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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

How Do I Cope with Unemployment and Stress?

11/30/2001

Question:

I was laid off from work in early November and things aren`t looking good for me to find a job anytime soon. I have a family of four and I`m the sole breadwinner. Our kids don`t understand how tight things are. When I think of the holidays and all the gifts they want, I sometimes get chest pains. I feel like a failure and I`m not sleeping well. Sometimes I wish I could just leave. How am I going to deal with this if I go for months and months without work?

Answer:

The usual ways that people cope with stress can be divided into two categories: attacking the sources of stress and dealing with the symptoms of stress. Unfortunately, people tend to only use one approach or the other, when what would be best is to use both!

Dealing with the symptoms

See your family physician to make certain that your chest pains are indeed a symptom of stress and not another problem in itself. Besides ruling out a more serious problem, it will also put your mind at ease. He or she may also be able to provide you with some assistance in dealing with your sleeping problems.

For more information on getting help, try apahelpcenter.org/

Another thing to consider is whether you should find someone in whom to confide. It could be your significant other or a trusted friend or a religious leader. Studies have shown that if you tell someone about your problems, it often alleviates your symptoms.

And it’s often a good idea to get another person’s perspective, especially if you are considering taking drastic action like leaving. Get at the source of your stress.

Although you can take some quick steps to deal with the symptoms of your stress, they will recur unless you remove what’s causing them in the first place.

First, contact the human resources division of your former employer and see what resources they have to assist you in your search for a new job. Try to secure references from former supervisors.

Use any trade groups to which you belong to provide leads. Try networking as much as you can: the more people who are aware of your situation, the more likely someone can give you a lead on a new job. In the meantime, you may want to get a seasonal position to improve your cashflow and also get you exposure to potential future employers.

Try looking at the Human Resources Websites of local employers to see if there’s something that may interest you.

This may also be a good time to get your children to focus on the meaning of the season and be more realistic about their expectations.

Learning about limits is a natural part of a child’s growth and maturation process: It’s perfectly OK to say to your child that a certain toy is too expensive.

Depending on their age, you may want to phrase it that even Santa Claus has limited funds and has to choose what to give because he has a very long list.

You can also tell your children that Mom and Dad and Santa Claus will try to choose the most suitable present for the child. Children have to learn that their wish is not someone else`s command and to curb their desires for instant gratification.

And for you, it’s helpful to not have an idealized version of what one should be doing and should be spending. Don`t listen to the hype of "if you really love your wife, you're going to give her that diamond necklace," when you can barely cover your mortgage or car payment.

Recognize it as hype and necessary advertising that stores have to do to stay in business and that it is not necessarily about the true meaning of the holiday.

You can show love and caring by getting something that you know is meaningful and personal for that person which doesn`t have to cost a lot.

Related Resources:

Stress: How and When to Get Help

For more information:

Go to the Anxiety and Stress Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

James Short, PhD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati