At my last visit to the JobCentre I was heartbroken to witness an advisor kneeled on the floor trying to comfort an older black guy, who appeared to have burst into tears during his appointment.
When you’re unemployed it can be so easy to slip into that abyss of despair. Some days you feel more gung-ho about the future, on others you don’t even have the energy to come out from under the duvet, especially now, in winter, with such short daylight time.
I too have had weeks when I felt so overwhelmed by life, I had to pop some pills just to get through the day, but I never went back to the levels of depression I was in when I was last on the dole. I’ve mastered the art of keeping the scary Black Dog at bay.
Two days before Christmas I received a letter from my flat’s management agency saying my rent would be going up by £40/month in 2017. That’s £480 more I will have to earn per year to cover my living costs! I felt sick in the pit of my stomach, and angry at the agents’ insensitivity in sending such a letter just before Christmas. I ranted about it on Facebook, which got me my friends’ sympathy and made me temporarily feel better, but, come to think of it, why should the agency even care whether I’m despairing about not having an income? They’d probably say they were only doing their jobs.
Some battles you simply can’t win, so what’s the point in causing yourself stress by resisting them. Rents, energy bills, train fares, the price of groceries, they all go up in the New Year. It sucks, but, right now, there’s nothing I can do to change those things.
I know when it’s useless to wage war, rant, scream, swear, cry. These actions only produce more stress, not resolution. Just because I’m out of work, the world is not going to stop throwing unpleasant situations my way. I cannot control what will happen in five minutes’ time, tomorrow or next week, but I can make a conscious decision that I’m not going to let these things affect my cool. The image of me becoming a pauper because I cannot pay my bills is a projection based on fear of a future that may never come. It’s a fictional movie of myself I’m watching, not reality.
Choose not to suffer.
Suffering is what happens in our minds when we resist what is, when we think something is happening that shouldn’t be happening. When we allow ourselves to be open to the idea that everything is happening for a reason, even things that are seemingly adverse, even the loss of a job, the lack of money, the illness, the end of a relationship, whatever it may be, then we can return to a place of acceptance, peace and serenity.
It’s taken me years of working on expanding my self-awareness to achieve this state of surrender, but I’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and I’m now much less vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life.
To help you kickstart the New Year on the right foot and avoid the winter blues, here are a few practical tips based on what’s worked for me. These are mainly tips for keeping a sane mind and do not include TLC for the body, such as exercising, eating healthily, etc, but I figured you knew about those already.
- Stop being a victim – This is important. Feeling sorry for yourself will only attract more circumstances that will make you feel sorry for yourself. Ever heard of the Laws of Attraction? What’s happening now is happening for a reason that has to do with the totality of your life, and the world/people are not “out to get you”, even if it feels that way. You didn’t lose your last job because someone wanted to punish you, even if you had the boss from hell. It was meant to be that way. If you didn’t get the job you interviewed for, it wasn’t the right job. You missed a bus because the bus drove off before you could reach the bus stop? The driver may well have been a grumpy old fart, but their action wasn’t aimed at harming you. Who knows…on the next bus you may bump into an old friend, who happens to know of a job vacancy. Stop blaming your ex-boss, the government, the JobCentre, your mother-in-law for everything that’s wrong with your life. Your life is perfect as it is right now. Your job at the moment is to look for a job, so assume that role with dignity. Trust the mysterious ways of the world, accept each moment for what it is without labelling it as good or bad. Instead, keep your focus firmly (and by that I mean 24/7, not only when you’re in a good mood) on the future you wish to see, and feel the joy and gratitude associated with it. Tip no. 6 will help you with this.
