Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

12 Depression Busters for the Unemployed

depression for unemployed.jpeg

The unemployment rate today has skyrocketed to approximately 10% and is forecasted to stay above 9.5 percent for the rest of 2011. For the first time in American history, more women are working than men because close to 80 percent of the people laid off in the recent recession were men.

According to a recent study published in the “International Journal of Epidemiology,” unemployment is a major risk factor for depression, even in people without previous vulnerability. Because my husband is an architect–the housing market is dead, remember–whose work has slowed down substantially, I have an invested interest in this topic and wanted to know what I could do to help him stay physically and emotionally healthy, since, theoretically, one of us should be. Here, then, are 12 steps to bust your depression when you’re unemployed.


1. Take a breather

Whether you like it or not, you’ve just been given a breather. And chances are that you desperately needed it. One exercise to make you feel better immediately is to think about everything you hated about your job. In fact, make a list! Doesn’t that feel good? You will rejoin the rat race soon enough, so allow yourself some rest right now … a chance to actually eat a meal at home and not watch the minute hand of your watch so much. Try to appreciate the moment in present time, without constantly rushing. This hiatus from the pressure of corporate America will teach you more lessons and make you more resilient than you know.

2. Identify symptoms

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression affects 6 million men each year. But most men’s depression goes undiagnosed. They are much less likely to seek help because of the macho thing (they feel like they are supposed to tough it out) and because their symptoms are different than those we typically associate with depression (women’s). So it’s helpful to look out for these clues of male depression: irritability and anger, blaming others, alcohol and drug abuse, feeling ashamed, insomnia or sleeping too little, strong fear of failure, using TV, sports, and sex to self-medicate.


3. Get to work!

Before you get too cozy in your robe and slippers and watch too many episodes of “Oprah,” there’s this piece of advice: Get to work! Just because you don’t have a nice sum of money being deposited into your bank account every other week does not mean you don’t have a job. You have several, actually, and the sooner you start, the easier they will be: 1. Polish the resume. Like, for example, take out the part where you said you were class president of your freshman class in high school. 2. Network. That’s easy today with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You’ve got tons of contacts right there at your finger tips. 3. Evaluate your career. Maybe it’s the wrong time to ask the question “Is this really what I want to be doing?” But it could also be the right time, if there ever was a right time. If you really hated your job, entertain the possibility of doing something totally different! And if it doesn’t work out, please don’t blame me.


4. Shift your self-esteem

Most of us get our self-esteem from our jobs, because we subscribe to a Calvinistic work ethic, which dictates that hard work is central to a person’s calling. We Americans are a tad obsessed with work. Men’s self-definition, especially, is wrapped up in their job, so any demotion or pink slip is a major blow to their ego and self-esteem. David Burns describes three levels of self-esteem in his book, “10 Days to Self-Esteem”: conditional, unconditional, and “non-existent self-esteem.” The last is reserved for evolved souls like Mother Teresa and Gandhi. But if we can work toward a place where our self-esteem isn’t as dependent on people, places, and things (and especially our work), we experience a kind of unmatched freedom.


5. Develop some hobbies (and get in shape)

This is a perfect time to find out what you like to do, aside from working and sleeping. Leisure isn’t a luxury for the rich and lazy. Active leisure–where you do more than control the remote–has many health benefits. There was a recent study by Salvatore Madde that showed how active leisure (for four to six hours a week) protected people from experiencing stress and developing depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and overeating problems. If you do nothing else with your time away from the cubicle, at least begin a health plan and start working out. You will benefit enormously from the antidepressant effects of exercise alone.

6. Work on a budget


You are going to be much less stressed out if you look the monster in the face, than if you run from it. The monster, of course, being your budget. Cut out all expenses that aren’t absolutely necessary: Starbucks coffee, a landline phone number that you don’t use, a cleaning lady or gardening services, cable. Come up with some meals that are healthy but save money on expensive produce. Involve the whole family in these decisions. The more control you have over your financial situation, the less prone to depression you’ll be.

7. Connect with others

It’s easy to isolate when you lose your job. But it’s about the worst thing you can do for your mood. In her PsychCentral blog post, “Keeping My Sanity After Two Layoffs,” Stacey Goldstein describes what she did wrong after the first layoff and what she did right the second time. The first time she made herself leave the house every day, to go to the gym or to see a friend, but she still spent way too much time by herself. The second time she got a part-time job and volunteered on several committees of her community. Both required her to check in with other folks, and brought opportunities to network.


8. Stick to a schedule

Humans thrive when they keep to a routine. Our circadian rhythm, the 24-hour clock system wired into our brain that governs fluctuations in body temperature and the secretion of several hormones, and even our metabolism, require a kind of regular pattern. So stick to one even when you don’t have to. Imagine that you are working from home (because you are). Then structure your day as such. For example, work out in the morning, make some calls after you get back, eat an inexpensive lunch, follow up on some leads during the afternoon, and watch Dr. Phil right before dinner. Or not.

