Nothing like a double-whammy: you're already dealing with being out of work and now the holidays are here, probably bringing more pressure into your life. It's hard enough to stay motivated in your job search-- and holiday parties, a few too-nosy relatives, and the pressure to "be happy" can be overwhelming.
So stop for a moment. Breathe. Take it a step at a time. Here are some suggestions for coping with the "I'm-out-of-work-and-can't-watch-one-more-holiday-special" blues:
1. Don't stop your job search. Yes, it will be tempting. After all, who hires over the holidays? Actually a lot of employers do-- particularly employers who want to be ready to go when the New Year begins. And since many job seekers take this time off from the search, you might have a better chance of being noticed. I don't need to repeat the great advice that's already on the web-- check out these excellent sites for tips on the holiday search:
2. Be prepared to cope with relatives and other well-meaning individuals who want to "help" you with your search. Set boundaries for what you will discuss and what is off-limits. While your relatives can serve as part of your job-search network, sometimes their assistance is less-than-helpful. I particularly like this post from Careerealism about how to shut down the job search discussion.
3. Consider practicing mindfulness meditation as an antidote to all the noise and activity. I've been listening to an excellent CD set (more to come on this in a future post), The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Unhappiness by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. A set of noise-cancelling headphones and a meditation CD can go a long way to soothe your jangled nerves. If you prefer, you can read the paperback edition which comes with a meditation CD.
4. Mindfulness meditation doesn't work for everyone though-- so check out Tim Ferris's nice blog about an alternative to meditation: gratitude training. A more active mental process, gratitude training involves shifting your mindset from negative to positive thoughts.
5. If depression and anxiety are your companions during the holidays, try reading the book, Self-Coaching by Joseph Luciani, who describes anxiety and depression as "misguided attempts to control life." It's an interesting perspective. He notes that when we're anxious we anticipate calamity; when depressed we disengage-- and neither response is helpful. He stresses that in many cases depression and anxiety are simply bad thinking habits, and that it is important to develop self-trust and confidence so that you can better adapt to whatever life hands you. He encourages you to change the way you think through self-talk and proposes a three-step system involving separating fact from fiction (is what you are thinking really true?), stopping reflexive thinking (become aware of how your thoughts cause you to act or feel a certain way), and letting go by "stopping and dropping": stopping the thoughts and letting them go.
I welcome readers' suggestions for coping with holiday and job loss blues. I will post more suggestions and resources throughout December.
Remember, though, that these tips are just designed to help you get through the holiday season. If they are not helping you, or you are experiencing serious symptoms of anxiety and/or depression see a mental health practitioner or your doctor immediately. Here are some links to help you determine whether you need more assistance and where to find resources: Mayo Clinic mental health, Mayo Clinic depression, Mayo Clinic anxiety resources, Mayo Clinic depression resources, and warning signs that you need more help.
Photo credit: Eric Skiff on Flickr