Happiness Tips for the Unemployed (and Underemployed)

Society is pretty relentless in showing us what “success” looks like.  We know it well from television shows, music videos and social media.  It is a sun-drenched life of privilege and freedom.  It is a life where money is no object, and where everyone is almost effortlessly beautiful and popular.  It is, of course, what many of us want for ourselves.

Unfortunately, lots of us must grow up to face a life that looks very different from the life of our hopes and dreams. No one’s goal is to be unemployed, or to feel underemployed and underutilized at work.  The child within us, the one with the big ideas, cannot help but become dissatisfied.  Where are those awards?  The accolades?  Where is the totally sweet company car?  Where is all the money that the media tells us over and over again that if we just work really really hard for, we will certainly get?  (Not to mention the big house, the beautiful, adoring partner, the luxurious vacations and, these days, the thousands of online followers!)

It can seem like we want to collectively sweep anyone who isn’t at the top of their game under the rug.  Like we would rather ignore them until they get their eyebrows on fleek and some dolla dolla bills in their bank account.  That’s hell on the ego, and with the current Newfoundland budget, it could also turn into a lot of sweeping.  

So, what do you do if you’re the one facing tough times?  How do you keep up your happy if your life isn’t quite the vision of success you were hoping to achieve by now?  

Without further ado, here are my top ten tips for keeping your sanity, and your good mojo going when you are out of work, frustrated with your work situation or otherwise under financial strain.

  1. Pull yourself together!  The temptation exists to let yourself slide when your prospects take a downturn.  Fight this urge.  Get dressed and put on your face, if that’s what you need to do to make yourself feel great. (Eyeliner makes me feel better every time!)  Wear decent clothes.  Eat a sensible meal.  Make sure your household mess is tamed to a dull-roar.  It’s cheesy, but when you make your world look and feel better, it’s hard not to be at least a little happier.
  2. Honestly assess your situation.  It’s more convenient to play ostrich, but it’s way better for you to get this entire bummer situation out into the open first.  This could mean that you sit down alone with an open computer and an open mind, and/or this might be a conversation you have with your partner.  Either way, get out that budgeting app and look up your bank accounts too.  It’s time for a thorough examination of where you are, so that you can get a handle on what it will take to get to where you need to be.  Are your expenses basically covered?  Can you afford to save anything? Do you have a cushion in case things get worse?  Is there any spending you could conceivably cut back on?
  3. Take the best financial care of yourself possible.  Once you’ve taken stock, you can make a goal-oriented plan. Seeing a way to move forward the best way to fight the blues!  You might not get a job (or a raise) today, but you can at least be informed enough to know where you’re headed.  (It may be highly beneficial to read up on finances, or seek out a financial adviser.)
    Also, if you need to submit time-sensitive forms, (for EI purposes for example), make sure you do so early.  Write those due dates down, or put reminders in your technology!  It is depressing to have to ask for money, sure.  It is more depressing to have NO MONEY because you didn’t take the time to do some basic steps.
  4. GO OUTSIDE.  It turns out that staying inside worrying and staring at a computer screen isn’t very happiness-inducing.  Don’t do this to yourself.  You DO have permission to go outside.  Even if it’s just for a little while, and especially if it’s sunny out.  I never come back home and think, ah damn, I shouldn’t have taken that half hour walk in the sunshine.  
  5. Plan your days.  If you go to bed knowing that you have no definite plans tomorrow, it can really drag you down.  But wait…why don’t you have any plans?  You may not be working, but, are you allocating some specific amount of your time to looking for a job?  Do you still practice your hobbies? Do you make time for that walk we just talked about?  A full, planned day when you are not working will keep your spirits up, and help you be more productive.
  6. Maintain a BUDGET.   I mentioned a budgeting app earlier.  It doesn’t have to be an app, but that’s certainly one convenient way to go.  I am surprised by the number of adults I know who don’t keep track of personal finances somehow.  It is so worthwhile!  If you don’t want to use app and you like excel, or some other method, use that, but do something.  Simply ‘hoping for the best’ money-wise is rarely a prudent approach. Track your budget, and actually log what you spend your money on. You could be very surprised!  
  7. Don’t fixate.  If you are taking good financial care of yourself, you are allocating time in your day for your job hunt, and you are trying your best to be on top of your budget, give yourself a break.  You can worry about money when you do budget stuff, or when you actually sit down to pay the bills, but not for the rest of the day.  If you have to, you could even write down your money worries to address later when you find them cropping up in your mind.  You are allowed to use your mind for other things.  (Yes, you are even allowed to be happy!)
  8. Hobbies.  You have to do the things that make you “you,” even if you feel down. Whether it’s singing, or lawn darts, or Filipino stick fighting, or putting together giant puzzles in the basement, include some time in your plan for things that bring you genuine joy.  These small pockets of activity will brighten your mood, and that tends to spill over into the rest of your life.  
  9. Treat yourself.  Ok, if money is tight and/or you’re between jobs, this might not amount to a weekend at a fancy resort.  How about a new lipstick?  A cool t-shirt?  A haircut or a book to read?  Even if your resources are limited, you can usually afford the occasional something that puts a smile on your face.  Plan to make those small indulgences semi-regularly.  
    If even a few dollars seems impossible, make a list of non-monetary treats you can rotate through.  You and your partner could exchange 15-minute massages.  You could make a date with a friend for a walk in the park.  You could make a trip to your local library. You could take a long, leisurely hour of yoga.  The most important thing is that this be a brief celebration of you!  We are all human after all, and  we all need some excitement…just like how every calorie-counter needs a cheat meal!
  10. Maintain Your Contacts and Stay Professional.  It is important to not let any simmering resentment cloud your judgement on what constitutes “professional” behaviour.  Do not burn bridges.  Do not spurn former colleagues.  Do not simply disappear either.  Instead, challenge yourself to keep on top of your industry.  Study up.  Periodically email people whom you admire in your field.  Check out forums surrounding whatever it is you do.  You will feel much better if you are a part of the conversation.
    As well, remember that employers typically waste no time in checking whatever publicly available information there is to be had on prospective employees.  This underscores the need for an impeccable online profile.  Make sure you represent yourself well in general.  Are you someone YOU would hire?   

    All in all, good luck, keep that smile on your face, and keep trying. I really do know it’s tough out there!
    -Jennnq

    Manatee

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