With 2020’s unemployment rates sky-rocketing, stress levels among millions have increased. Here are 4 things I’ve done to help with the stress after my lay off.
With the deadly coronavirus spreading across the nation, many businesses have shut down or completely changed the way they operate this year. Unemployment rates increased drastically at 14.7 percent in April, the highest level since the Great Depression. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20.5 million people abruptly lost their jobs. I was one of those people.
I will admit, like most, I did not take my job loss well. Not only did my job provide financial security, but it also gave me motivation and dedication. Without it, I was left with an infinite amount of time to stress out about filing for unemployment, paying the bills, sprucing up my resume, and finding a new job.
I fell into a hole of aimlessly sitting on the couch, binge-watching Netflix shows. I needed time to come to terms with my loss. Taking a break from everything was my way of coping with it. Everyone deserves a grieving period, even for a job loss.
We can endure much more than we think we can; all human experience testifies to that. All we need to do is learn not to be afraid of pain. Grit your teeth and let it hurt. Don’t deny it, don’t be overwhelmed by it. It will not last forever.“When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough” by Rabbi Harold Kushner
The grieving period must come to an end at some point, though. And when that happens, the stress of reality kicks back in. This was the point when I decided to occupy my newly founded free time with beneficial activities that would help reduce my stress levels while I pursued my job hunt.
Reduce Stress by Returning to Old Hobbies
I loved my job. It was what I’d always wanted to do with my life. But it also consumed my life. Full-time jobs take up at least eight hours of your day, and if you have a long commute as I did, we commit even more time to the job.
When I was done grieving my job loss, I realized how much more time I had to do all the other things I love to do. I was no longer too tired after a long day at the office. I didn’t only have a few hours of free time to do what I pleased. I had an entire day.
A study on PubMed Central (PMC) proves that spending time doing leisure activities relieves stress. Thrive Global claims in a related article that some of the best hobbies to reduce stress are listening to music, journaling, reading more, puzzling, and coloring. In my case, I went back to avidly reading, which I’d been doing less and less of. I even picked up creative writing again. I’d become too burnt out to do it for fun after spending my workdays writing and editing. Partaking in these old hobbies brought me joy and purpose again.
Reduce Stress with Daily Meditation
After a couple of stress-filled months of worrying about the coronavirus and not receiving my unemployment benefits due to system overloads, my friend recommended I start meditation. The once spiritual practice has long been known to enhance mindfulness and reduce stress.
“With its introduction in the West, meditation began to become more removed from the religious connections and teachings of its roots and taught in more westernized ways. By the 1960s and 1970s, meditation was being researched via scientific studies, further removing its spiritual contexts and encouraging the practice to be used by anyone, not just those seeking spiritual fulfillment.”“The History and Origin of Meditation” by Elaine Mead, BSc.
Frankly, I always thought meditation was a bunch of baloney, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. There are a bunch of free apps and YouTube videos out there for meditation. I always heard good things about the Calm app, so I signed up for the seven-day free trial period, figuring I’d delete the app once the trial was up.
Turns out, meditation helped me relax in ways I never thought it could. It helped me sort out the jungle of thoughts rolling around in my head and train my brain into achieving a state of calmness. During some sessions, I was so tuned into the meditation that I dozed off. In addition to reducing my stress during the day, the app’s sleep meditations helped me fall asleep every night. I ended up keeping and paying for the app after the trial period was over.
Reduce Stress by Regularly Exercising
No doubt you’ve heard it a thousand times before from textbooks, articles, or your gym-fanatic friends: regular exercise can improve one’s overall mood. MayoClinic states the scientific reason behind this: “Physical activity may help bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.” I never quite felt that way when I previously attempted exercise routines, always feeling exhausted after a workout. Now I completely agree with the statement, though.
After lifting myself out of my couch coma, I began to exercise to try and feel better but also to simply lose weight. I started off about once or twice a week, on and off, with no real results. Then, I started working out more frequently and consistently. The routine caused a noticeable boost in energy and a decrease in tension in my body and mind.
While it might not be something I love to do, it is something I feel good about afterward. It makes me feel healthy and happy, as cliche as that might sound. The positive feeling is what keeps me motivated.
Reduce Stress by Trying New Things
In addition to giving you more time for old hobbies, unemployment can also give you a chance to discover new hobbies. Those old hobbies might not keep your attention as much as they used to. Or, like what happened in my case,) you’ll have too much spare time on your hands and want even more things to do with it.
“Engaging in hobbies can provide a break with a purpose, which can help people feel that they’re not just sitting around but are using their downtime for something productive.”“The Importance of Hobbies for Stress Relief” by Elizabeth Scott, MS
At first, I attempted baking, but it wasn’t really for me. Then, I dove into gaming, which I’d always dabbled in. I’m not great at video games, but it’s a fun, relaxing way to spend time. However, the best new hobby I’ve picked up while unemployed is knitting. A friend got me started one evening, which, of course, led me down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos. For someone with idle hands like me, knitting is a great hobby. According to an article on Thrive Global, “Knitting is one of the more practical and stress-relieving hobbies to pick up.”
Unemployment allows people to do things they’ve never done before. It has given me the time to pick up new hobbies that reduce my stress and keep me entertained. For others, it may be a point in time where they discover something new that they love. It could even lead them down an entirely different career path.
Unemployment is a stressful thing to deal with. There are ways to cope with the stress though. The four things above are simply a few things that I’ve done. While my stress about job hunting hasn’t completely gone away, these things have definitely helped reduce it.