Pina Newman, a counselor with Catholic Social Services of Oakland County, Mich., just north of Detroit, has a busy workload, as even people in once-stable professions find themselves out of work and less able to cope with the stresses of unemployment.
Working out of a parish rectory to see clients, Newman put together a list, “Seven Ways to Improve Your Mental Health During Times of Unemployment.” They are:
1. Create a daily schedule.
This can include a regular time set aside for job searches, exercise, social activities, houehold duties, etc. Get up in the a.m., shower and “get ready for the day” as you normally would.
2. Allow yourself and family members to express emotions.
Create an atmosphere in your home where all family members can freely express their feelings of anger, frustration and despair. Don’t talk about “snapping out of it.” This denies and discounts what a person may be feeling. Recognize that most people are not at fault for losing their jobs.
3. Be flexible.
Roles within the family will probably shift during this period. Be supportive of one another and allow the changes to take place.
4. Take good care of yourself’.
Eat balanced meals, exercise, get outside and engage in enjoyable, relaxing activities. This is not a time to isolate yourself and avoid family and friends. You may want to engage in journal writing, meditation, and prayer for some solitary activities.
5. Build your network.
Reach out to family, friends, church and clergy. Share with others some of your thoughts and what type of work you are looking for. Consider joining a group in your community for networking and support.
6. Reward yourself for your efforts.
Give yourself acknowledgment for what you are doing. This may simply be in the form of what you are saying to yourself or writing in a journal some of your daily progresses. Perhaps you share some of your efforts with a family member or a friend. Realize you are taking steps toward your goal.
7. Get help if you are depressed.
Sometimes things get so difficult you feel overwhelmed. If you are feeling depressed for more than three weeks, you feel numb, empty-hearted, tired all the time, have sleep problems, cry frequently, can’t concentrate or have a change in eating habits, see your doctor or a counselor. Depression is an illness and should be treated. Get professional help if:
— You ever become violent.
— Consider suicide.
— Think of separating from your spouse because of unemployment.
— Find yourself turning to alcohol or drugs.
Also, if you notice your child is acting out, has a drop in grades, you may consider seeking some help for them.