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7 Tips to Help You Cope With Unemployment Depression

Feelings of depression after becoming unemployed are exceptionally common. Left untreated, unemployment depression can contribute to a loss of energy, many negative emotional shifts, and even physical symptoms that can impede your everyday life.

Unemployment depression is a natural reaction to a stressful situation, but there are healthy methods to help you cope with this challenge. By following a few simple tips, you can prevent unemployment depression from becoming clinical depression, restore your drive and motivation, and get back on track to a healthy and productive life.

What Is Unemployment Depression?

Unemployment depression is a term used to describe a period of situational depression that happens after becoming unemployed. Unemployment can frequently come with several challenges and difficulties in daily life, including:

  • Loss of routine
  • Loss of sense of purpose
  • Financial insecurity
  • Feelings of low self-worth or self-esteem
  • Anxiety about finding work
  • Stress

While not everyone who experiences unemployment develops unemployment depression, it’s easy to see why so many people struggle. When the worry, stress, or loss of routine from unemployment becomes too much to handle, it may be unemployment depression.

Symptoms of Unemployment Depression

Unemployment depression has a number of symptoms that can start to interfere with your daily life. The symptoms of unemployment depression closely parallel the symptoms of a major depressive episode and include:

  • Frustration or irritability
  • Trouble focusing
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Feeling empty, sad, or hopeless
  • Reduced energy
  • Indecisiveness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in appetite or weight

The symptoms of unemployment depression can quickly become self-sustaining if left unaddressed. These symptoms can not only stand in the way of seeking out new employment, but they can also lead to perpetually worsening physical and mental health symptoms if you don’t seek help to break free from your depressive symptoms.

How Is Unemployment Depression Different From Clinical Depression?

The primary distinction between unemployment depression and clinical depression is the cause. As suggested by the name, unemployment depression is caused by the experience of unemployment, which can be an incredibly difficult time for many people.

In the ICD-10, the international guide to medical and mental health disorders, unemployment depression typically falls into the category of “situational depression.”

When compared to clinical depression, situational depression usually resolves in a shorter period, often without requiring professional mental health intervention. In contrast, clinical depression can last much longer, return frequently, and require evidence-based treatment in order for people to achieve recovery.

While knowing that unemployment depression is often shorter in duration and resolves on its own may bring some relief, if you don’t take action to cope with unemployment depression, it can often lead to the development of clinical depression. Making a few lifestyle changes now can help you get back on track to holistic well-being.

7 Tips to Help You Cope With Unemployment Depression

Unemployment depression can often see complete resolution with just a few healthy lifestyle changes. Learning to cope with the symptoms of depression isn’t always easy, and you may not see results immediately. But sticking to seven key tips can go a long way toward helping you start to feel better.

1. Build a Routine

Unemployment will often lead to a sudden and dramatic change in the routine of everyday life. This can be incredibly disorienting and stressful, particularly if you haven’t been able to establish a new set of routines straight away.

While many people resist the idea of creating routines, they can actually play an important role in maintaining your mental health. A daily routine cuts out stress by providing a framework for your day, reducing the number of decisions and deliberations you put yourself through.

A full-time job will typically provide a stable routine from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — or even longer when you include transit time and pre- or post-work routines — five days a week. People who are working will also typically follow a regular sleep and wake schedule, which has tremendous mental health benefits. But when you’re unemployed, you need to plan for these hours yourself.

A lack of routine can feel freeing at first, like a relief from the monotony that you experienced at work. But as time goes on, a lack of routine can lead to boredom, procrastination, and a feeling of growing fatigue. The “vacation” feeling slowly slips into a feeling of unproductiveness and stress, contributing to many of the symptoms of unemployment depression.

To combat the lack of routine, create a system that parallels the routine that you had during work. Make sure that you:

  • Wake up at a specific time
  • Schedule a few hours for a job search
  • Engage in healthy practices throughout the day
  • Take time for entertainment in the evening
  • Keep a set bedtime at night

By creating a routine that you can stick to, you relieve many of the stresses that you may be experiencing. Your days are no longer empty spaces that need to be filled anew each day, but a roadmap to living a better and healthier life.

2. Engage in Mood-Boosting Activities

Unemployment depression can often be relieved through lifestyle changes. For most people, these mood-boosting activities fall into a few common categories, including:

  • Physical exercise
  • Creative endeavours
  • Mindfulness practices
  • Hobbies
  • Skill-building
  • Volunteering

Research has shown time and time again that spending time performing these types of mood-boosting activities can have a profound positive impact on your mental health, often alleviating the symptoms of depression entirely.

