Seven ways to cope with job loss

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Jesusegun Alagbe

Elisha Ilesanmi opened his email one morning recently and found out he had been relieved of his job. His employer, a marketing firm in Ikeja, Lagos, cited poor sales during the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“My former employer, an importer of electronics from China, was badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. From the beginning of the year, we experienced poor sales. But by March when the state government, and later the Federal Government, shut down businesses, of course, we couldn’t sell any goods.

“I started sensing trouble when at March ending, we were not paid salary. At first, we did not hear anything from the company, but they later informed us that we would receive half of our salary. They paid it in the second week of April,” Ilesanmi told Saturday PUNCH.

With no sales made by the company amid the continued COVID-19 troubles, the Osun State indigene said he knew it would be hard for his former employer to pay April salary.

He said, “In mid-April, around 70 per cent of the workforce was sacked. I was spared then but I didn’t know that my sacking was coming. The company used to pay me around N130,000 per month.

“But as April was ending, I got an email from the human resources department that they would only pay the basic salary for April, and I was shocked to know that it was just N35,000. I was mad, but, of course, it’s better than having nothing.”

Ilesanmi said the problem reached the peak when his former employer sacked him in the first week of May when the lockdown was being eased.

“I was thanking God that finally I could return to work but I got an email on May 1 that my services were no longer required due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was devastated, though it didn’t really come as a surprise. All the signs had been there,” he said.

Ilesanmi added that the problem now was to get a new job as businesses were just opening after the weeks-long shutdown.

“I know many friends who were affected too. So the problem was not peculiar to my former employer. But the issue now is getting a new job,” he said.

Ilesanmi is not the only one who has lost their job due to the coronavirus, which broke out last December in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China.

As the virus ravaged the world, governments across the world shut down their economies to check the spread of the disease.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), also announced lockdown measures in March, shutting companies except those engaging in essential services like media houses, hospitals and food companies.

However, he directed a gradual easing of the lockdown which started on May 4 but asked companies and citizens to continue adhering to measures such as social distancing, regular hand-washing, use of hand sanitisers, wearing of face masks and others.

The COVID-19 pandemic– which has infected millions worldwide and killed hundreds of thousands– has badly affected the global economy. It has resulted in job losses and drastic measures such as salary cut being taken by many companies.

Another person who has suffered job loss recently is Paul Ubezie, who used to work at one of the engineering firms in Lagos.

He said he was complaining about how his former employer had to deduct his salary by 60 per cent when he was finally told that his services would no longer be required.

“I was heartbroken. For two days, I couldn’t tell my wife because she just lost her job too barely before the lockdown started. When I finally told her, she wept throughout the night.

“I’m just a bit relieved that I was able to save some money which I want to use to start a farming business in Ogun State. My wife also has a small confectionery business which is bringing in some income. Our situation would have been pathetic,” Ubezie said.

Understandably, it is hard times for anyone who has lost their job, especially at this period. The thought of losing one’s source of income could be scary for anyone.

Psychologists noted that the stress of unemployment could take a serious toll on one’s well-being and raise stress levels, especially with the current state of the global economy and a much lower chance of getting a new job anytime soon.

In fact, some experts said job loss could be startlingly similar to the loss of a loved one and have an effect on one’s sense of identity.

“The reason why job loss feels so damaging is that your work structures many daily routine. For many, their job also provides a significant source of their identity. Moreover, work also provides a social network, a steady paycheque, and critically, a predictable routine,” Art Markman and Michelle Jack wrote on Fast Company.

For anyone who has lost their job in recent times, psychologists and career coaches have suggested the following seven ways to successfully cope with the situation.

Allow yourself to grieve

Grief is a natural response to loss, and that includes the loss of a job. As well as the loss of income, being out of work also comes with other major losses, some of which may be difficult to face.

According to Melinda Smith, Dr Jeanne Segal and Lawrence Robinson of Help Guide magazine, these are “a feeling of loss of control over your life; your professional identity; your self-esteem and self-confidence; daily routine; friendships.”

