5 Ways To Stay Grounded When You Don't Have A Job

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Stressed Woman Sitting in Sunlight

Image by Liliya Rodnikova / Stocksy

Unemployment rates in the U.S. have increased significantly due to the closure of service industries and nonessential businesses. The initial shock of losing your job can be difficult enough, but with most hiring processes on hold, it may be even more difficult to pick up and move forward right now.

If you've been unemployed for an extended period of time, you may be asking yourself: How can I fill my time? How do I respond when people ask me how I'm doing? How do you define yourself when you don't have a job to explain who you are and what you do?

To help you cope emotionally through unemployment, we consulted financial psychologist Ted Klontz, Ph.D., and financial educator Brianna Firestone, who provide these five tips for staying grounded: 

1. Acknowledge the emotional impact.

Whether you've been furloughed, laid off, or forced into early retirement, losing a job can cause more than just financial stress—there's also a significant emotional impact beyond just the money.

"It can be so unsettling to lose your job for obvious reasons, but one we often don't expect is the feeling of loss we can experience," Firestone says. "Many of us mesh our identities with our titles, jobs, and how much money we make. When one or all of those are suddenly gone, you might encounter feelings of loss."

Along with losing a job, it can feel like we're losing a part of our identity or something we've previously used as a marker of our self-worth. There's important work to do in rebuilding our sense of selves during this time, but the first step is to acknowledge how unemployment has been making you feel and why.

Klontz urges you not to "underestimate the psychological impact of losing your job." Suppressing your emotions will only make it worse in the long run. Acknowledging your feelings and allowing yourself to grieve the loss are the first steps in moving forward.

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2. Confide in someone about what you're going through.

Many people experience feelings of shame or inadequacy after losing a job, and thus they may try to cover up what's happened to them and hide it from others. But during periods of joblessness, we usually have a lot of emotions that we need to process—and having social support helps immensely.

You'll probably experience a stream of emotions from denial to regret and sadness, eventually to acceptance. "That whole cycle is normal," Klontz explains, "and it's best if you have someone safe to share that with."

He adds, "People who open up to others tend to do better in times like this."

It may take you some time, but find someone you can get really real with about what you're struggling with while unemployed. This isn't about asking for job advice; it's about asking for emotional support as you navigate an emotional and confusing time for yourself.

3. Understand your attachment to work.

"Often in our busy lives, we don't have the space to even consider if we are creating attachments for our identities outside of ourselves," Firestone says. Use this time to write out a list of what you loved about your company, your job title, your daily tasks, and how those made you feel. For example, you felt seen, empowered, creative, or helpful. You can also process the things you lacked at your job and what feelings you want to experience at work and in your life more broadly

"It might feel tough to go back down memory lane," Firestone notes. But this process helps you see what the root of your attachment was and realize it can be found in other ways.

"Think about what you were doing in your job, aside from the job title," Klontz suggests. For example, if you were helping people, think about where and how you may be able to do that in your current circumstance. If feeling like you're part of a team was important to you, how can you build that experience and those feelings into your life in a way that's not attached to work?

This is how you start to reclaim your identity beyond just your job title.

4. Find ways to feel purposeful.

Although we might not realize it, part of why being employed is so important to us is because it makes us feel purposeful—like we're doing something that matters or working toward something bigger than ourselves.

Don't wait for your next job to tap into your sense of purpose. We are living through an unprecedented situation, Klontz points out: "We don't know what the future is going to look like." Instead, think of what you can do right now.

Even in a time of physical distance, social connection is important for well-being. When we do something for other people, Klontz explains, our brains kick out endorphins, which causes us to feel better. A simple hello, even through a text or phone call, can help you look outside of yourself for a bit.

A few other ideas:

  • Writing letters to hospital patients or elderly communities
  • Buying groceries for your elderly neighbors
  • Check in on friends and family members who live alone
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5. Let yourself relax.

You don't need to be productive 24/7. Being unemployed does not mean you need to spend every waking hour looking for a new job, networking, or even giving back. Let yourself take this time to take care of yourself, relax, and do the things you love to do. No guilt. No agenda, other than nurturing yourself.

"Think about what has historically provided you comfort and allow yourself to do that, unabashedly," Klontz says. Prioritizing activities that bring you joy can restore a sense of routine while also providing comfort. This may include meditation, exercise, dancing, playing instruments, or journaling—whatever brings you relief. "I know one lady who has saved up all the Oprah Winfrey Super Soul Sundays and is bingeing those," Klontz says.

These activities can take you out of the present moment and move you into a larger awareness of who you are. "Even a little bit of that is calming and comforting," Klontz says.

Finding healthy ways to connect to yourself (and others) will be key to staying grounded during this time.

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