If you’ve ever been laid off, you know how scary the experience can be. You’re worried about how you’re going to find another job, you're stressed about affording your current lifestyle and it can be a major blow to your self-confidence. That’s why we caught up with psychiatrist Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn and therapist Naiylah Warren for their advice on taking care of your mental health after a layoff.
4 Things to Do for Your Mental Health After Being Laid Off, According to Therapists
Meet the Experts
- Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, D.O., is a psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at LifeStance Health, a mental healthcare company providing treatment services in an outpatient care setting, both in-person and through its digital health telemedicine offering.
- Naiylah Warren, LMFT, is a therapist and Clinical Content Manager at Real, a mental healthcare platform that aims to provide resources so that everyone can make practicing mental wellness a routine part of their day.
1. Try Not to Internalize It
“First, I want to acknowledge that being laid off from work can be incredibly stressful and impact our mental health,” Dr. Patel-Dunn notes. “It’s important to acknowledge and honor any feelings that may come up and remind yourself that you’re not alone—unfortunately, many people across different sectors are going through this experience right now." Warren adds that it's important in the immediate aftermath of being laid to remind yourself that your work or job has nothing to do with your worth or value. "Although it is much easier said than done, when we’ve just lost a job, we often start to internalize that circumstance as us not being enough," she explains. "So much of our identities are rooted in our careers, skills and work."
2. Cut Yourself Some Slack
"Something like this can impact our lives in many different ways and throw our schedules off, and it’s OK to give yourself some time to get back into your routine," Dr. Patel-Dunn tells us. "Once you’re back to your baseline, I’d recommend thinking about what kind of routine would be most beneficial as you look to your next phase. You know yourself best, and this will look different for everyone." She stresses that folks who've been laid off remember to get outside, keep a regular sleep schedule, eat balanced meals and move their bodies. "Be kind to yourself and find opportunities to practice self-care, even when it feels challenging."
3. Avoid Thinking in Absolutes
Your mind is likely moving in a million different directions after the shock of a layoff. Many of these thoughts, Warren says, are unproductive. "Some phrases I think it’s important to stay away from, are phrases known as 'absolutes.' These phrases sound like, 'I’ll never find another job' or 'This always happens to me.'" She explains that absolutes like these prevent us from being able to see our circumstances with clarity, and can diminish our sense of agency or control. "Other statements I’d stay away from are self-defeating statements, like 'I was never qualified for this job anyway' or 'I was just a number.' These types of statements discount your value, skills, and contributions." She warns that if we find ourselves reverting to this type of negative self-talk, we acknowledge our thoughts and feelings and try using self-affirming language instead like, “It doesn’t feel good to be laid off, but I know I did the best I could.”
4. Tap into Your Support Systems
Both experts we spoke to emphasize the importance of leaning on the people around you in the event of a layoff. Warren explains, "Making sure to share how you’re feeling with people you feel safe with is important. Also, make time to grieve. Losing anything in our lives can elicit feelings of grief and loss. Losing our jobs can bring up feelings of sadness, anger, trigger feelings of low self-worth and/or hopelessness. Finding support and self-nurturing rituals are crucial to moving forward." In addition to family and friends, Dr. Patel-Dunn recommends trying to connect with people in your network who might be going through a similar situation, noting that it can be helpful to get that support and connection—and the reminder that this isn't a you problem.