9. Watch your thoughts

It’s easy to catastrophize when something goes wrong in our life. One negative thought builds on another, and before we know it, we’re breathing into a paper bag in the middle of a bona fide panic attack. However, sometimes we can pluck the seeds of negativity right as they are planted, so that our recovery efforts don’t have to involve a paper bag. Just being aware of our thought process eliminates many of the trouble-makers. In the video “5 Forms of Distorted Thinking,” I identify a few of the toxic thought patterns to watch out for. You may also check out David Burns’s “Feeling Good” for more and for some techniques on how to untwist them.


10. Become useful

Everyone needs to feel useful. That’s why so much of our self-esteem hinges on our job performance. But there are a myriad of ways to feel useful even if you’re unemployed. My husband Eric, for example, has taken on more of the responsibilities for the kids–signing off on their homework, managing science projects, setting up playdates, and driving to all the sports practices and games. He also takes the dogs to the vet and gives them their ear drops every morning. Although he has less projects at work, he has more at home, where he is very much needed. Brainstorming for ways you can be useful outside of a job is definitely a mood booster.

11. Prepare for reentry


Not to be an alarmist or anything, but you might want to also prepare yourself for a rocky re-entry. Recent research says that some folks who have been unemployed for long periods of time experience anxiety and depression upon going back to work because the creditors are after them (hence there is more stress), and they are worried that they if they don’t perform perfectly, they will be fired again. However, merely being aware of this, just like the toxic thoughts, can eliminate much of the anxiety. I just wanted you to know, should you experience the same kind of thing, you are certainly not alone in feeling insecure.

12. Maintain some hope

I must end with hope because hope is the ultimate stress reducer. Hope, doctors say, is about the best thing you can do for your body. It’s better than a placebo. So remember, even though you might feel lost and disillusioned, with no path or direction visible to your eyes, it’s definitely true that “when one door shuts, another one opens.” I have seen it happen so often in the lives of family members and friends, and I have experienced it in my own life. So keep on hoping.

  • Paula

    What a powerful post… In this downed economy, and at a time when so many are out of jobs, I hear so many horror stories of people devaluing their lives and seeing no way out from beneath the mounting bills. It is a tough time, but your suggestions will help as many as read them.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Susannah

    I agree with Paula. This post is something people can hang on to….a road map through an incredibly stressful time. Actually it’s a good road map out of any situational depression. Thank you so much!

  • Shanon Nelson

    I spoke with a colleague of mine who stated that she didn’t know if she’d have a job after June. Times are tough but we can come together and strategically join ventures. Check out

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kim

    Here I am, looking for a job today, feeling a little discouraged. When I went to my email account, this message was in my inbox. It was like someone was reading my mind. I am printing the message to keep for daily inspiration, as I continue my job search. Thank You for the message. I needed that to keep pushing forward!

  • William C. SengerFinn

    Everyone thinks of getting a job as looking for something they can do to make money to live.And not having a “Job” does indeed make for depression. But sometimes the depressioon is something that God alows in order to get us to seek His face! America today has great need for the population to seek the face of the living God, for the sake of the future of our offspring! But first of all, instead of looking for a Job, we need to be looking for how to do what comes naturally to us as far as boosting the faith of our neighbors and making it easier for those who are dedicated to serving God to do so. And we should B seeking God to find out what exactly is Gods calling in my life? And moreso, what is the calling in the lives of my offspring? God will show these answers to the naturaL PARENTS OF ANY CHILDREN IF WE SEEK THE LORD WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND! When we begin to put God’s kingdom first, God will make miraculous ways to make ends meet financially.What’s more? We will recieve joy unspeakable to ward off all depression!God inhabits the praises of His people!So when we r seeking to please Him first, He comes into our lives with Joy unspeakable and full of glory. Even the way He had originally ordained for Us to be!Even many sicknesses flee from us this way.Depression being the one we’re talking about in this article. The prophet Hosae spoke Gods word saying;”My people perish because of a lack of vision!” Also, “My people perish for lack of knowledge!” the knowledge we need isn’t secular knowledge! It’s knowledge of our own personal destiny, and that of our children, (which every parent is responsible for leading the child to find for them self.)In this way, also we get filled with faith, as Gods spirit is no longer estranged to His own people! We are the sheep of His pasture.(See John1:11,12 KJV)The medical industry will loose customers this way. But so what!I’m not trying to agree with some sickness so somebody else can have a Job!Got to love myself before I can love my neighbor as I love myself!In short, Jesus said it best: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And all these things wwill b added unto U!” Every piece of american money says; “In God We Trust” If we defy this covenant, what does God do with Us? No wonder we’re depressed!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rachel

