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Handling Job Loss Worries

By Nan S. Russell

What if the money runs out before I find a good job? What if I have to take a pay cut? What if I have to accept a job I don’t like? What if I can’t pay my bills and have to file bankruptcy? What if no one hires me? What if I have to change professions? What if … what if … what if?

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Worries. Worries. Worries. It’s hard to move forward or think creatively when you’re stuck in worry-mode, and it’s difficult to build a future when your mind torments you with bleak serial what-ifs.

Author John Powers put it this way, "Worrying is the same thing as banging your head against the wall. It only feels good when you stop."

For job loss recovery, worrying isn’t a habit you can afford to indulge. Preoccupation with disagreeable future possibilities can plague your waking hours, diminish sleep, hijack optimism, and freeze motivation, not to mention increase stress. Plus, worrying can ignite overeating, overdrinking, over-thinking and under-doing.

That’s the problem with worries. They get in our way, hijack our well-being, impede our job-hunting momentum, and block our progress.

According to Guy Slowik, MD, in his article, When Is Worry too Much, "worrying is a habit." And he says, "Habits are developed because you have practiced doing them so often that you just start doing them without being aware of it."

That’s what most of us do when job loss hits – we automatically start worrying. But, the good news is that habits can be changed. If you focus awareness on the triggers and behaviors around your worry-habit, you can replace this unproductive mind-plaque with a helpful habit that will work for, not against, your job loss recovery and job-hunting success.

Managing Job Loss Worries

Here are four practical tips for putting job loss worries in their place:

1.  Use the 10-20-30 rule.

Set worry boundaries. Is it ten, twenty, or thirty minutes a day? You pick. But allow yourself no more than thirty minutes of worry time each day.

Schedule time to allow yourself to worry about whatever is stressing you. If that time is 9:00 to 9:30 p.m. and you notice yourself worrying before the time about how you’re going to pay the mortgage, fund your daughter’s college, or get health insurance when yours runs out, defer those thoughts to your scheduled worry-time. Worrying breeds more worrying. Limit your offspring.

2.  Create a worry free zone.

Maybe it’s your bedroom or backyard, or perhaps it’s when you’re in your car or on your morning run, but someplace in your life you need a place that is worry free.

To eliminate worrying in this zone, you’ll first need to train your mind. As soon as any worry thought pops to mind, repeat to yourself the title of the 80’s hit song, "Don’t Worry Be Happy."

After awhile, you’ll discover your practiced thought control has created the equivalent of a mind-spa. In this place you’ll be able to entertain invigorating, creative, and enthusiastic thoughts, worry free. Or you’ll be able to relax into empty mind bliss for a bit, building your energy and reducing your stress.

3.  Use action to squelch worries.

Each week, pick one worry from your worry-list and brainstorm ten actions you can do immediately to address that worry.

Work through your worry list using this approach.

Consider brainstorming with friends or family for fresh perspectives, and turn these ideas into next step actions. For more ideas on the importance of action over inaction in the job loss recovery process, review my article "7 Steps to Re-Start Your Job Search Momentum with Positive Actions."

4.  Don’t cross the bridge … yet.

Apply the advice Michael J. Fox offers in his book, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future,

"Don’t spend a lot of time imaging the worst case scenario. It rarely goes down as you imagine it will, and if by some fluke it does, you will have lived it twice.

"When things do go bad, don’t run; don’t hide. Stick it out, and be scrupulous in facing every part of your fear. Try to be still. It will take time, but you’ll find that even the gravest problems are finite – and that your choices are infinite."

Most of our job loss what-ifs never happen. Most of the worries that plague us and drag us down happen only in our heads.

Bottom Line

Take charge of your worries by applying these tips and building new habits to create job-hunting success, increase motivation, and bring the desired career prosperity you seek. As Mark Twain said, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”


About this author...

Job Loss Recovery Expert Nan S. Russell discovered a Stanford degree didn’t protect her from being fired from her first professional job. From minimum wage to Vice President of a multi-billion dollar company, she learned the hard way. Now she helps others with what does and doesn’t work at work. The author of three career books including, The Titleless Leader, Hitting Your Stride, and Nibble Your Way to Success, Nan is a national speaker and work issues consultant. More at NanRussell.com; and her job loss seminar: Rebooting After Job Loss.