Coping with Long-Term Unemployment

by Sara Clemence on October 25, 2010 in Unemployment

man brand sandwich board 200Heading into a yoga class in Miami last week, I met a woman who was also from New York. Like most of us, she walked fast and talked fast. But even for a New Yorker she seemed a little…on edge.

She worried aloud about whether she was experienced enough for the class, worried about where she was going to go next, worried about the apartment she’d bought in a neighborhood she didn’t like.

During our conversation it emerged that she’d lost her job a couple of years ago and was still unemployed. I sensed that her jobless state didn’t cause her sprawling anxiety, but it did seem possible that it was part of a dreadful spiral—unemployment feeding unhappiness, making it harder to find a job, which caused more unhappiness.

In August, 30 percent of Americans who were unemployed had been out of work for over a year, according to an analysis by the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative. That’s about 4.4 million people—not just a big economic problem, but a big psychological one.

So how do you keep your chin up if you’ve been jobless for a while? Here is some of the advice out there (and in here):

Get out. “Isolation is a dangerous thing,” psychiatrist Robert London told Forbes. “When you live in your head, you ruminate and feed your depression,”

Give yourself structure. “Having a schedule you can rely on will help keep you from going insane,” says

Start something. We know a little something about this. Whether it’s a blog, new business, or home repair project, having something to invest in can be invaluable.

As a friend of mine recently advised, “If it’s not working, change something.” If you’ve been relentlessly hunting for the same job you had and not getting anywhere, it might be time to re-examine your career goals.

Mix it up. Take on some freelance assignments, get a part-time job (even if it pays crap) and/or do some volunteer work. Modern Gal dishes out advice from a friend who was unemployed for months, and who was burned out on revising her resume.

Travel. Adventures don’t have too cost a lot of money, and taking a literal step back from your life can give you perspective and inspiration. Leaving town for a week will not make you miss out on a job opportunity.

Be thankful. Gratitude journals can sound silly, but being aware of the good things in life—even if they seem few and small—can be powerful stuff. Take five minutes every day to write down what there is to be grateful for. Positive tidbits really add up.

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