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The Covid-19 Identity Crisis

Unemployment-related anxiety is on the up – here’s how to cope with the inevitable blow to your self esteem when you lose your job.

In a world where we are typically judged by ourselves and others based on what we do for most of the day, the threat to one’s identity is a common outcome of suddenly losing a job. That unexpected change in our employment status can result in us moving from a thriving mentality to one of surviving, and when this occurs, our thoughts and the way we see the world also changes. This impacts our emotional state and ultimately our behaviour.   

Experiencing this ‘survival’ mode can result in a rush of adrenalin and the stress hormone, cortisol. Increased and prolonged levels of anxiety are one of the typical outcomes from these elevated states, but as we know, elongated periods of exposure to these hormones can have a devastating impact on our minds and body. 

While we often talk about fight or flight responses when it comes to survival, a response we need to pay more attention to, particularly during times of change, is that of freeze. We don’t always have to run away or destroy the situation, people or idea in front of us. It’s just as important to simply stop, breathe and use some time to reflect on what is important, re-evaluate where you’re going and why.

It is during this freeze state where we see people take the first steps towards giving themselves the best chance of thriving again after a job loss.  In this state, we need to rediscover what drives us, what we value and to align this to the way the world is moving to make us more relevant and impactful. This process of freezing is what we could typically call ‘getting to know yourself’. There are many tools and approaches that can support you in this space.  

The same way you would see a medical specialist about a physical ailment; consulting with an expert career coach can be just as valuable from the employment perspective. Thinking we can simply fragment our identity and self-worth from a ‘job’ or what we do to bring value to the world, is probably not realistic, so we need to spend time to understand this more clearly upfront. Consider this process with a coach as an investment in yourself and simply not as a cost. The dividends can be significant.

Dealing with the anxiety due to job loss is frequently associated with a change in social status and uncertainty.  Though there are many things that are not in our control with regards to this, there are many actions that can be taken that are in our control.  When these actions are undertaken, they can result in significant reductions in anxiety and increase a sense of certainty.  

To help to reduce feelings of anxiety after a job loss, try the following:

  • Sit still with the raw feelings to understand where you’re at and what is causing you to feel uncomfortable and anxious.
  • Accept there has been a change, and there are things that are out of our control such as COVID, economic factors, restrictions in movement.
  • Identify that there are lots of things in our control including completing the self-awareness and introspection phase and creating a job search plan with an expert.
  • Set some short term (daily), medium term (weekly/monthly) and long-term goals (12 months) to give you some focus and milestones to work towards. 
  • Identify 4 – 5 key individuals who can help you network or open up doors to some conversations to get the ball rolling.
  • Surround yourself with positive and supportive people who can lift you when you’re down and equally celebrate the wins with you.

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