Photo: Leigh Righton (Getty Images)

How To Survive Unemployment Without Losing Your Mind

Photo: Leigh Righton (Getty Images)

Unemployment can be pretty sweet at first. It frees up your calendar and affords you the time to try new things and explore opportunities you wouldn’t normally consider. However, this freedom can start to feel like a prison when looking for your new job feels like a full-time job.

Today, 3.7 percent of Americans are unemployed; 22.9 percent of those people have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. While finances are the No. 1 issue for the unemployed, they’re also twice as likely to struggle with depression as their employed friends. Moreover, African-Americans suffer more severe mental health issues due to the loss of employment.

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If you just lost your job, or have been out of work for a while, here are a few self-care tips to keep your mental game strong.

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Sort Finances First

Unemployment affords you an opportunity to focus on your spending habits by creating a budget. To ease the initial panic, we advise sitting down and calculating how much money you’ll need to cover your bills. When creating this budget, take into account things like rent, loans, food, transportation, and spending money. The more accurate your budget, the better.

Next, swallow your pride and see what types of financial assistance programs you’re qualified to receive. It’s important to apply to assistance programs as soon as you find yourself out of work. This is because the waiting period for things like unemployment benefits and student loan deferment/ forbearance can take time to kick in. This is likely time you don’t have.

Finally, once you’ve determined how much money you’ll need to survive, start applying to any jobs you’re qualified for. You may have a chosen vocation, but sometimes you have to take a job you don’t want just to have money coming in. Doing this might make you feel like a failure, but ignore your inner critic. Realistically, any money coming in will save you from sleepless nights.

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Experiment With Your Job Applications

Constant rejection takes a toll on the human spirit, making job searches especially brutal. When your daily routine consists of rewriting your cover letter at least a dozen times, it’s easy to lose your focus. The first impression prospective employers have of you is your resume and cover letter, so re-examine your strategies to ensure you’re presenting your best possible self to employers. Simple changes like updating the look of your resume, refreshing your skill sets, and hiring a professional editor can give your resume the flair it needs to pop.

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Not only that, consider the kind of work you’ve always done and brainstorm other fields to which your skills apply. Your years of experience in one field may cause tunnel vision in terms of your career goals. Chances are, the knowledge you’ve acquired can be used in other fields. By considering other possibilities when it comes to employment, you’ll increase your chances of getting hired.

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Pursue Your Passions

If you have dreams outside of your 9-to-5 gig, take advantage of your newly acquired free time. Most people don’t have a chance to pursue their passions. It’s tempting to feel that every second you’re not applying for jobs is wasted, but dedicating that time to achieving a big goal can be life-changing.

Plus, employers hire people with unique characteristics, and you won’t be one if you’re simply an application machine. While your art probably won’t have you rolling in money right away, don’t let your need for a paying gig deter your from higher goals. Plenty of celebrities worked lame jobs before they hit it big. At least when you’re unemployed you have fewer distractions to keep you from your best work.

We’ve all been out of work at least once. What kept you sane while job hunting? Let us know in the comments!