Coping with unemployment

Your thinking style puts pressure on you, says Brian Hession of Stressworks, a local training company.

Your thinking style puts pressure on you, says Brian Hession of Stressworks, a local training company.

If you lost your job during the recession then you may find it difficult to come to terms with the changes imposed by this major shift in your circumstances.

Suddenly you find yourself with more time on your hands, less cash in your pocket, maybe a loss of direction and focus and often a dented sense of identity and self-esteem.

Brian Hession of Stressworks, a local training company which is running a course aimed mainly at people who have become unemployed, entitled “Stress management, time management and other tips to help you cope,” advises people to begin by taking a look at time management.

“It is important to realise whether you’re very busy or unemployed that time is neutral. It does not tick faster on a busy day or slower on a quiet day. Time management is about self management. Start by reviewing how you use your time. Keep a time log from when you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night. You would be surprised how much time is spent on the phone or in front of the TV, etc.

“Then start to phase out activities that are not goal directed. By that I mean, imagine if you got on a plane and the pilot said ‘I don’t know where we are going to, we’re just going to take off’. You would think this is crazy so why should your plane, ie, your life, be any different? You need to know where you are going or want to go.”

Set goals

If you are unsure and are confused about possible career paths or life direction, then it is time to sit down and set some goals, he advises.

“These should be in line with your values. How do you find your values? A simple method is to imagine yourself in old age having lived a full and happy life. What made it so? You will not find yourself saying I wish I’d bought that plasma TV or spent more time at the office.

“By determining these values and linking them to your goals, everything is flowing in the same direction. This is congruence. This is the place where you actually get so wrapped up in what you’re doing you forget about time.”

Now you are free of set working hours and are time rich consider upskilling. “This is the time to learn a new skill; maybe turn a hobby into a career, go back and finally start that degree/diploma/night class you’ve always been thinking/talking about.”

Some people who have lost their jobs may be finding the transition from employee to unemployed very difficult and may need time to regain their energy/confidence/enthusiasm before going job hunting or deciding to retrain or work as a volunteer or maybe take a well earned break from the world of work.

Major stressor

Losing your job can be a major stressor and it is important to find ways to work through this, says Brian Hession.

“Stress is when pressure exceeds your perceived ability to cope. It is any change you must adapt to (ie, losing job, etc, ). Stress is a personal matter. What one person finds stressful another may not. A certain amount of stress is a good thing. When you are under a certain degree of pressure you may not know the outcome but feel you have the ability to cope - this generally will produce an optimum performance. Sports people in particular would refer to this as ‘the zone’.

“Your thinking style puts pressure on yourself. For example: in an English survey a group of 18 to 25-year olds were asked if they felt panicky in tube/underground trains. Most of them said ‘yes’. They did not like cramped conditions, noise, flashing lights, etc. But when they were put in a nightclub with similar set of conditions they said ‘great atmosphere’.”

He urges people to take responsibility for managing their stress. On a physical level, check your breathing. “If you are breathing in and your chest is mainly moving, you are sending a message to your brain that your body is under stress. Your brain in turn releases adrenalin and cortisol (the stress hormone ) as it prepares the ‘fight or flight’ response. This weakens the immune system.

“Watch any top athlete after any event. It is their stomach you will see moving as they breathe. Watch a new born baby breathe - the same thing, as nature intended.”

Gentle walk

Exercise, even a gentle walk, will release endorphins, the feel-good chemicals, in your brain. Aim for a healthy diet too, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Steer clear of fatty and sugary foods.

“For example, a cooked breakfast, burger for lunch and pizza in theevening - 3,877 calories - equals eating 20 candy floss and half a block of lard. (Source: You are what you eat - Dr Gillian McKeith. ) Watch your alcohol/cigarettes, etc, intake. This is merely temporary stress reduction, not stress management.”

He urges people to avoid negative thinking. “Your biography becomes your biology. In other words, if you are constantly seeing the down side or half empty side of things, it will show itself in your body in terms of pains (you know that knot you get in your stomach ) and aches and increased anxiety levels, that vague feeling that something bad might happen.

“Try this to monitor how you think. In the morning put a bundle of elastic bands in one pocket. As the day goes on every time you notice yourself having a negative thought transfer a band to another pocket. Do a count at the end of the day and you might be surprised! This helps to create self-awareness which is a big part of stress management.

“Avoid perfectionism - nothing will ever be quite right and subsequently you may start to think that life itself will never be right.”

* The two hour course “Stress management, time management and other tips to help you cope”, which is aimed mainly at people who have become unemployed, is run twice a week. It takes place at the Galway People’s Resource Centre, Nuns’ Island on Tuesday evenings from 6.30pm to 8.30pm and on Friday mornings from 10am to 12 noon. The cost is €20. To book a place telephone GPRC at (091 ) 584822 or call Brian at (087 ) 9622244.


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