- De-clutter – You finally have the time to go through junk you’ve accumulated over the years, and get rid of everything you no longer need nor love. If you need inspiration, Marie Kondo has a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising. The UK edition was called Spark Joy for a good reason: purging things that no longer adds anything positive to your life creates joy! You can check out this piece in The Guardian to get an idea of the content. I haven’t read the book, and doubt I could ever be as radical as the Kondo method advocates, but since I stopped working, I’ve been taking great delight in tidying up one corner of my home at a time and made several trips to charity shops and the local dump. When you clear your space of things that no longer serve you, you make room for new things to enter your life, quite literally. It is like an unblocking of life’s stream, a mental detox of sorts. Try it. If you notice no positive effects, at least you’ll have a very tidy house!
- Re-arrange – while you’re on the de-cluttering, why not re-think the layout of your favourite room? I never paid attention to feng shui, but last month I was donated a small bookcase by a kind neighbour, so I decided to move the position of the sofa in my living-room and placed the new bookcase next to it. It made all the difference in the world! The room now looks more spacious and warmer, and I am LOVING my flat for the first time since I moved in. Sometimes a little move goes a long way.
- Connect – when you’re not working, it’s easy to end up stuck at home. Leaving your home means spending money. You need money to take public transport, and once you’re out, you’re likely to buy things you don’t need so it can be more economical to stay at home. Or maybe you do the opposite, you go out everyday and get drunk or high to forget how hard your life is. …Or is it? Remember tip no.1? Be NOT a victim. I’m of the former type. I love solitude anyway; I can go days without speaking to another human being, except on social media. But I’m also aware that connecting on social media does not replace actual human contact, and social isolation can bring on a bout of depression. Therefore I make sure I do a programme once a week, even if by myself, usually a classical music concert, a trip to the library, or a visit to a friend, just to get me out of the house. I also discovered local social network Streetlife is a lovely way of meeting nice neighbours you wouldn’t have met otherwise.
- Read (books you can learn from) – you may have a long Amazon wishlist or a pile of books by your bedside you never had time for because your job was too busy. Now is the time to catch up on your reading, and I don’t mean just trashy novels. Time not working is precious time for learning and reflection. Pick up books with depth that make you think (in a different way?), inspire you, challenge you, enlighten you. Your future new job is as an opportunity to start a new phase of your life, so why not enrich yourself mentally during this “interval” life has awarded you. No money for books? Look up libraries near you under Local Library Services, and plan a visit to each. I’ve got memberships in three now, and I’ve read more books in the past couple of months than I have in any year for the past few years.
- Meditate – It’s an excellent tool for getting focused and calm before a job interview, for instance, but it can also be life-changing. Meditation has been proven to help reduce stress and anxiety, relax mind and body, increase concentration and improve overall health. Most people’s excuse for not meditating is lack of time, “I’d love to but I’m too busy to meditate.” In truth, if they meditated even for a minute, their productivity would improve and they’d end up with more free time. Why not start the habit now, while you’re unemployed, and learn to have a “zen” attitude towards life (remember tip no.1?). There are several free (at least for the basic functions) meditation apps that can get you started, including the well-known Headspace. Or do it free style, with no app. Relaxing background music can also help, and YouTube offers a large choice of meditation music. A long meditation is not necessarily better than a shorter one so don’t worry if you can only sit still for a minute or two at first. The trick is to persist with it and often. Finding your inner stillness is the quickest way to a more enlightened and consequently happier life.
- Embrace change as your friend – we tend to see change as a problem, an obstacle to our progress, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. When you embrace change, you’re embracing life itself. Not having a paid job isn’t convenient for anyone of course. But can you see it as a grand opportunity for change that may have a domino effect and lead you to places you may not have imagined would be possible to get to? What kind of person do you envisage yourself to BE in the next stage of your life? Don’t waste this chance life is offering you to step UP. Not in your career, but as yourself. Now is the time for you to dream big, think big, act big. I will leave you with these beautiful words from author Neale Donald Walsch:
“Change is not a break in the flow. It is the flow. Change is not a shift in direction. It is the direction into which all of life is moving.”
Hurrah to change! Happy New Year and happy job hunting!