Staying Motivated and Avoiding Depression When You’re Unemployed during the Holidays

motivationWith excerpts from an interview with David Kaplan, Chief Professional Officer of American Counseling Association. If you are interested in hearing the full interview and 31 other career experts, click here: The National Career Summit.

You’ve been unemployed for a few months now, perhaps longer. Your savings account is shrinking by the minute, and so is your self-confidence.

It’s hard enough to get out of bed in the morning, and now you have to face your relatives. Questioning faces, pity stares and lots of ‘helpful’ advice–things you don’t need right now. However well-meaning they are, sometimes you can’t help but feel down.

Unemployment makes people vulnerable to depression, even if they weren’t susceptible before. The risk is even greater during the holidays, exacerbated by the expenses and all the merriment around.

So for now, we won’t cover things like how to write a good resume or how to excel in an interview. Those who read this aren’t in that stage yet. Instead, I’ll help you escape the negative feelings weighing you down, so you can move on with your life and career.

Still Unemployed? Here’s How NOT to be the Family Grinch this Holiday

Relax, you’re on Extended Holiday

Okay, you may not like the sound of this, but in reality you’ve just been given a vacation–a long one. Use this time to reconnect with your family and yourself. There’s a good chance you actually needed it, especially if you’ve been over stressed with your previous job.

You’ll be back in the workforce soon enough. For now, just enjoy the days when you can have a nice quiet meal without constantly rushing out the door.

Remember What You Hate

Still not feeling good about this holiday vacation? Make a list of everything you hated about your old job. Your grumpy boss, the old coffee machine, the small cubicles, the never-ending OT–remember it. Savor the fact that you’re free from all of the things that have annoyed you for years.

You are Not Your Job

Americans, mostly, get their sense of self-esteem from their jobs. The ability to answer the ubiquitous conversation starter, “What do you do?” with a simple “I’m a doctor/accountant/programmer/whatever occupation” brings a certain sense of pride in many of us. That’s why prolonged unemployment gravely affects many people. They feel as if a part of them is gone.

When your self-esteem is tied to your job title, it’s conditional. It’s there while you have a job, and gone without it. In the book 10 Days to Self-Esteem, David Burns explains that we should work toward liberating our self-esteem from over-attachment to single sources like our work.

Pull your confidence, instead, from many different aspects of your life–your family, your education, your community, and your accomplishments. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Build a Mental Defense for Your Own Negative Thoughts

Support groups are not pity parties.

Being in the company of unemployed people will help you reverse the “I’m a failure” script that keeps playing back in your head.

“Like them, you’ll realize that you’re not a failure and you were laid off through no fault of your own. You were a good employee, who happened to have been downsized,” says David Kaplan, Chief Professional Officer of American Counseling Association and a nationally certified counselor.

Members of support groups also trade job leads, do mock interviews and give feedback to each member’s job efforts. If nothing else, joining a group will make you accountable in your job search instead of binging in front of the TV with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s.

Prepare for a Challenging Comeback to the Workforce

Not to be a pessimist, but I suggest you prepare yourself for a rocky start when you come back to work. Research suggests that some people, especially those who have been unemployed for an extended period, are prone to stress and anxiety–even after securing a job.

One reason is they’re pressured to start paying their creditors, another is they’re worried about getting fired again. This is just your brain getting paranoid. Being aware of this will greatly diminish the anxiety. So in case you feel pressured or stressed on your first month back at work, know that it’s okay. You’re not the only one feeling this way.