THE global economic downturn saw 138,000 Britons lose their jobs in the three months leading up to July, with another 300,000 expected to be made redundant over the next year.
Along with a slumping housing market, soaring energy prices, increasingly pricey foodstuffs, and lowered consumer spending, unemployment is expected to top two million by December 2009 - the highest rate since 1999.
While the Chamber of Commerce highlights that this current economic crisis shouldn’t be considered as bad as the 1990s recession, a lot of us are worried.
But experts claim being made redundant doesn’t have to be a nightmare - as long as we approach it with a mindset open to change.
The first thing to do is take stock of the situation and not get yourself too wound up about it, says Sally Ann Law, a personal and business life coach whose clients include worried bankers.
“If you’ve lost your job because of the current climate and not due to anything you yourself have done, there’s no sense in dwelling on it,” she says.
“It’s human nature to think it’s your fault, that if only you were more valuable, more clever, more useful, they wouldn’t have got rid of you.
“But that kind of thinking will lead you into the bleak world of depression - and that’s the last place you want to go.”
Being made redundant is made more difficult because we tend to identify ourselves with our occupations - so when that’s taken away from us, we often feel at a loss as to who ‘we’ are, says Nicola Bunting, a life coach who works in the City.
“People get their energy, their identity, their sense of self-esteem and self worth from working and being successful at their job,” she explains.
“Losing all that is a real taking stock moment as to what matters, to what you have been doing with your life up until now and what you want to do. And that can create an existential crisis for a lot of people.”
“If you’ve lost a job you didn’t want to lose, the process of becoming unemployed is similar to a bereavement - you go through anger, then denial, all the way to acceptance and empowerment to do something about it,” Law warns.
“It’ll be a rocky road emotionally for a little while, but don’t be frightened by that. While there’s no quick fix, you will get through it.”
If you were the main (or the only) breadwinner in your family, you might worry about what your partner and children think about you losing your job.
“You have to appeal to your family and talk with them openly,” suggests Law.
“Now is not the time to hide in your shell. Tell your partner you can’t fix this right away and be honest.”
But your family might not actually be that worried, says Bunting: “It’s not inevitably disappointing to lose your job - your family might actually be glad to spend more time with you, to give you some space for personal growth, to see you in a job you like better. There can be lots of upsides to something that seems so negative.”
Identify a friend or two who you don’t have to put up a front with, suggests Law, with whom you can start dealing with the practicalities: how much money you have in the bank and how long you can maintain your current lifestyle without getting into trouble.
Then, suggests Bunting, “take a good look at your personality and write down what you really want.
“What makes you happy? When do you feel the best? What are your needs, strengths, values? What’s your ideal working situation? Try to think outside the box a bit.”
If that seems a bit confusing, take one of Bunting’s clients, a lawyer, as an example: “He hated his job as a solicitor and together, we looked at what he enjoyed doing: he liked investing, he loved Scotland, and he was interested in property and entrepreneurial businesses,” she explains.
“Now he’s a property investor in Scotland - a million miles away from his former job in London - and much happier.”
One of the wonders of employment is that it forces a structure upon us: we are due in at a certain time, are forced to mingle with certain people, and have duties that we might let slide if we never had to go to work at all. So now that you’re unemployed, it’s all too easy to let yourself go to sleep at 4am, spend all day in front of the telly, and never change out of your dressing gown. But having a structure will save your sanity, says Bunting.
“Don’t waste your day doing nothing. Try waking up, going to the gym, and then spending the next four hours working on activities that will help identify what you want to do next job-wise.
“Then do something fun, like going for a walk in the park or meeting a friend for lunch,” she continues.
“Be sure to eat healthily and exercise every day - you must fight the inertia of staying in and try to remain positive.”
Law agrees that having a structure will help get you in the right mindset: “Being unemployed can cause you to drink, turn to drugs, feel hopeless and think you’re worthless. The longer you put off pulling yourself together, the harder it’s going to be to get yourself out of that destructive cycle,” warns Law.
“Losing your job is a blow - there’s no two ways about it,” concedes Law.
“And it will take some adjusting, but it’s never too late to learn new skills.”
“If you can take this change and turn it into something positive,” adds Bunting, “you can look back and think, ‘This was the best thing that ever happened to me, even though at the time it was the worst thing that ever happened’.
“Keep in mind that the Chinese symbol for ‘crisis’ means both ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’,” she adds.
“And there’s a lot of good that can come out of this - you just have to be open to it.”