Five Ways Bounce Back After Getting Laid Off

After only three months on the job, Dave Joseph, 24, of Boston, found himself joining the ranks of a group that has grown since January 2008 to include more than 7 percent of Americans.

He became unemployed.

The recent college graduate moved to Boston to work for an industrial design firm, but after the company announced budget cuts, he said he found himself low on the totem pole. He was laid off on Christmas Eve.

"You assume that when you graduate college you're going to get a job," said Joseph. "I worked hard to make that college-to-job reality happen, so to have it come crashing down after a couple months was hard to deal with."

With the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting more than a half-million jobs lost in January, and larger companies enduring hiring freezes, many Americans are finding the stalemate economy has also put a check on their emotional health.

Joseph said although his company has given him great recommendations, he is worried about enduring the job search again.

"I know it's a tough climate, but I feel anxious that I'm not doing enough," said Joseph.

Getting Back to Work

According to Dr. Charles Raison, director of the Mind-Body program at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, an economic low is often parallel to an individual's emotional low.

"[Uncertainty] makes people feel less confident of themselves, less adequate, and those are essential in your next job interview," said Raison. "It can sometimes be a perfect storm of emotions, and then you have to go out and try to sell yourself."

But there are ways to boost your emotional health and bounce back from a job loss, he said.

"The bounce-back challenge is not the practicality of getting the job again," said Raison. "The real challenge is keeping your brain and body from going into a state where stressors have hit your health."

In fact, many studies have linked stress to increased health risks including depression and heart disease.

"You don't want this economic crisis to put you in a mood state," he said. "You need that brain and body in the future when things turn around."

How to Deal with Losing Your Job

The following are a few strategies to manage your emotional health after a job loss.

Cool It

While many Americans hope the new stimulus package will provide some relief in the year ahead, many who were recently laid off or are facing layoffs are looking for a more imminent solution, such as a new job, to recover from their job loss. But, according to Josh Klapow, clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Public Health, a clear mind is the first step to finding a new job.

"Within the first 24 hours of being laid off, the best thing is to do nothing. Regroup," said Klapow. "I encourage people to just cool it."

In the immediate aftermath of a job loss, a person's memory and concentration can be impaired, said Klapow. This can cause many to feel anger or rage and perhaps lash out to family members, former coworkers or even bosses.

"Don't do anything in the first 24 hours that may cause regret later," he said.

But some opt instead to take constructive action. As for Joseph, immediately after receiving his notice he inquired about other projects he could take on within his company and asked his supervisor for recommendations.

"My initial thoughts were, 'What am I going to do?' rather than, 'Why did you do this to me?'" said Joseph.

Write It Down

After the initial shock of a layoff wears down, be prepared to feel anxious or nervous about what the next move should be, said Klapow.

"What we're seeing with this economic crisis is similar to what we see following natural and man-made disasters," he said. "It's gone from a few people laid off from a company to what I see as a public health mental health issue."

According to Klapow, many people may overthink the situation, which may lead to anxiety and difficulty sleeping and concentrating. But instead of letting your thoughts race, Klapow suggests writing a task list.

"Write down everything you think you may need to do, then prioritize that list," he said. "It gets it out of your head and onto a piece of paper."

Once your mind is clear and the list is in front of you, you will be able to start from the top and do one thing at a time, he said.

Get Up in the Morning

Not having to prepare for work in the morning may no longer be an excuse to watch the morning hours tick away from under the covers. In fact, according to Raison, one of the signs of depression is loss of motivation to get up in the morning.

"Don't linger in bed," said Raison. "Try to get sunlight and fresh air in the morning."

Staying in bed allows the thoughts to race and anxiety and guilt to build within yourself, he said. But getting a start to the day allows you to stop dwelling on negative thoughts of losing a job, and work on applying for other positions and accomplishing more tasks during the day.

"Don't just lay there and let your mind beat you," said Raison. "Work with yourself to challenge your negative assumptions."

Keep Positive

Stay Active

Getting up early may not seem appealing if there is not much to do during the day. But, according to Raison, taking on activities or projects that would have previously cut into work hours is a good way to stay positive.

"Anything one can do to feel productive, valuable, that someone is doing something in the world, is crucial," said Raison.

Activities can include exercising, volunteering, taking on a paid project or attending career fairs, he said. These activities could not only improve your emotional well-being, but staying active may help you discover opportunities you may not have found if you stayed at home.

Get More Tips on Getting Active at the OnCall+ Wellness Center

While Joseph is looking to jump back into his career as an industrial designer, he is involved in professional societies within his industry and is working on freelance projects.

"I'm an optimistic person, and I know it takes dedication to get anything done," he said.

"The worst thing people can do is give up," said Raison. "Eighty percent of luck is under people's control, so you need to be at the right place and do the things that will bring about the luck."


Laughter is the best medicine, so the saying goes. And although laughter may not bring a nation out of a recession, letting out a few chuckles can bring about a positive outlook, said Raison.

"We have the tendency to see that things are permanent, but it always resolves," said Raison. "As long as the person does not go downhill and stay there."

According to Raison, laughing is physical action that can boost your physiological response to losing your job.

Although many activities, such as comedy movies, amusement parks or a vacation can get you laughing, staying within your financial limits will keep you from being anxious about your employment situation, said Raison. In fact, spending time with family can be affordable and keep spirits up.

Ultimately, Raison said laughter with a positive attitude will reassure that a job loss is a challenge that anyone can overcome.

"Maintain a good self-esteem, and while recognizing gravity of situation, see the good things," he said. "It will help endure the challenge in front of you."


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