Unemployment Is On the Rise In Lockdown — Here’s How to Deal With It

If you’ve lost your job or lost work during the pandemic, you’re not alone. The Commonwealth Bank is predicting that almost one in ten workers in Sydney alone could be unemployed soon as the state’s lockdown rolls on.

Greater Sydney makes up 22 per cent of the national workforce and a total of 300,000 people could well be out of work soon. CBA is forecasting that the unemployment rate will peak at 5.6 per cent in October 2021 and could sit at around 5.2 per cent by the end of the year.

The Australia Institute of Health and Welfare has also found that the younger generations are experiencing the highest rates of psychological distress and job loss due to the pandemic.

Losing work at any time is tough but during a pandemic, it can be even harder to motivate yourself out of the slump that unemployment causes. With so many more Aussies facing financial insecurity as a result of the pandemic, we’ve spoken with Psychotherapist Julie Sweet at Seaway Counselling and Psychotherapy to help you plan your next steps.

Here’s what she had to say.

The Latch: What is the best way to react to losing your job? What are the first steps to take, and how can you best deal with this news?

Julie Sweet: While there’s no right or wrong way to react to losing your job, as it’s a subjective experience, it can be in our best interest if we choose to respond rather than react.

A beneficial initial response is to lean into your support system.

Once you have shared the news with trusted people, it’s imperative you contact your bank if you have a mortgage or loan.

Reach out to your real estate agent or landlord if you rent. Advise both you’re experiencing financial hardship. Ask for a temporary pause on repayments or some reprieve with rent.

Seek financial support from the Federal Government by way of grants, job-saver and other stimulus payments is also helpful.

Beginning the process of finding employment is advantageous and if you’re finding it difficult to do so alone, engage a recruiter to assist. Word of mouth can never be underestimated either, a warm referral can go a long way, so let people know you’re job hunting, you never know who knows who.

Finally, ask for help, contact support services, counselling and therapy resources and mental health organisations. Sharing the load and burden you’re carrying can make it lighter.

TL: What are the longer-term ways of dealing with the idea of no income and financial insecurity? How might you go about that over the first week or so?

JS: Financial counsellors or planners/advisors can offer guidance for individuals when they have lost their job. They can discuss options, pathways, employers obligations, redundancy, taxation implications, superannuation, Centrelink, the psychosocial impact of being out of work and how to manage functioning with uncertainty.

TL: How can you ensure that you don’t fall into despair or panic?

JS: These feelings are valid and natural. Despair can be underpinned by a feeling of powerlessness, which really signifies a deep sadness. But, when you think about — isn’t it expected someone would feel sad if they found themselves out of work?

Similarly, panic is closely linked and can be associated with depression, pain and hurt. Once more, wouldn’t it be fair to say that someone would experience a great deal of pain if they lost their job?

So, if you feel a range of emotions, self-compassion is critical. Along with acceptance. Suspending any self-blame or criticism you may have is also important. Instead be mindful to move toward resources, supports and any opportunities of enhancing their skill set to rebuild yourself.

TL: What can you do to make sure you keep relationships with friends and family strong if you’re feeling this way?

JS: Connectivity is crucial. Interpersonal relationships are essential for mental health and wellness. It’s understandable that when we are in crisis we may need more support, so disclosing to friends and family that we are struggling can be a relief.

Sometimes people choose to self-isolate when stressed, anxious or feeling shame. Although seeking solace may be an immediate reaction when overwhelmed, being vulnerable and talking to people can be confronting however very rewarding.

TL: How can you ensure you get yourself in the best mindset for finding work again and remaining positive?

JS: It comes back to self. It’s an introspective process and an inside job, so once the above steps have been implemented, seeing a mental health professional can help re-establish self-worth and improve self-efficacy.

What may have been an acute reaction to a loss of employment, without support, some may develop chronic mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts and symptoms of trauma.

I look to support clients by creating safety, therapeutically working alongside the client to build a professional relationship and form trust and rapport. I aim to offer psychosocial support and regularly with job loss, techniques and strategies around self (emotional) regulation. At all times I show empathy and validate the person’s experience.

Because job loss and any abrupt change can be traumatic, it can literally be one step in front of the other when in crisis. I consider it a privilege to work with such individuals.

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