    Kind of disappointed this is geared towards men. Depression and unemployment go hand-in-hand for single women, as well.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Donna

    I too agree with Kim,I wake up everyday, with one single goal in mind, that is to search for a job. This was one of the emails I had in my box today, god how I needed it. This is exactly what I needed today, it was like a energy booster.Thank you so much, please keep the positive emails coming!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nicci

    I deeply appreciate this article in it’s entirety. I am also a single mom looking for a job, bit not just any job….I’m seeking a job that is flexible to my college schedule and obligations to my 12 and 8 year olds. Where I live it seems like all the jobs for a female are domestic (housekeeping, etc.) If not, then you have to go industrial with the men. I feel like I’m in between a rock and a hard place because this state is one of the lowest paying even when America isn’t in a recession so I sometimes slip into depression. However, my heart belongs to God and I love children so I volunteer at my daughter’s school. (my eight year old) I’m thinking of returning to a church that will allow me to use my talents there, but I’m not sure. I can appreciate the “home” church I’ve made with my children. Ever since the New Year we have committed to studying the Bible diligently at home because I felt like the churches in our area weren’t teaching us enough or giving us opportunity to apply our God-given talents to help others.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment deb

    I have done every suggestion in this article….for three years. I need a bit more than this.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Valerie Durham

    …PRAY AND HAVE FAITH….never forget!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment JOHN

    A lot times you pray for help getting a job and with money and food to live on and things don’t get any better. you think that god doesn’t
    care what happens to his people.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Ernest De Brew

    Thanks for the advice!

    Yeah I fear that I may end up in the streets if I lose a job or so.

    I live with my parents while I am still taking online classes. I am hoping to look for a better but laid back job unlike my last one.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Queen Mom

    I made a suicide attempt on May 16th at the termination of a job I had for 12 years–I had not a clue it was coming and I was horrified and embarassed. I had been in managment for 9 of those 12 years. This article helps give me hope. Spent two day in Intesive Care Unit of the hospital and had lots of time to think, but my self esteem still suffers greatly. My sister so kindly shared your article with me, thank you. I can only hope for the best.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jean

    After totally bombing the last four job interviews I’ve been on (over the course of a year), I’m about to give up hope of finding employment ever again. Articles like this, though, let us know that we’re not alone and don’t have to keep beating ourselves up.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Denise S.

    I too, have been terminated after 19 years of teaching high school science. Checked my blood pressure this morning an to my dismay, it was an alarming 170/98!. It has never been that high! As a matter of fact it use to be on the low side despite my demanding career. I never thought that this could happen to me. I mean, I have written huge grants, and thought that I was good at what I do. After I sat down and read this article, it made me realize that God allowed it to happen. It’s been a while since I truly sought his face. But I do feel horrible. Almost useless. I recently lost 42 lbs, and have about that much more to go. But now I will have to give up Jenny Craig, since it is a bit expensive. Why was this article geared to men?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mary

    This is all fine and good if you’re getting employment benefits, but I’m one of the many who’s benefits have run out. I’ve done everything I can that this article says, to no avail. If you don’t know if you’ll have your rent or utility money every month, for months, as “Deb” said this is no help. The job market is horrendous, especially here in California, and I’d like to see an article about dealing with absolutely no definite money coming in for 7 months….

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Marie

    Yes, I have to agree. Was disappointed that this was geared towards men. I recently lost my job after 18 years and have had no luck this past year. I wish the article could give more concrete solutions such as job sites and the like. This would go hand in hand with self esteem. I did like the part about a resume to be redone and polished. This for me is the first step to hopefully getting a job soon. I literally have 0 dollars in my account next week and do not know what I will do. I was self employed and have no unemployment benefits. I am hopeful that God will open a door for me and the others who have responded to this blog.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jane

    After reading everyones comments, It looks like we are all in the same boat. Depressed, loosing hope, going broke, and running out of options. I have been out of work since November. I worked in a predominately male factory and the retraining through our union is pretty much geared to men and the trades. Don’t really have an interest in that sort of retraining, but that seems to be where the money is to pay the mortgage, car payment, taxes, bills etc. It is truly a challenge being a single white female and trying to float your boat on your own, requiring more than a minimum wage job.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kathy Ojo

    Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen or unseen. My husband is unemployed for 13 mths. Depression with thoughts of sucide. Life is not a bowl of cherries anymore, we must join prayer grps. where possible. Use prayer as second nature unwavering, ask God for what we want or need and wait on the Lord, be of good courage and he shall strenghten our hearts. Wait I say on the Lord. I will never give up hope, our breakthrough will be soon and so will yours, trust him with all your heart and soul.

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