These times of business closures are unprecedented, and finding yourself suddenly unemployed can add even more stress and uncertainty to life. As more and more states start to issue stay-at-home orders or shelter in place laws, unemployment might be a reality for most of us shortly.
The least helpful thing you can do is panic! Take a deep breath. Remember, you just need food and shelter to live! My therapist had the most fabulous comment on all of this craziness when I saw her last week. She said, “This may be uncomfortable but not unsurvivable.”
Repeat that a few times, think about the essential things you need to survive, and then do these three things: make a plan for your finances, practice gratitude, and reevaluate the things you have prioritized.
Make a plan for your finances
“Every cent you own and every moment you spend is always an investment.” ― Natalie Pace
Of course, being without a primary source of income is terrifying, but you aren’t alone in these strange times, and there are things you can do to make sure your family stays safe.
The very first thing to do is file for unemployment. The laws surrounding unemployment are less stringent due to the exigent circumstance that is COVID-19. Specific requirements vary by state, but federally these three changes were made to help people impacted by COVID-19 closures:
- Changing the definition of “laid off” to include those who are affected by closures, but may not be officially laid off.
- You can file for unemployment if you are placed under quarantine by medical professionals and expect to return to work when quarantine is over.
- In some instances, quitting because you are afraid of your risk of exposure may be covered. Leaving work to care for a family member might also be included.
Even if you aren’t sure if you qualify, the best thing to do is to apply. In most cases, the decisions have been coming back very quickly, with people receiving their money within a week. The waiting week has been waived, and you could receive your first benefit quickly.
There are other programs out there that provide aid as well, such as food stamps and WIC. If you meet the criteria for those programs, send in your application immediately.
Depending on your skillset, freelance sites like Upwork might have some temporary projects available. They have everything from virtual assistants to writers and software development!
There are so many legitimate and creative ways to generate income in today’s world that don’t require you to have an employer, like Instacart and Uber! If you still feel the need to venture out into the world, you can sign up for these “essential” duties and make a little extra income too!
Now that you have done what you can to generate some emergency income, it is time to tackle the budget. There are a lot of companies that are waiving or extending payments, so if you find yourself unemployed, I would call all of your monthly providers and see what their options are. There are several budget apps out there that will help you run lean during this stressful time.
I would handle these calls and applications on day one, as they will take time to process before receiving any help. When this first task is done, breathe a sigh of relief and move on to practicing gratitude.
“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” – Lao Tzu
It might seem strange to have someone recommend that you feel grateful during a stressful time, but science has proven that it will help lessen the stress you feel. According to Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury, a psychiatric counselor:
By reducing the stress hormones and managing the autonomic nervous system functions, gratitude significantly reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. At the neurochemical level, feelings of gratitude are associated with an increase in the neural modulation of the prefrontal cortex, the brain site responsible for managing negative emotions like guilt, shame, and violence.
Yes, being unemployed is complicated, and I am not trying to diminish that, but if you focus on the things you still have to be grateful for, you will make it through this trying time, while also building up your resiliency. Here are a few quick tips for practicing gratitude:
- Keep a gratitude journal and list all the things that make you feel grateful. They can be big things, like your family or health. Or they can be tiny things like gratitude for the fact that your smart tv plays Pandora on it. Or honestly, Pandora in general!
- Spend some time outdoors every day and notice the beauty of nature daily.
- Write a card to someone else that you know is struggling and say nice things about them.
- Do one act of kindness each day, no matter how big or small.
Practicing gratitude has both physical and mental health benefits. Having an attitude of gratitude also helps remind us what is essential in life. Adding the practice of gratitude into the free time you find yourself with, might lead to you doing some soul searching.
Reevaluate your priorities
“It’s never too late to become who you want to be. I hope you live a life that you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald
Were you living the life you wanted to be living before all this mess? Maybe you just lost your dream job, and you were delighted and fulfilled there. In which case, you might spend this time improving your skills so that you can go back to it even better than before!
It is possible, though, that becoming unemployed will be the catalyst that gives you the strength to start over and build a life you are proud of. Sometimes we are so busy going in and out the same door that we don’t see the window of opportunity right next to it.
Have you always wished you could be something else? We just watched Tangled on Disney plus the other night, and the “I’ve Got a Dream” sequence came on, and like always, we all started singing. About halfway through, I started thinking that each of these people could be living their dreams if they were to stop doing what they are doing now.
Who says that you can’t have a sneer that curdles dairy and be a concert pianist. All you need is to be talented at playing the piano. And the time to put the work into yourself and your dreams. Use your new-found free time wisely:
- Be creative! Find new passions or reignite a passion for something you haven’t done in a while.
- Learn a new skill. Did you know that Ivy League colleges offer free classes? I didn’t either until this all started! Have you always wanted to create a video game, take this class from Harvard CS50’s Introduction to Game Development.
- Spend time with your family.
- Focus on getting healthy and establishing a routine
During tumultuous times like these, there is a war happening in our minds. Depression and anxiety and other negative feelings are intruding, telling you things like you won’t survive because you suddenly became unemployed. There are, or will be, other jobs out there. Hopefully, if you wish to return to your current employer, you will have the opportunity to do so, when this is all over.
Here are some vital things to remember and take away from this:
- There are resources out that provide financial assistance. Even beyond basic government aid, non-profits are also offering help. Your credit card companies, utilities, and even mortgage companies are willing to help people get through this!
- An attitude of gratitude will go a long way in maintaining a healthy mindset. This mindset alone is going to make all the difference in how we handle these hardships.
- As Stephen Covey says, “Put first things first.” What is really important to you? Have you been making that a priority? Now is an excellent time for some self-reflection.
I don’t have all the answers, but I hope you are leaving a little more hopeful than you were at the start of this article. We will make it through these tough times together, as human beings, regardless of the things we let divide us. Moments like this will define you. The COVID-19 pandemic will be discussed in history classes a 100 years from now. The moral of those classes will be how we survived and proved our resiliency.
Have courage and reach out to someone if you feel like you need someone to talk to. If you have come across any other links that offer classes, aid, or emotional support, leave them in the comment section below! Check out some of our other work here at Everyday Power if you need help setting a routine, practicing gratitude, or are just looking for motivation and inspiration!