It’s critically important to determine what types of mood-boosting activities work for you. One person can feel energised and rejuvenated from a 10k run in the afternoon, while another may consider running for fun to be a complete contradiction. Find what works for you and do your best to stick with it.

You can do this by building these mood-boosting activities into a daily routine. By scheduling activities like exercise or mindfulness into a daily plan, they become habitual, which makes them easier and easier to maintain over time.

3. Find Connection

Social support and connection are hallmarks of positive mental health. When you are struggling with unemployment depression, simply talking about your problems with others can go a long way toward relieving the tension you experience.

But the relationship goes in the opposite direction, as well. Many people find that offering support and companionship to others is an incredibly therapeutic process, taking the emphasis away from self-centred thoughts or anxieties that can quickly spiral out of control.

When you’re experiencing unemployment depression, consider reaching out to friends you haven’t spoken to in a while, family members you haven’t had the time to see, or even a social activity that you would like to participate in. The stress relief you experience from finding supportive companionship is often worth the extra effort it takes.

4. Be Mindful of Self-Talk

Low self-esteem and self-worth are common challenges people experience during unemployment. It’s all too easy to fall into negative self-talk patterns during this stage, such as telling yourself that loss of employment was your fault, that you aren’t good enough, or that internal factors are what’s holding you back from reaching fulfilment.

These patterns can quickly become self-destructive if not reined in. Believing that your current circumstance is a result of internal characteristics can imply that your situation is unchangeable. Instead, focus on your strengths, your skills, and the positive things you have in life, as these can help propel you forward to reaching your goals.

5. Set Realistic Goals for Yourself

Most people experiencing unemployment depression are highly motivated to reach new goals, find a new job, and reverse the course of circumstances that have put them into this position. But while setting ambitious goals can be important, it’s also vital to recognise that it’s not always a single-step process.

Rather than setting a goal of “finding a new job,” break the problem down into more actionable steps. This could mean breaking down your search into phases, such as:

  • Updating your resume
  • Contacting your references
  • Finding employers hiring in your area
  • Writing a cover letter
  • Reaching out to employers directly
  • Submitting your application
  • Preparing for interviews

By breaking goals down piecemeal, they become easier to tackle. The prospect of finding a job can often feel overwhelming, while smaller goals along the way are more approachable and achievable in a short timeframe.

Setting goals in this way also helps restore your motivation and drive. If every day your goal is to “find a new job,” then every day you don’t secure a new position can be interpreted as a failure.

In contrast, smaller goals can build and sustain the motivation required to achieve your ultimate goal. Updating your resume becomes a success. Writing a cover letter is a success. Each day that you send in an application becomes a win.

6. Explore New Opportunities

As nerve-racking as unemployment can be, it can also be a chance to explore new opportunities and find new ways of finding purpose and meaning. Whether that means looking at different opportunities in work, finding new skills to develop, or simply finding rewarding and engaging activities for your own mental health, take this time to explore.

The greatest successes are often forged in the face of adversity. Shifting your perspective from feeling down about your circumstance to feeling empowered to discover new avenues of success can drastically improve the symptoms of unemployment depression and may even lead to a new passion or calling in life.

7. Get Professional Help

Unemployment depression can be an incredibly difficult experience and sometimes evolve into clinical depression if left unaddressed. If you’ve tried other tips without success, consider reaching out to a specialised mental health facility or therapist, where you can get evidence-based therapy options to help you overcome your challenges.

There are a number of different treatment options for people experiencing depression. Some of the most common treatments available for depression include:

Connecting with a mental health professional can help you determine which treatment is right for you and start you on the path to recovery.

Reach Out to APN London

If you’re looking for professional resources, the team at APN London is here to help. Our multidisciplinary team of mental health professionals has an abundance of tools to help people work through the challenges of unemployment depression, from talk therapy to ketamine-assisted healing and beyond.

By emphasising both traditional mental health treatment options and innovative new techniques, no stone is left unturned in our approach to holistic wellness. Get started today by calling at 0203 984 7699, filling out our confidential online contact form, or using the live chat function on our website.

References

  • Cooney, Gary M., et al. “Exercise for Depression.” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, vol. 2013, no. 9, 2013, https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD004366.pub6. Accessed 7 Apr. 2024.
  • Cuijpers, Pim, et al. “A Meta-Analysis of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy for Adult Depression, Alone and in Comparison with Other Treatments.” The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 2013, https://doi.org/10.1177/070674371305800702. Accessed 7 Apr. 2024.