Workplace Stress: Stressing The Job Market

“I'm sorry, but we'll have to let you go.” Words, that when first heard, can cause one to wonder if they even heard them at all.

Once it sinks in that you are being terminated from your job, you experience a myriad of other thoughts and emotions. How will I tell my family? What am I going to do? Who is going to hire me at this age? How will we live? What will we do without the benefits package?

Initially, there will be a period of grieving. How you handle this dire situation depends upon how much resilience you have. Some people are able to take action and move into more resourceful behaviours. In other words, when the going gets tough, they do what is necessary to move through these unfortunate circumstances.

Others can become ensnared in the stress created by unemployment. They may not know that their negative thoughts and emotions cause the body to go through 1,400 chemical changes. Those changes affect how they feel, emotionally, mentally and physically.

It becomes a vicious cycle - the more stressed one is, the less equipped they are to effectively handle the job-search or interview process. The longer the situation continues, the more difficult it becomes to break out of that pattern. It is crucial to learn techniques and have strategies in place in order to minimize the damage and prevent non-resourceful behaviours like anxiety, depression or anger from self-perpetuating.

Repercussions of untreated stress:

  • Loss of confidence
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of preparation
  • Poor sleep
  • Quick to take offense or to anger
  • Increased nervousness
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Isolation
  • Ill-health
  • Loss of interest in life
  • Development of self-destructive behaviours (addictions)
  • Break-up of relationships (family, friends)

Stress is a matter of perception. It is the interpretation of external events that produces internal distortion or strain. Since stress is an “inside job”, it makes sense to treat the cause from the inside, by learning techniques that allow you to balance the two branches of your nervous system. In addition to becoming calmly efficient, you also gain greater resilience, which is the ability to bounce back from set-backs. A balanced nervous system also means that you are able to go when you need to go and to sleep when it's time for rest.

Stress impacts many areas of one's life. Decision-making. Problem-solving. Creativity. Care for oneself and others. Ability to learn. Resilience. Wouldn't you agree that these are all highly-prized skills in the search for employment?

At a career conference, I heard stories of concern from career professionals about the amount of stress that their clients were experiencing. They were correct in stating that stress negatively impacted their client's performance during the interview process, and even before, while conducting their job search. By learning techniques that treat the cause of stress and not just the symptoms, they were better-positioned to assist their clients to move through the challenges of unemployment.

Loss can be the predominant theme when someone becomes unemployed. Loss of livelihood, standard of living, friends, possessions, health, confidence, joy. Job loss affects not only the person who has lost the job; it also creates stress for the family members and friends who care and see the struggles and feel the pain. Often, they feel powerless and don't know what to say or do to help.

Ten suggestions to ease you back into the job market:

  1. Start searching for work immediately. If unemployment continues for any length of time, you reinforce negative beliefs about yourself, making it that much more difficult to remain confident and determined.
  2. Take action. Develop a plan or strategy. If it's not working, you have the right to change it. Taking action is empowering. Explore the suggestions friends and family have to offer – this may lead to something you hadn't even considered. The important thing is that you do something.
  3. Talk. Talk. Talk. This is the time to force yourself out of the house, even though you may not feel like doing so. Contact everyone you know, often, to see if they know of any work.
  4. Conduct an inventory of your skills and assets. Are there areas that you need to upgrade? What are your strengths? Are you interested in pursuing a different line of work?
  5. Volunteer. This is a great way to meet people who may know people. It also gives you an opportunity to keep your skills current and expands your world at a time when it is shrinking. It takes the focus off your problems and gives you a bit of breathing room, while doing something positive for someone else. The key is in how you approach it - with resentment or an open-heart. Either way, you'll have side-effects. The difference is in whether they are positive or negative. Learn to be more open-hearted and you have just reduced your stress.
  6. Maintain as normal a routine as possible. Often, depression sets in and you give up doing the things that you enjoy doing. This is the time you need to be doing things that bring you pleasure to help prevent triggering the stress response. Cortisol, “the stress hormone”, stays in your body for up to 13 hours. It is cumulative and affects your emotional, mental and physical health, which affects your performance.
  7. Include your family. Ask them to help you problem-solve. Let them know that you are working on a plan and share it with them. They may be able to provide insight or suggestions. Keep them informed.
  8. Nurture friendships. Get creative in the ways you can socialize. There's a good chance that your friends may enjoy saving their money, too!
  9. Restrict the amount of time you listen to the news. Repeated stories about how bad the economy is often serves to discourage, which then causes another flood of stress hormones, making you feel even worse.
  10. Learn about how stress impacts you. When you are stressed, it is like looking through the broad end of a funnel. It is difficult to see opportunities or possibilities. For example, you may not notice the ad in the paper, or hear the conversation between two people on the bus, wondering where they are going to find an employee who just happens to have your qualifications.

In addition to the knowledge of the effects of stress, you need to be able to recognize that when you are stuck in negative emotions, you can apply heart-powered techniques to help balance the two branches of your nervous system. Not only will you feel better, you also increase cortical facilitation. This means you become more creative and resourceful in the way you problem-solve; necessary skills, not only for the job-search process, but also for life.

Let’s put suggestion #3 into action and talk:

  • If you lost your job, have you gone on to do something completely different? Care to share?
  • What and who made the biggest difference to you as you went through this challenging period?
  • What can you do to help someone you know who is looking for work?
  • Do you have additional suggestions for the list?

I initially published this post as a guest on G.L. Hoffman's blog. In turn, the process of writing this article spawned Reverberational Effect - a post that emphasizes the importance of letting the heart write!

5 Replies to “Workplace Stress: Stressing The Job Market”

  1. Hi Marianna,

    What a wonderful post full of informative and helpful tips!

    For me, having been downsized out of my last position turned out to be a wonderful blessing in disguise because it propelled me to pursue a totally different direction career-wise.

    This required my going back to school and getting another Master’s degree but I am so happy with having made this decision/change.

    I feel that my new career (in which I hope to be gainfully employed come September) is a much better fit for me.

    So the bottom line is that while it may hurt and be terribly upsetting when you lose your job, it may also end up being the best thing that happened to you 🙂

  2. I was lucky not to have been on the receiving end of such an interview, but was constrained to be on the other side on many occasions. The reasons could be inefficiency, dishonesty, incompatibility etc which are understandable and can be dealt with with ease. When it is for reasons other than these, proper HR management can make the process much easier for the recipient to handle. Sadly, HR management is increasingly full of theory but short on practice. I see a lot of stressed out young people around primarily due to inappropriate recruitment processes resulting in misfits found out after some time. This happens essentially due to emphasis on quantity over quality in a growing economy like ours. I do not see any quick change happening in the future here but certainly the counseling profession is flourishing as is the ever increasing number of suicides here.

  3. D,
    You’re right! When we’re in the midst of chaos, such as what is experienced during career change, we don’t and can’t see that sometimes the changes are for the best.

    Here’s to you finding that position you’ve been working towards – perhaps all along!

    You’ve provided some good balance to this post with your take on being on the other side of the pay cheque!

    I’m sorry to hear of the increase in turmoil and suicides amongst your young people.

    Too often, in so many areas, we see treatment over prevention.

  4. I imagine that a number of people who move to Qatar for work experience culture shock and stress.

    How do their employers help them deal with that?

Comments are closed.