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Redundancy: Surviving the mental health impact of losing your job

Covid has put all our finances under stress, and there’s a cost to our mental health too. As redundancies and job losses grow, Cate Sevilla explains how best to cope
Cate Sevilla Photo: Ollie Adegboye

Losing your job – no matter if it’s through furlough, eventual redundancy, or even being fired – can feel like a full-blown attack on your financial security and your mental health

It’s not something to take lightly or brush off just because so many others are in the same position. 

Through my own experiences of being made redundant [Cate was editor-in-chief at The Pool when the company collapsed], I understand the grief, shame and risk that comes with job loss, and the impact it had on my mental health and my life as a whole. Here are the biggest lessons I learned from job loss, and what I think are the key steps you can take if you, too, have lost your job and your mental health is suffering.

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Give yourself time to recover from redundancy

One of the worst things you can do to yourself at this time is to try to rush into a new job or think that you must spend your time between jobs (or even on furlough) “being productive” or applying for every job you can find. Firstly, you’ve been through a really tough, emotional event. Give yourself as much time to recover for as long as your finances and personal circumstances allow.

Consume whatever it is you need – whether it’s copious amounts of cheese or soothing podcasts – to try and make coping easier. Making decisions, especially when they’re related to your career, when you’re in a place of grief, desperation or panic never ends well. Giving yourself time to process what’s happened is crucial.

Don’t be ashamed to ask for help

It might feel messy to be honest with those who ask how you are, or shameful to say “I lost my job” but trust me – so many people know what it’s like to be unemployed for a while (or to feel unemployable).

You’re also in a position where you might need help in unexpected ways. For example, if you’ve not had to look for a job in years (or even decades!), you might need help with your CV or navigating online job boards. You might have questions about moving into a new industry. You might need an introduction to someone or ask a former colleague to write a letter of recommendation. Be open to receiving help. Be transparent about what you’re going through – it will make everything so much easier to not only deal with, but move on from.

Redundancy can be an opportunity to reset

In addition to resting and recovering, you can use big life moments like this – even the more stressful and grief-stricken ones – as an opportunity to reset and reassess things.

Why not use the loss of your job as a moment to pause and reflect on where you’re at? Are you wanting to spend more time at home with your kids and think your next role should actually be part-time? Are you wanting to change industries altogether?

Now is a perfect moment to take a breath, pause, and think about what you really want from your next role (or lack thereof!)

Don’t compete in the ‘who has suffered the most?’ olympics

It is very tempting when something bad happens to try to compare and even compete over who has suffered most. Trust me when I say, do not get caught up in this – not only is it impossible to measure grief or someone else’s suffering – but it’s incredibly unempathetic and unkind, to both yourself and others.

Equally, as many of us are acutely aware of how devastating the pandemic has been, it can feel superficial to be upset about losing your job when you know that others ‘have it so much worse’. You have the right to be upset about your job loss even if you’re ‘technically OK’. Don’t try to diminish what you’re going through.

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There is no magic moment that will turn everything around

Above all else, you must remember that recovering from losing your job is a process, just like grieving.

You will make great strides, and lose ground simultaneously. You will receive hopeful news but also have setbacks. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll no doubt have some amazing opportunities come your way.

But there won’t be a singular, magic moment – the one phone call, the one virtual coffee, the one email – that solves everything for you. Try to be present and experience the positives, but don’t let the negatives weigh you down.

Recovery is a balance, but as long as you know that you’re going forward and not remaining frozen with fear or anxiety, that you’re making progress and will eventually be OK. In fact, I’d wager you’ll eventually be much better than just ‘OK’.

How To Work Without Losing Your Mind by Cate Sevilla is out now (Penguin, £14.99) @CateSevilla

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