The experts noted that while everyone grieved differently, there were healthy and unhealthy ways to mourn the loss of a job – be it drinking too much or binging on junk food for comfort.

“But these would only provide fleeting relief and in the long-term will make you feel even worse,” the experts said, noting that acknowledging one’s feelings and challenging one’s negative thoughts would help one deal with the loss and move on.

Give yourself time to adjust

Smith, Segal and Robinson said grieving the loss of one’s job and adjusting to unemployment could take time. They recommended going easy on oneself and not attempting to bottle up one’s feelings.

They said, “If you allow yourself to feel what you feel, even the most unpleasant, negative feelings will pass.

“Write about your feelings. Express everything you feel about being laid off or unemployed, including things you wish you had (or hadn’t) said to your former boss. This is especially cathartic if your termination was handled in an insensitive way.

“While it’s important to acknowledge how difficult job loss and unemployment can be, it’s equally important to avoid wallowing. Rather than dwelling on your job loss – the unfairness, how poorly it was handled, the ways you could have prevented it, or how much better life would be if it hadn’t happened – try to accept the situation. The sooner you do so, the better you can get on with the next phase in your life.”

Avoid beating yourself up

It’s easy to start criticising or blaming yourself when you’re unemployed. But it’s important to avoid putting yourself down. You’ll need your self-confidence to remain intact as you’re looking for a new job.

Smith, Segal and Robinson wrote, “Challenge every negative thought that goes through your head. If you start to think, ‘I’m a loser,’ write down evidence to the contrary: ‘I lost my job because of the lockdown, not because I was bad at my job.’

“Think of your job loss as a temporary setback. Most successful people have experienced major setbacks in their careers but turned things around by picking themselves up, learning from the experience, and trying again. You can do the same.”

Reach out to the right people

Career coach, Monique Valcour, said with many people going through personal challenges during the pandemic, someone who just lost their job might worry about burdening others with their problems.

However, she said weathering these tough circumstances alone could make the stress even worse, particularly as social distancing had led to many people feeling isolated and unable to get in touch with their support network.

“One way to make it easier to connect with others is to preface your conversation and set a time limit. For example, maybe you text a friend that you need 15 minutes to talk about how you’re feeling after being laid off from your company.

“Take the same approach when tapping your professional network. Also, sometimes, it can be helpful to talk to a therapist,” Valcour wrote on CNBC.

Try a new hobby

Human resources expert, Abimbola Osuolale, recommended pursuing activities that could bring purpose and joy to one’s life after a job loss.

“By pursuing meaningful hobbies, activities, and relationships, you can reaffirm that it’s these things that define you as an individual, not your employment status.

“Try a new hobby that enriches your spirit or pick up a long-neglected hobby. Take a class, join a volunteer club, or learn something new such as a foreign language or new work-related skill. At a time when money may be tight, look for events and activities that are inexpensive to attend,” she told Saturday PUNCH.

Exercise, eat well

Smith, Segal and Robinson said now was the time to keep moving and not wallowing in self-pity.

“Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress. As well as relaxing tensed muscles and relieving tension in the body, exercise releases powerful endorphins to improve your mood. Trimming your waistline and improving your physique may also give your self-confidence a boost.

“Rhythmic exercise, where you move both your arms and legs, is a hugely effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body. Try walking, running, weight training, swimming, martial arts, or even dancing,” they said.

The experts also recommended eating healthy. “Minimise sugar and refined carbs. High-carbohydrate foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine and chemical preservatives or hormones.

“Avoid nicotine. Smoking when you’re feeling stressed may seem calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant, leading to higher, not lower, levels of stress and anxiety. Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol may temporarily reduce worry, but too much can cause even greater anxiety as it wears off,” they said.

Look ahead, search for a new job

According to Osuolale, someone could lose a job to get a better one, but this is not possible without searching.

“Create a job search plan. Take time to rethink the way forward. Do you want a new job or you want to start a business? Though I’ll recommend not plunging one’s savings into a new business.

“Get in touch with your professional network, family and friends, and ask if they know of any opportunity somewhere. Who knows, you might get a better job than your previous one,” she said.


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