Laid Off? Maintaining Your Mental Health While You Look for Work

Maintaining Your Mental Health While You Look for Work

Hundreds of Albertans are losing their jobs in the current economic downturn.  The impacts of job loss are far more than just a matter of lost income.  For many people job loss generates anxiety and uncertainty that can impact their mental health. 

Feeling frustration, worry, anxiety, anger, and grief when a layoff occurs is normal.  Make an effort to stay in touch with others who are facing the new reality of looking for work and coping with massive change.  Allow yourself time to work through your emotions. It takes time to heal, and everyone responds differently.

The good news is that we can take steps to help maintain balance and move forward.  Keep in mind that job loss during an economic downturn is part of the changing employment landscape, not a reflection of your work or worth. 

Taking positive action early can reduce anxiety and create hope.  Here are some things you will need to do soon:

  • Sign up for employment insurance (EI) as soon as you have a record of employment (ROE). You need an ROE to apply for EI. You can file an EI claim online at Service Canada or in person at your nearest Service Canada office.  See this as your first step of self-care.
  • Review your finances and your budget. It is tempting to set this important work aside.  However, for your own peace of mind, help yourself by looking realistically at your budget and seeing where you can make changes.   Contact an organization like Money Mentors. Money Mentors is an Alberta-based, not-for-profit financial counselling service. If you don’t have a severance package, aren’t eligible for EI and have no other resources, you can apply for income support through Alberta Works.
  • Gather reference letters and work with someone to refresh your resume. Focus on the job you want, not the one you lost. 

While you are looking for work:

  1. Focus on supportive and healthy relationships. You have some time to reconnect with those who mean the most to you.  Connect with caring and supportive people. While looking for work can be challenging you don’t have to do it alone. 
  2. Get moving and take action. While you are unemployed take time to go outside, exercise and enjoy physical activity.  It is good for your body and your brain to get moving and connect with your community.  Connect with helpful people, access government programs and network with others in your profession.  Using online job listings and social media resources such as LinkedIn can augment your reach in the job market. 
  3. Take care of yourself. Let yourself feel sadness, anger, or whatever you need to feel. Besides exercise try to think of a variety of ways you can be good to yourself.  Take time each day to reflect on the good things in your life and focus your energy toward your most important relationships. Eat good food, get the rest you need and don’t be hard on yourself.
  4. Beware of negative self-talk. It will be tempting to fall into a pattern of blame and shame.  Remember you did not have control over someone else’s decision to lay you off.  You do have control over your approach to your future.  Try and maintain a hopeful outlook and if despair comes front-of-mind talk with someone about it.
  5. Reach out for help. Feeling tense and sad and not being able to sleep well are normal after a layoff. If they are persistent consider speaking to your doctor or a mental health professional to get their opinion. 

Many communities offer walk-in counselling at low or no cost. Contact your local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association if you need help.  www.mymentalhealth.ca offers resource listings to help you maintain your mental health.  

Here are some tips for supporting a loved one experiencing a layoff:

  1. Ask your loved one what they need, and regularly remind them that you’re there for support.
  2. Talk about the layoff. It’s common to want to avoid the topic, but it is healthy to discuss it, however don’t make it all consuming. Remember to set aside regular time with your loved one that doesn’t involve discussions about their layoff.
  3. Include your loved one in social activities. Even if they often decline, it’s important to show that they are still an important member of your community.
  4. Help your loved one connect with support services if they experience a lot of difficulties.
  5. Take care of your own well-being and seek extra help for yourself if you need it.

Other resources in Alberta include:

  • If suicide is a possibility,call 911
  • Alberta’s Mental Health Help Line is available 24 hours a day. Call1 (877) 303-2642
  • In Edmonton you can contact the Distress Line 780-482-HELP (4357) / 1-800-232-7288 if outside of the greater Edmonton region.
  • In Calgary and Area 266.HELP (4357) connects you to the Distress Centre

This article was written by David Grauwiler, Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Alberta Division.

Phone: (780) 482-6577
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @DavidGrauwiler


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The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Alberta is made up of eight regions. Additionally CHMA in Alberta includes the Centre for Suicide Prevention and a Divisional (Provincial) office located in Edmonton.

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