Stop Thinking You’re A Jobless Lowlife

couch potato

This photo has been doctored with sepia undertones to mask the identity of this poor, fine-grade specimen of unemployed male.

Unemployed of the world unite: You have nothing to lose but your pot belly!

There is no greater blow to your self-esteem than losing your job. Thanks to all of that menacing free time, you’re more likely to ruminate on how shitty your life is going, how much your wife hates you now, and what a shell of a man you’ve become. (I imagine women on the other hand, like myself, just weep and eat themselves fat while updating their resumes). Clinical Professor of Psychology Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D points out a toxic thread among the unemployed: self-loathing.

British psychologists Adrian Wells and Costas Papageorgiou have found that people who ruminate actually think that they will figure things out, solve a problem and avoid making the same mistake in the future. Of course, there may be some truth that ruminating may “give you closure” or lead to solutions—but excessive rumination simply makes you more depressed.

As it turns out, sulking is not going to lead you to any kind of productive revelation that will magically transform you into a resume-churning member of society by morning.

As Yale psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema has shown, rumination leads to depression and keeps you depressed. People who ruminate withdraw from the real world, often isolating themselves from other people. When you ruminate you are almost always focused on something negative—what is going on in your head. It adds to your sense of helplessness and makes you feel worse.

See the helpful tips from the PhD, who’s conveniently pimping out his new book on depression at Psychology Today, after the jump.

1. Catch yourself ruminating and keep track of it
Simply being aware that “I am ruminating now” can be helpful. It’s natural to have some rumination but recognize that this is a problem-not a solution. Write it down, chart it.

2. Examine the costs and benefits of ruminating
What do you think you will get out of this rumination? Will it really help you solve any problems? Will you get closure? What are the costs to you? Is it making you more depressed and angry?

3. Will your rumination lead to any productive action?
Is there any productive action TODAY that you can take? If you lost your job, you can’t reverse history. But maybe you can engage in other productive behavior— exercise, socializing, looking for a job, acquiring new skills. If there is no productive action that your rumination suggests, then set it aside. You can use “rumination time” or “acceptance”.

4. Set aside specific times to ruminate-and put it off until then
A lot of this rumination comes up on you-almost sneaking up. OK. Catch it, write it down, and set it aside for later. Say, 4:30 in the afternoon. You can ruminate then. At all other times, write it down.

5. Follow a list of daily activities
Having a schedule and keeping busy is a good antidote to ruminating. You might even schedule activities every hour—and have daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly goals. Keep busy and keep out of your head.

6. Accept that you can’t always know why things happen-and you don’t need to know

We humans are always looking for answers and for meaning. Forget it. You can’t always know exactly why something happened and often things are unfair. Ruminating won’t change that. You don’t need to know why things happen. You need to do better things for yourself.

7. Accept that life is painful-but you can still take positive action

Even if it is wrong, unfair, unpleasant and awful that you lost your job there are always productive actions that you can take. Make a list of pleasurable activities-or behaviors that will help you grow. Make them your “menu”. Then -do them.

2 thoughts on “Stop Thinking You’re A Jobless Lowlife

  1. One useful way to get back on your feet is start a business. Register an LLC, grab a few domain names, and start pimping yourself out as whatever.

    Write business plans for others, daytrade (with risk capital only, please!), make t-shirts, sell stuff on CL or EBay, write a blog under your real name about something (become an expert in whatever).

    You probably won’t make any money in the near term, but building a personal online brand makes the inevitable googling by a future employer more useful, and also may help you identify what you really want to do with your life. And since the online brand is permanent and global there are many ways to use it once created.

    This should, of course, only be done after a period of sulking and binge drinking, which is the first step.

  2. Pingback: Breaking: Your unemployed spouse is basically killing you | Ivy Leagued and Unemployed

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