Unemployment & Depression: How To Deal With the Blues

May 22nd, 2012 No comments

When we talk about job search, we speak a lot about mechanics: how to write your resume, how to interview, and how to network. But here’s the elephant in the room — a huge subject that we don’t talk about enough — the psychological side of the job search.

Are you unemployed?

Do you have trouble sleeping? Have you lost contact with good friends? Have your family relationships become strained? Have you felt  a loss of confidence?
You are not alone. The Pew Research Center reports that these are common experiences of job seekers who’ve been unemployed for as little as two months.

In a survey of over 800 unemployed Americans, Pew found that nearly half had reported trouble sleeping — a common symptom of anxiety and depression. Pew reports that people who are unemployed are more likely to seek psychological help for anxiety and depression.¬† Based on my own experience facilitating job search groups and working with individuals, I’d also say that there are also many more job seekers who don’t seek treatment because they feel they can’t afford it.

Bottom line: The psychological aspect of job search can be just as challenging as the logistics of finding a job. Here are five strategies you can use to keep yourself emotionally healthy.

1. Educate your friends and family on how to talk to you.

If you’ve been in the job search for a while, it may feel awful when friends or family say, “How’s your job search going? You still haven’t heard back? Why is it taking so long?”

All of this can feel not good. This piece from blogger Penelope Trunk focuses on how to help a friend who’s been laid off. If you agree with it, you may want to make it required reading for your friends and family. (And feel free to add your own suggestions on “the best way to communicate with me.)

2. Do something that makes you feel good about yourself.

Pew reports that nearly 40% of individuals who’ve been in the job market for more than six months say they’ve lost some degree of self respect.

In a job search you can’t guarantee you’ll get the job you want in short order. You can do things that make you feel good about yourself. Here are two ways to feel good:

1. Volunteer.
Idealist.org and United Way are two sites that have great leads on organizations in need of volunteers.

2. Do something that plays to your strengths.
Here’s a free survey from the VIA Institute on Character that can help you identify your interpersonal strengths. As there’s a strong correlation between what we enjoy and what we do well, this may help you brainstorm new options.

3. Don’t go it alone. Join a club.

Dick Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute, says job clubs have an 84% success rate in helping people find work. That’s a much higher success rate than simply applying for jobs online.

Participating in a job club helps in two ways: In addition to getting help on how to apply for jobs, you get all the benefits of hanging out with other people who know what you’re going through — because they’ve been there,too and they are more likely to say “I know exactly how you are feeling, because I’ve been there myself.”

Two sources for finding great clubs:

Job-Hunt.org’s Directory of Networking and Job Search Support by State

and

MeetUp.com (includes hundreds of other professional and personal interest groups, as well as job clubs)

4. Ask for a Good Word from a Friend

While part of the U.S. work ethic is to “pull yourself up by the boot straps,” don’t overlook the power of getting help with your job search. Want more evidence? Consider this off-cited statistic, “if you get referred in for a job, your chances of getting hired may go up to 1 in 4.”

Connect your free StartWire account to LinkedIn and Facebook, and you’ll get suggestions on friends who can help you with specific jobs.

Let your friends know what you’re good at — and jobs you’d be open to — and you’ll also have a better chance of success in getting what you want there as well.

5. If You’re Feeling Low, Get Help

Many community agencies provide free or low-cost mental health resources. The Department of Labor runs national One-Stop career centers designed to provide comprehensive support for job seekers — don’t be afraid to ask them about mental health services available near you.

To find available services near you, check in with your local one stop center.

These five tips are designed to help you stay mentally fit and feeling good , we encourage you to check out at least one of them even if you’re feeling down and don’t feel like you have the energy to even get started. As bestselling author and Psychiatrist Gordon Livingston says, “feelings often follow behaviors”: One of the best ways to start feeling better is simply to do something!

Photo courtesy of Craig M. Dennis via Flickr.

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