The manual of the young unemployed
How to survive unemployment without completely losing your mind
It is not a novelty that unemployment is hitting hard on our societies, and especially on young people. And it is equally not new that, sooner or later, youngsters will have to face a period of unemployment.
Whether this portion of time is short or prolonged, unemployment can seriously affect anyone’s mental health and emotional balance. So, here are some pieces of advice from someone* who went through it and came out of it without completely losing her mind.
1. Get out of bed with a purpose every day
If you don’t have one, create it.
You lost your job or you can’t find one – fair enough! You are allowed to be a bit depressed, but you are not allowed to waste every day of your life until your next employment.
Set the alarm at a reasonable hour. It’s ok to procrastinate a bit, feel free to point the clock at 9 instead of 8, but get out of that bed and be ready for a productive day.
Make a plan and set objectives to accomplish within that day. It can be something easy, like going grocery shopping, check three websites, clean the house, or send at least one application. Make sure you have something to do and a precise schedule to follow; write everything down on a piece of paper and, one by one, cross out the things you do. It may seem way too much, but you will soon realise how long 24 hours can be.
Unemployment brings along a profound feeling of uselessness that is hard to overcome. Consequently, it is paramount to make yourself think that you are actually doing something and not simply sitting around purposelessly. Crossing things off a to-do-list, as simple as it can be, can trick your brain into thinking you are accomplishing something.
2. Leave the house at least once a day
Dog-sit if you have to!
You might be the most active person on earth but, as soon as “unemployment boredom” takes over, you will become one with the couch. The bed and the couch will become extensions of your body, appendixes you feel you can’t live without. Hell, no! You are not a pillow, so you don’t have to stay on a couch the whole day. Get out of the house at least once a day, dog-sit if you have to!
The best, easiest, cheapest activity you can do is walking. Having a walk is not a stressful, high-intensity activity; it doesn’t require good physical shape, nor equipment or the gym membership. The good thing about walking – apart from being free – is that it releases endorphins and endorphin makes you happy. Plus, you get to see nice places, buildings, landscapes, and meet people.
3. Keep your brain active
Unfortunately, working is like going to the gym for your brain: as soon as you stop you lose shape. You will soon realise that focusing becomes harder; that you are less effective in doing the exact same things you were used to finishing in a matter of minutes; and that you find increasingly difficult to come up with ideas. First of all, don’t panic! It’s absolutely normal. But, at the same time, don’t sit around; take initiatives, keep your brain active.
You have plenty of options, you simply haven’t thought of them yet. Are you passionate about writing? Start a blog, but challenge yourself: write it in a language you don’t totally master; write about topics you don’t know thoroughly. Enrol in a free online training course, or go to all free conferences organised in your city even if they are on topics you know nothing about. But, most of all, talk to people. Ideas come from good exchanges that you cannot have if you spend all your days on your own. You need to get out there and actively search for human interactions that can enrich you and trigger new ideas.
For which cause is up to you…
Let’s be honest, you will never find yourself in a better situation than this to actually do something good for the world, your country or the community you live in. How many times were you willing to volunteer for a cause but you gave it up because you didn’t have the time? Well, the time is now!
Choose a cause dear to you and find an organisation that needs help. Volunteering will turn out to be good for you as well; it will give you purpose, introducing you back into a structured environment similar to the workplace. Furthermore, you will get to know new people, make friends and you might end up meeting someone that can be helpful for your career. But be careful, volunteering is not an unpaid job; it’s your very personal choice to put your skills and experience at service for a cause you believe is worth your time.
5. Take care of yourself
Take a shower and get dressed
Unemployment brings along a sneaky feeling of worthlessness. Well, let get things clear, you are worth it, you are good enough and certainly it is not a period of unemployment that defines you, your ability and your competencies. So take good care of the very much valuable person you are!
Take a shower and get dressed. Pyjamas are forbidden by a higher law called “Self-respect”. Eat well, which doesn’t mean truffles and caviar, but a balanced diet that will neither lead you to starvation nor to put on 10 kilos because of junk food.
Your soul is important too. Read books, go to exhibitions, and watch good movies. Explore new ways of expression: even if you have never held a pencil, try to draw or to paint. Go back to your childhood and just let yourself try without any external judgment. Keep a diary if you like.
6. Reach out to people
You are not alone!
You have friends that love you, people that support you and have your back all the way. You are not alone, that’s it! Don’t isolate yourself; reach out to people. If you are alone, it is because you decide to be so, not because you don’t have any friends. Isolation leads your mind into loops, negative thoughts tend to take over and you will start imagining things that are not actually real.
If you don’t feel like going to public places, invite your friends over for coffee. Share your feelings; there is no shame in any of them. Cry if you need to. Let it all out. You will feel better.
You won’t like it, but you’ll get through it
Unemployment is painful. It’s like losing yourself for someone you can’t really recognise; it’s you not reacting to things the way you would normally do; it’s one negative thought after the other. Sometimes it’s excruciating, but still you have to trust. Trust the process and trust yourself: there is a place for you, your time will come and you will get through it, even stronger.
Look back at what you have accomplished so far – I bet you can be proud of yourself! – convince yourself that you are good enough, that you deserve the very best and love yourself to the fullest extent!
* That someone is me, Federica.
I have been unemployed for 6 very long months, from March to August 2016. It has been one of the darkest periods of my life. I felt useless, unworthy, alone, but most of all I felt absolutely, completely, totally bored.
I started working when I was 22 and I never stopped since then. I usually do 3 or 4 things at the same time. I start stressing when there is nothing to stress about: I need deadlines, to keep my brain in check, to produce. When I found myself unemployed I didn’t even know what it meant – I didn’t know how to be unemployed, nobody taught me that! But I had to learn how to survive without going completely crazy. So, this is what I learnt, what I believe can be of help to any of you in the same situation.
My last piece of advice: don’t be afraid to ask for help. We will all find ourselves in need sooner or later and there is no shame in asking for support to your family, your friends or a stranger, like me. If you feel like talking or sharing your experience, feel free to contact me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org
by Federica Margheri