When you are out of work, many people spend way too much time inside their apartments and homes. This voluntarily exile can and usually will bring unexpected and unwelcomed changes to a person. Your residence, which when you were working was your place of solitude and regeneration, could transform itself little by little into your prison. Ironically, the key to freedom is within your grasp.
So why retreat from the world in the first place when you are out of work? In the beginning, say shortly after you’ve been let go, it seems natural to coccoon yourself away and process what has just happened. You might be in a state of shock, trying to reason out your sudden loss of employment. Even when you saw the writing on the wall months’ ago, it still comes as a blow when you’re told not to come back the following day. It still stings.
And of course there is an element of pride that one has; that sense of identity you enjoyed as an employee of such-and-such firm or company. You might be understandably worried therefore that even a trip to your local coffee shop might raise a questioning eyebrow from someone who would normally expect you to be at work at 9:45 a.m. instead of in your jeans and sweat top ordering your favourite brew. “Hey Dave, what are you doing here you rascal! Lose your job or somethin’?”
If it’s not the coffee shop, you’re perhaps worried that the retired couple across the street who know everything about everybody are starting to get suspicious of your car still parked in the driveway. “Hello David, it’s Milly. Are you alright? Donald noticed your car in the drive. You haven’t lost your job by any chance you poor dear?”
Highly unlikely these situations might happen the first day you are home, but in your mind, that kind of negative thinking puts thoughts there that are destructive and self-defeating. It is true that part of our identity is connected to the work we do and the company we work for. That’s why for example it is so common when meeting new people for someone to ask you early on, “So, what do you do for a living?” Somehow, “Oh I eat, drink and breathe”, isn’t the answer they are looking for.
When you are home, you’d best get use to being comfortable with being alone. It’s quiet in the house; certainly quieter than the workplace. All that chatter that you may have found irritating coming from the hall is gone. The continuous grind and whine of machines, photocopiers, forklifts etc is replaced with the suddenly noticeable hum of the fridge, the furnace coming on and shutting off, and the ticktock of the wall clock. Never noticed those being so loud before.
Of course one of the things that nags at the brain after days start to pass is that somehow the world is moving on and without intending it, you seem to have got off the train. Welcome to ‘Nowhere’. In your mind you keep asking yourself, “How did I get here? Where is here? Is this my final destination? I thought I was headed on up the tracks to, “Somewhere” where I could be, “Somebody”. In this little town of, ‘Nowhere’, am I a ‘Nobody’?
Enough already. Taking some time to process a job loss is essential. Take up to a week if you need it. Yes a week. It’s dangerous to take much longer except in the case of a planned vacation and there are exceptions depending on the stress of the job you held. Get going and get outside. Breathing in some fresh air and going for a walk can help you gain some perspective. You can also rationalize your walk by telling yourself you are getting some exercise, so you’re not ‘wasting’ time.
In that first few days after a job loss, you might do well to start thinking about the things you DO have control over. You can if need be, cut back any expenses not deemed essential. You’re probably saving gas or transit fare just by not going to work so see that as a plus. Apply for whatever employment insurance you might be eligible and do it immediately. Many jurisdictions that will provide you with this only issue it from the day you apply, not the day you lost your job income.
Any projects around the house you’ve been putting off that are cheaply accomplished? Even washing the windows inside and out can help you to later look at them and feel you’ve done something instead of being a reminder that you can’t even do something that simple. These kind of dark thoughts are precursors of depression and are best put in their place pronto. Do the laundry, plan the dinner menu, rake the yard, shovel the drive, replace the dim lightbulbs. Do anything that fills your day.
Ready for the bigger stuff after a few days or a week? Good. Now turn your attention to the job search and getting back in the game. Update the resume, make a few calls, let people know you are looking for work, tell them what happened and do your best to sound positive and hopeful. Trains are constantly taking people from, ‘Nowhere’ to ‘Somewhere’ and you’ve always been a, ‘Somebody’.