Coping with redundancy
We live in challenging times. Having emerged from the worst recession since the Great Depression, in the UK we are now facing an 'age of austerity' and a barrage of cuts. Job losses will inevitably follow, especially in the public sector. The impact of these cuts is not yet known, but it looks set to be a rough ride for many of us. And, of course, it's not just the UK – across the globe people are facing unprecedented financial challenges, unemployment and insecurity.
If you are facing redundancy, you may well be struggling with anxiety, feel stressed out or depressed. These are perfectly natural responses to an uncertain future, especially if you are worried about providing for yourself and your family, or what the loss of your job might mean for you personally. But, crucially, the way you think about and respond to this challenge will have a huge impact on the way it affects you. That's because the way we think about things directly affects the way we feel.
This explains why, when faced with exactly the same major life stressor (like serious illness, divorce, bereavement or unemployment), one person will take it in their stride, while another seems to crumble. Here's what you can do to make sure redundancy isn't any more difficult than it needs to be:
• Think realistically. If you are prone to thinking negatively, when you learn that your department or company needs to make redundancies, you may think things like, 'I just know they will pick on me – I'm bound to lose my job,' or 'If I lose my job then life won't be worth living – people will think I'm such a failure.'
This type of negative thinking does us no favours, cranking up the stress and anxiety levels when we most need to think clearly. If you often think this way, write down some of your negative thoughts and then challenge them. Where's the evidence for your thoughts? Are they based on facts or are you 'fortune telling' (one of the most common types of distorted thinking). When you scrutinise distorted thoughts you soon realise they have little, if any validity.
• Think creatively. Even if you do face redundancy, think of it as an opportunity, not a disaster. Do you really love your job? Does it fulfil you? Was it what you dreamed of doing when you were young? For the vast majority, the answers are no, no and no. So why not use this as your chance to do something you're passionate about? Think outside the box (perhaps with the help of a coach, friend or colleague) to focus on your strengths; what you enjoy and would like to have more of in your daily life; whether you need retraining or can switch to a more stable job sector. Use your redundancy package wisely and invest in yourself and your career.
• Think about the future. One of the worst aspects of redundancy is that the future seems uncertain and out of our control – one of the key triggers for stress and anxiety. The earlier you take back that control by planning for the future, the more strength and resilience you will feel. Think about your options, both those listed above and changes to your home life. Could you downsize to take the financial pressure off? Or let your partner be the breadwinner while you spend more time with your kids? Don't sit back and let life happen to you – it's far too short and precious for that.
I run workshops through my company, Calm Self Workshops, for people struggling with stress. The Overcoming Stress workshops take place one Saturday a month at my East Finchley office and cost £150 for a full day.