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Ask a TFI Expert: Dealing with Job Loss and Unemployment with Lesley Seeger, LCSW

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In today’s economy, more and more families and individuals are dealing with issues of job loss and unemployment. Today Lesley Seeger, LCSW, provides some insights and tips on how to deal with the stress.


Why me and not the person in the cube next to me?

Job loss and unemployment can have a profound effect on a person’s psychological state. Losing a job and dealing with prolonged unemployment can impact self-esteem—thoughts like “what did I do wrong?” or “am I not good enough?” can affect someone’s confidence in his/her ability and can also bring about feelings of sadness, anger or shame.


Its you against a beast.

It’s a loss when we lose a job, and it’s a process, but the economic factors that make job loss and unemployment realities for so many aren’t controllable. When an individual loses a job, he/she may enter into a crisis state. However, as unemployment drags on, then depression can set in. Trying to get back into the workforce in today’s economy can take a toll on self-esteem—even with individuals who have otherwise healthy self-confidence.


The stress reverberates.

In addition to its effect on individuals, the strain of job loss and unemployment can impact entire families. The financial stress of unemployment is one thing—but unemployment also can impact families on the emotional level. If you’re feeling angry or scared about your situation, you may become short with your wife or husband, or you may become isolated and withdrawn and not able to be with your family at all.

There is also a shift when a parent is out of a job—Mom or Dad may be home when she/he used to be gone all day—which can create confusion or fear with younger children. Use the opportunity as a teaching moment for your kids and talk to them about what’s going on while also reassuring them things will be okay.


Be on the lookout for more serious issues.

While a certain amount of stress and/or sadness is expected when dealing with job loss and unemployment, be aware of the warning signs that there may be a more serious mental health issue going on. If you and/or your loved one(s) are experiencing any of the following, contact a professional:

  • Decrease in self-care (less sleep or significantly more sleep; significant weight gain/loss; lack of personal hygiene)
  • Uncharacteristically withdrawn or on-edge behavior
  • Loss of interest in activities one normally finds enjoyable
  • Loss of motivation or a sense of giving up


Combat the psychological strain.

While dealing with job loss and unemployment can be difficult, there are ways to ease the stress:

  1. Structure Your Day: It helps to maintain a similar schedule you had in the working world and to still be present in your life and relationships.
  2. Garner Support: Setting up networking and/or informational meetings takes courage. If you’re not feeling courageous, talk to someone you trust who will support you and remind you of your credentials, qualifications and skills and ‘coach’ you back out there.
  3. Reflect, Breathe, Chat: Take time to reflect and check the facts and remember that some things are out of your control. It’s important to take a step back from the situation, breathe, and reach out to your support people.
  4. Have Compassion for Yourself: It’s hard to be unemployed—there’s financial and emotional stress. Remember to have compassion for yourself as you deal with these issues.
  5. Do Something Different: In addition to the tasks you need to do—job hunting, networking, etc.—take the opportunity of being off work to be creative with your time: See a movie in the middle of a weekday; go to a museum. It’s important to find ways to balance the stress with some fun and normalcy.

Lesley Seeger, LCSW, is a staff therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. She sees clients at the Chicago location and is a member of the Mindfulness and Behavior Therapies Program.

To read Lesley’s full bio or make an appointment, visit our website.

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