the gym or take a walk in the morning because if I don’t, I will find sixteen million excuses to not do it later. But maybe that just does not work for you, or your gym is packed until 10, or you like the lunchtime yoga teachers better. A routine gives structure to your day, and a lot of people feel worse without a structure. When you work, your day automatically has structure. When that goes away, it can cause anxiety for many people. If you are totally cool with just winging it and enjoy the freedom of doing what you want every day, then you would likely not be reading this here column.
And if you drop the routine for a day or a week, you can always come back to it. Don’t beat yourself up for a couple of days where you were feeling low and couldn’t face looking at LinkedIn for one more minute.
How do you stay sane when you’re out of work? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Do you have a real life problem? Concerned about adulting? Need some help? The Crabby Old Punk Rock Advice Lady is here to help! Email her at COPRAL@bitterempire.com
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