If you’ve been unemployed for a while, you’re probably feeling pretty dull. I don’t mean dumb, I mean worn down until all your corners are rounded. You obsessively search the web until the days blur into each other and everything turns gray. Sure, you’ve got Twitter and you’ve become a grand master on some video game you’d be ashamed to tell your friends about if you ever saw them, but that’s hardly a substitute for a social life.
It happens to the best of us. We sink into such a deep rut that sooner or later we come to the conclusion that there’s no real point to showering every day. If that thought has occurred to you, then you need to break out of that rut NOW.
The first step to putting the brakes on a downward spiral is to confront it. Technically, you know that the economy’s bad and jobs are scarce, but in reality, you can’t shake the feeling that it’s you…that you just aren’t good enough. In order to change your attitude, you need to shift gears to you can move forward. That means learning new skills. Find a class…any class that interests you. Go to a free seminar. Take a course online. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you do it. The key is to stimulate your brain so you can apply that energy where you need it.
Another thing you need is a routine. Every morning, get out of bed, shower, and get dressed. Wear whatever you want, but no pajamas. If you look good and you feel good, your mood will be more positive. Once you’re dressed, leave the house. Go for a walk, visit a coffee shop, check the mail and wave at your neighbors…whatever. Just get a few minutes of sunshine and a little exercise. Focus on what you can control – your environment, your skills, your appearance, your routine – and not on what you can’t, employment.
If you know other people who are looking for work, call them. Meet once a week for lunch to trade leads, commiserate, and share ideas. Staying connected to others and knowing that you’re not alone helps to combat the negativity that can overwhelm us in times of stress.
Spend a few hours a week in the library. Do some research on your career field or just grab a book and hang out. If the library has wi-fi, take your laptop and work from there. You still get the quiet, but now you interact with someone once in a while.
Network! Go to mixers, happy hours, social gatherings, tweetups, meetups, and marketing group lunches. The more people you meet, the better your chance of making a contact that will lead to a job. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to mingle. Get a glass of water and tip the bartender a couple of bucks so he won’t mind refilling, and then dig in to the social buffet.
Don’t overlook exercise. Exercise is great for relieving feelings of depression and at the same time, it improves blood circulation to the noggin. Your thoughts will be clearer and you’ll be more focused and more creative. You’ll probably feel a little proud of yourself for doing healthy stuff as well, which is a great self-esteem booster.
Find a volunteer job. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people. Helping others gives you a fresh perspective on your own problems and sometimes beefs up your resume. Call local non-profits and ask if they need help with IT issues. Chances are you’ll find one that does.
Finally, do something fun. It may sound like an undeserved luxury, but it’s an absolute necessity. Filling your every waking hour with worry and stress will only drain your energy and sabotage your ability to respond to new opportunities when they do arise. Allowing yourself to have fun will help you to de-stress and recharge so you can keep moving towards your goal with confidence.