So much has changed in such a short time. A little over a month ago, we had pretty much full employment with plenty of job opportunities. Now as the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, so many people have lost their jobs, literally overnight. Hundreds of thousands affected. Losing your job has obvious financial consequences, even if the Government measures announced do soften the blow for a while.

What’s not quite so obvious though about job loss is the potentially devastating impact on your mental health and sense of self. Many of us are invested in our jobs. To a large degree, society defines us by what we do, and too often we allow ourselves to be defined by what we do being who we are.

Those who define themselves by their careers and positions may suffer a significant emotional toll

This is backed up by research from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, which has found just how significant an effect the loss of a job can have on one’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Because your job can form a core part of your identity, those who define themselves by their careers and positions may suffer a significant emotional toll. Losing your daily routine of connecting with and chatting to co-workers can create a real void.

This is why drawing on your resilience and boosting self-care are so important to support your mental health at this challenging time. So if you or your partner has recently lost their job, here are some self-care tips to support you in these challenging times.


Positive self-talk is lauded as a means of reframing your mindset. However, the evidence for this is weak at best and may actually do some harm. It is far better to engage in real self-talk where you let go of the great deception of pretending that everything is OK when you are not, which is contributing further to feelings of depression. I’m talking about the middle ground between complete denial and disclosure.

There may be feelings of grief for a role you no longer have or for work colleagues you no longer get to see

Acknowledge and accept the reality of what’s happened. By that I mean mindfully embrace and accept painful emotions that you experience. There may be feelings of grief for a role you no longer have or for work colleagues you no longer get to see. A sense of loss and perhaps anger. Fear and anxiety about an uncertain future. Perhaps resentment. Probably lots of negative stress. Self-doubt and loss of identity can take hold.

It’s important not to deny these feelings, to bottle them up or to pretend nothing has happened. Allow yourself time and space to deal with these emotions while also focusing on a plan to live forward.

Keep a routine

The philosopher Aristotle once said that we are all creatures of habit, that we make our habits and then our habits make us. This is so true and it is why it’s important to establish and keep a routine, such as getting up at the same time each morning etc.


At a time like this it’s never been more important to take good care of your health. Physically look after your body. Eat real food, get enough restorative sleep (eight hours a night).

Lack of sleep turns your brain towards the fight/flight mode, increasing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. This results in you feeling more stressed, with mood swings, impaired focus and reduced willpower.

Exercise also promotes the release of dopamine which boosts motivation and increases the levels of serotonin

Take the anti-anxiety “vaccine” called exercise. It reduces the levels of your body’s natural stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, and it stimulates a number of brain endorphins, which are a kind of natural painkiller that allows you to feel calm, optimistic and energised, creating a pleasant, even mildly euphoric feeling.

Exercise also promotes the release of dopamine which boosts motivation and increases the levels of serotonin, the brain’s own natural antidepressant.


Avoid the blame game. There is no point in going negative and blaming others. That just a waste of precious emotional and mental energy. Encourage yourself. Think of how you would encourage a friend facing a challenging or stressful situation. Now boost your self-compassion by directing that encouraging supportive talk inwards towards yourself.

Stay grateful. In the midst of turmoil, being able to stay grateful for the good things in your life can dissolve feeling of negative stress and build real resilience.

Lighten up

Don’t take life too seriously. Laughter is very powerful medicine for mind, body and soul. It’s good for your heart, releases natural painkillers and increases pain tolerance, enhances a sense of resilience and realistic optimism and is a terrific energy booster and emotional “tonic”. Make time to watch some comedy, relax.


This can be a terrific way to build mindful presence, to let go of feelings of stress and anxiety and to embrace a sense of peaceful equanimity.

I have a number of meditations in my podcast In the Doctors Chair which you can listen to on Spotify or for free on Anchor.

Best possible future self

This is an exercise that can be very helpful to boost resilience and realistic optimism. Write a page (even a paragraph will do) describing how things will be in five years’ time if everything you work hard towards comes to pass, if all your best laid plans and dreams come to fruition through the power of your efforts.

It’s a “forward looking” exercise that supports your mind in transcending the challenges and difficulties of today.

Explore new opportunities

The Chinese symbol for “crisis” also means “opportunity”. What is the opportunity for you right now? Research has found that when many people have done a particular job for a long time, it can be difficult for them to list their marketable strengths and skills.

Start by doing an honest appraisal of your skills, talents and strengths. Can you use this time to upskill, perhaps do a course online? What areas are you passionate about? This is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge in those areas.

Talk to your GP

If you find yourself feeling depressed or hopeless, or apathetic, your mental health may be struggling and in need of extra support. It’s good to talk. Open up about how you feel. It can make all the difference.

Stay connected

Cultivating and investing in the relationships in your life can provide you with a deep reservoir of long-term satisfaction and meaning.

Despite the importance of physical distancing, there are so many ways that technology can keep you connected. Now isn’t the time for solo runs.

You’re not alone, many more are in the same boat. Talk to your friends, be there for them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.


Gandhi once wrote that the best way to find purpose in life is to lose yourself in the service of others.

How can you be a resource to others in your community? Perhaps phoning to check in on elderly neighbours? Who needs a hand with shopping? Who just needs a listening ear? In the end this too shall pass. We are all better together.

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