It’s all over the news – companies are announcing job cuts and layoffs. Concerns about security, money and an uncertain future can trigger a fear pattern, leaving you feeling unsure, stressed and worried.
Unexpected change – or even the fear of change - triggers the automatic fight/flight/freeze response in your body. This stress response is helpful when there is an immediate emergency, such as when you need to hit the brakes quickly to prevent a car accident. However, our bodies aren’t designed to be in survival mode long-term, so operating out of a fear pattern wears you down over time.
The good news is that you can shift your brain’s automatic processes and manage the stress and worry of losing your job (or the threat of layoffs) by planning and taking action now. These strategies aren’t simply for job loss, you can apply them to build resiliency and minimize the discomfort of any change or transition you’re experiencing.
Separate facts from feelings and challenge your assumptions
When you’re stuck in survival mode, the memory, problem solving, and learning centres of your brain slow down. These executive function areas of your brain are responsible for complex processes including decision-making, emotional regulation and planning.
Engaging your executive function helps you plan creatively and envision a brighter future so that you can start to feel calmer and more relaxed. Start the process by doing a brainstorming exercise and writing down all your feelings and fears, without judgment.
Let’s say you write down “I will never find another job”. Is this fear a fact? Is it true?
It’s not true, because you don’t know what the future holds. Plus, you’ve been employed in the past, so the chances are good that you will be employed in the future. You know what it takes to search for and find a job because you’ve done it before.
If you’ve been in the same role for awhile, the job search might be different – updating your LinkedIn profile vs. sending out a resume – but the basic principles are the same. You can apply your existing knowledge to solve your current problem.
Turn nervous energy into momentum
Did you know that the word ‘emotions’ comes from the Latin ‘emotere’, which means energy in motion? Looking at energy from a scientific perspective, the first law of thermodynamics states that energy can only be changed from one form to another or transformed.
Just like energy, you can’t run from feelings, destroy them or suppress them for long. However, you can take concrete steps to shift and transform your feelings to help you move past the pain of change.
When it comes to worry, a sentence can soon turn into a story that you tell yourself over and over again. “I will never find another job” turns into a story about lack of money, losing your house, loss of status, fear of a bleak future, fear of rejection, and so on.
A worry-based story keeps your brain working hard but doesn’t help you solve anything. In fact, as outlined above, this type of fear-based thinking prevents you from using the full power of your brain.
Worry is a signal from your brain that you need to do something now. Write down 5 things you can do today to start a job search. Feeling nervous energy in your body? Go online and find a kickboxing workout that you can do right now. Head outside and take a 15-minute walk to boost endorphins, clear your mind and visualize stress leaving your body.
Rebuild connections and fine tune your networking
Working full-time meant that you had a built-in network and daily interaction with a wide range of people. Losing your job means losing connections, so it’s crucial that you rebuild your network by reaching out to people for support, advice, help and a sense of community. Many of us have trouble asking for help, so I like to refer to reaching out to others as building your winning team.
Review your list of fears and figure out who you need to add to your winning team. For example, if you’re worried about money, make an appointment with a financial advisor. Meeting a financial advisor will help you in a couple of ways. First, a trained professional can give you insight and options regarding your finances that you might not have considered. This will help you feel less trapped and frightened and will ignite planning in your brain’s executive function. Second, a financial advisor meets with lots of people and might be able to connect you with other professionals who could help you with your job search.
Losing your job is a challenging experience, but it’s helpful to remember that most people have experienced job loss, and everyone has experienced loss at some point in their lives. You can minimize the discomfort of loss and maximize potential opportunities by boosting your brain power, using your energy effectively and building your winning team.