Dealing With the Stress of Unemployment


By Robin Axelrod Sabag and Peggy Truit

Despite the fact that nearly everyone must undertake a job search at some point in life, unemployment remains a source of significant stress. As such, our agencies are dedicated to helping clients address the challenges related to a job loss and/or job search — whether those challenges are related to mental health, financial or technical in nature.

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It is important that people identify and recognize the stress that unemployment causes. Financial strain is an obvious consequence of unemployment. This can lead to anxiety, depression and, in severe cases, even suicide. If an unemployed person is the primary breadwinner, family dynamics can change, bringing tension and dissension into the home.  

When individuals create a plan, it will optimize the chances for securing employment by viewing the job search as a job. There are two aspects to this — a plan for daily routine and a plan for the “nuts-and-bolts” (e.g. opportunity identification, networking, handling your resume and interview preparation).

First, jobseekers should maintain a regular routine — rise early each morning and set a schedule for the day, whether reviewing potential opportunities, contacting employment agencies and/or reaching out to your network. You also should remain physically and socially active; this can be difficult when discouraged, but staying healthy in mind and body enables you to put your best foot forward.

Another important self-care tip is to remain socially engaged. Social engagement is not only good for our well-being but can also increase the employment opportunities that may present themselves.

To that end, one must be ready to take advantage of these opportunities.

Maintaining a quality resume that is both timely and flexible is key. Staying abreast of interview techniques and polishing potential answers, maintaining relationships with potential references and optimizing one’s online social media persona for a job search are all part of a winning strategy. Using resources or even getting professional advice and job leads from organizations such as JEVS Career Strategies can help.

It is of the utmost importance to take care of your physical and mental health. Remaining active, getting plenty of daytime sunlight and engaging in exercise will help retain a positive outlook. This, in turn, fosters productivity, which will provide the energy to move forward.

In terms of mental health, JFCS has a need-based sliding scale for therapeutic services, so cost should not present a barrier. It is crucial to normalize the situation and eliminate the shame that can be associated with unemployment. Skilled counselors can assist with this and will also help mitigate anxiety and depression that may occur.

More information on self-care and best job-hunting practices will be available April 10 at the JEVS Career Strategies and Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia’s free half-day career symposium covering all aspects of a job search. Beginning with mental health and covering all the “hard skills” of a job search, as well as featuring a panel of all-star HR professionals, this event offers pick-and-choose workshops to help job seekers manage stress, access benefits, prepare resumes, sharpen interview techniques and more. 

Robin Axelrod Sabag is the assistant director of therapeutic counseling at JFCS. Peggy Truit is the program director at JEVS Career Strategies.


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