Coronavirus: How to cope if you lose your job

Losing a job isn’t just a financial setback – it can also adversely affect your mental wellbeing. But there are things you can do to cushion the blow.

Losing a job is a common trigger for a decline in mental health.

And amid the coronavirus outbreak, unemployment is an unfortunate reality for hundreds of thousands of Australians.

Experts reveal what to do for your emotional wellbeing if you suddenly find yourself jobless during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Ask yourself if you are OK

Unemployment is a shock and everyone will respond differently, says Dr Grant Blashki, of Beyond Blue.

Take a step back, consider whether you feel out of control and if you need professional support.

If so, call a friend immediately, seek help online or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

2. Don’t go it alone, even if you are socially distancing

Anxiety and depression are common side effects of job loss, but it is important not to fall into the trap of isolation.

“Realise you’re not the only one who has lost their job because of the extraordinary impacts of the coronavirus outbreak,” Grant says.

Reach out to co-workers, family members or friends via phone calls, emails or video calls.

3. Keep a journal

You may find it useful to write down your concerns.

Journaling for mental health helps prioritise your needs and may also reduce stress.

4. Stick to a routine

“Daily structure is critical to wellbeing,” says Professor Greg Murray, of the Swinburne Centre for Mental Health.

He recommends getting up at the same time, eating at the traditional meal times and creating a schedule for your day.

5. Seek practical solutions to immediate problems

In the current climate finding a new job may be difficult, so focus on how to tackle the problems you are experiencing, says Greg.

This includes looking into investigating available government benefits, talking to your landlord about rent relief, or contacting your bank and utility providers to apply for hardship programs.

6. Exercise

Regular activity has been proven to boost self-esteem and contribute to a resilient mindset, as well as release those much-needed feel-good endorphins.

Our experts say get moving at least once a day, preferably outside, even if it is just for a walk.

7. Avoid drugs and alcohol

Research shows risky alcohol consumption, like binge drinking, is more common among people who are unemployed.

So, while a drink every now and then is OK, experts recommend staying away from booze and substances.

job loss

What you can do if a loved one loses their job

1. Be understanding

When a family member loses their job, it may impact the whole family  and increase stress at home.

Greg says it’s important to practise patience and acceptance with each other every day, and avoid unnecessary conflict.

2. Listen properly

Communication is crucial in a crisis – but Grant says many people often respond by trying to provide solutions, which can make people in crisis feel worse.

“Just provide a sympathetic ear and help the person work through what is concerning them,” Grant says.

3. Stay in the now

Catastrophising can be a common response to unemployment.

“Our stress response encourages us to have an emotional focus on future threats; that is what the fight-flight system is adapted to do,” says Greg.

Don’t focus on the long-term impacts, instead stick to what you can do now. And above all, remember this time will pass.

More tips on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic

Don’t forget, if you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, call the 24/7 hotline on 1800 675 398. You can also use the Healthdirect symptom checker.

Instant Consult offers on-the-spot online GP consultations and can issue medical certificates, prescriptions, radiology and pathology requests and specialist referrals.

Written by Alex White.