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Job insecurity and mental health: how to cope when you’re worried about being made redundant

Posted by for Mental Health

Are you worried about losing your job because of the coronavirus lockdown? Here’s how to look after yourself during this challenging period.

Working from home in a pandemic is difficult enough without the added fear that you might losing your job, but it’s a reality many people are now facing because of the economic fallout of ongoing lockdown measures.

In many cases, what were once considered secure positions are now being re-evaluated because of lost income during the pandemic. And while there’s nothing you can do if your role has come into question over the last couple of months, there’s no denying that the uncertainty that brings can be hard to deal with.

Indeed, not only can this kind of ongoing uncertainty cause worries about money in the short and long-term, but it can also trigger feelings of anxiety and depression

And at a time when you’re likely having to work at home away from the support of the office environment, those anxieties about the future and your value at work have the potential to become amplified – especially if you already struggle with feelings of self-doubt.

“Not knowing whether or not you’re going to be made redundant can cause endless stress, because you’re dealing with the unknown,” Arit Eminue, an award-winning entrepreneur, career and business coach, tells Stylist.

“You might be asking yourself ‘Is it going to be me?’ ‘What’s going to happen?’ ‘How am I going to be able to find work?’ – if you’re feeling like that, it’s perfectly normal.”

As Eminue highlights, it’s inevitable that this kind of experience will present challenges for your mental health and emotional wellbeing – but there are ways to minimise that impact and make the experience more manageable, like redirecting your focus.

“It’s important to focus on what you can control,” Eminue explains. “Switch your mind to those things as opposed to what you can’t control – you can’t control the job market, or Covid-19, or the third lockdown, but you can control other things like your skillset, CV and finances, which may be a source of anxiety.”

Taking control of your finances doesn’t have to mean anything drastic – Eminue recommends checking websites like ACAS (a non-partisan site which provides free, impartial advice on workplace rights, including how much you should receive if you’re made redundant), reviewing any money you might owe, creating a budget based on the money you do have and researching any benefits you could be entitled to if you were to lose your job.

A woman on her laptop
Job insecurity and mental health: focusing on the things you can control will help you to cope with the uncertainty.

On top of these more proactive steps, Eminue also suggests asking your HR team for the latest updates (“don’t be afraid to ask”), and looking for any other opportunities within the company which might be more secure.

“I always tell my clients to ask themselves ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ and then ask themselves what they can do to minimise the impact of that. If you start to take some action now, then you’ll land on softer ground if you do end up being made redundant.”

Of course, even if you are able to do all the things Eminue advises, it’s likely the ongoing stress of facing job insecurity will have some kind of impact on your headspace – which makes taking care of your mental health during this time incredibly important. 

Even if you don’t feel up to taking the steps described above (which, by the way, is totally OK), taking care of yourself will help you to cope with the additional strain you’re facing – and put you in better stead for any future challenges you might have to deal with.

Niels Eék, psychologist and co-founder of the mental health and self-development platform Remente, explains: “There are a number of coping mechanisms we can employ to reduce feelings of worry and insecurity from overwhelming us. By employing a few techniques to help redirect thoughts and anxieties, it’s possible to ease worries and lessen our stress.”

With this in mind, we asked Eék to share his top tips for looking after your mental health when you’re facing job insecurity, to help you navigate this challenging period. From setting achievable goals to making time to breathe, here’s what he had to say. 

1. Use goal setting to foster an optimistic outlook

“Setting achievable goals that you want to accomplish will help you to feel more in control of your day, and, in turn, the situation, resulting in a better sense of direction.

“Break down tasks into small and manageable components. Instead of adding to a never-ending to-do list, make one list per day that cuts tasks into manageable chunks, incorporate breaks, and allows you to keep sight of what you are hoping to achieve.

“Seeing the day in terms of small victories can help you to reach a more optimistic outlook and become more confident in a professional environment.”

A woman setting goals
Job insecurity and mental health: “Seeing the day in terms of small victories can help you to reach a more optimistic outlook and become more confident in a professional environment.”

2. Breathe

“If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with feelings of stress and worry, breathing techniques can be a quick way to help you relax and get yourself ready to continue with the working day.

“In times of high stress and anxiety try breathing in slowly through your nose, whilst counting to ten, then exhaling slowly through your mouth for another ten seconds, while letting go of the tension in your shoulders. This can be repeated until you feel calmer.”

3. Talk about what you’re going through

“One of the most powerful tools we have to reduce feelings of worry and unease can be the people around us.

“Knowing that you are not alone in your feelings can offer a degree of support and comradery. Talking to a friend, family member or even a colleague can be extremely useful when addressing these anxieties.”

Eék continues: “It is good to remember that these feelings are something that many people face and have felt, so being open about your emotions is nothing to feel uncomfortable about. Opening up the channel of communication is the first step to confronting the issue and dealing with your anxiety.”

4. Start journalling

“When we are feeling insecure, it is easy to fixate on the negatives. As such, gratitude journaling can be hugely beneficial in changing that mindset.

“It can help you to rewire your brain to focus on the more positive aspects of your day-to-day work life and to recognise the smaller daily events or occurrences which bring you joy and make the job enjoyable. By training your brain to recognise the ‘good things’ in life, you can teach it to pay more attention to positivity and steer yourself towards a better, more positive way of thinking.”

A woman doing yoga at home
Exercise can trigger similar symptoms to panic attacks in some people with anxiety

5. Stay active

“Regular physical activity can be a great way to combat feelings of stress or anxiety, reducing levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, while stimulating the production of endorphins: hormones which act as the body’s natural antidepressant by blocking pain and encouraging feelings of euphoria.

“Whether it be at home or outdoors, exercising regularly can make you feel more energetic, more alert, and happier. It can also help to promote good sleep patterns. 

“With gyms closed, people might be exercising less than usual, sometimes without even knowing it – switching up your routine to include a bike ride to the local shop instead of driving, an afternoon walk on your lunch break or online classes are just a few simple ways to integrate regular exercise into your day.”

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website and NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and organisations here

Additionally, you can ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer.

For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

If working from home during the pandemic is taking its toll on your mental health, you’re not alone. From the isolation of being separated from colleagues and the stress of relying on technology to the threat of redundancy and the anxiety of applying for a new job, there are a number of reasons why you might find this time particularly challenging.

So, what can we do about it? We’ve got a plan.

Our new Work It Out campaign, supported by Mind, aims to give you the tools and resources you need to take care of your mental health while you’re stuck at home. From completing your Work 5 A Day to dealing with issues including to anxiety, loneliness and stress, we’ll be exploring all aspects of WFH wellbeing.

For more information, including how to complete your Work 5 A Day, you can check out our guide to getting started.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.