And, the worst blows may be yet to come whilst we continue to grapple with the shockwaves COVID-19 has sent into our job market. Unemployment is expected to continue to surge with Prime Minister Scott Morrison warning Australians to prepare for further similar job loss announcements.
Speaking about these new ABS figures, Prime Minister Morrison said, "In the months ahead, we must brace ourselves for further hard news for Australians to take, but it's important on a day like today that we remember to support each other."
If you’re personally reeling from the loss of employment, know that you’re not alone and that support is available. marie claire spoke to clinical psychologist and Activist Practitioner Magazine Editor, Ruth Nelson, about how to manage your mental health during redundancy in these unprecedented times.
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR EMOTIONS
It’s important to take stock of the many emotions you may be experiencing and let them sit with you so you can process them and let them pass.
“It's a grief and loss process, you might have really rapidly changing emotions - numbness and disappointment anger and betrayal. There's an expectation that's been broken being: ‘This is my job. This is what I do.’ Suddenly it’s not there. This is set against a global pandemic which is exacerbating everything that's already there and adding to existing levels of fear, stress and uncertainty," says Ruth.
“Wherever you're at with that - you might have been fine, or you might have already been on the edge of panic but still coping - suddenly you're bumped up into a whole new level of stress. You're shaken up, so let things settle. It will take time for things to start to feel a bit less murky and a bit clearer. Take time to let your thinking processes get started again. Let some of the waves of cortisol and adrenaline work their way through your system."
DON'T BURN YOUR BRIDGES
Ruth emphasises it's important to not make your situation worse by acting aggressively towards those delivering news of your redundancy.
“You don't want to burn bridges. There's no permanent enemies or permanent allies in life, so keep things in perspective - even though this is awful. Don't accidentally burn bridges in that space by saying things you will regret or posting things on social media you’ll feel embarrassed about afterwards,” says Ruth.
“It's really natural to feel strong emotions but don't project your emotions about your redundancy onto other people who might have had to make hard decisions or be in tough places themselves. It's okay to be angry and express that but it’s not okay to be aggressive.”
LEAN INTO YOUR SUPPORT NETWORKS
Take up support that’s offered by family and friends, and ask about the professional support that's offered through your workplace. Although due to present social-distancing measures, you may not be able to connect with people face-to-face as you usually would, it’s important to use other means to connect.
Be aware that because your usual coping mechanisms may not be accessible right now, the risk of you turning to unhealthy ways to cope – like alcohol or other drugs - is increased. “These things might make you feel better in the short term but will make you feel worse in the long term” explains Ruth.
Ruth suggests using technology to connect with people so you can access healthy coping strategies. Some good options to make contact with family and friends while social-distancing include phone calls, video chat and WhatsApp groups.
“Let other people say the things that you need to hear especially if your inner critic has woken up and is going hard on you. Let them say the things you can't say to yourself like: ‘this is not your fault. It's not you that's been made redundant - it's the role. It's not personal. You’re amazing and you've got this.’"
“Let them ask: ‘are you okay?’ Let them say: ‘remember that other really hard thing you got through? You're gonna get through this one as well.’”
TALK YOUR WORRIES THROUGH
Besides the emotional impact of dealing with redundancy, there are a range of practical issues to consider such as how you’ll manage financially and pay for things like utility bills, rent or mortgages or school fees if you have children. Instead of avoiding planning how-to-deal with these crucial matters, raise them so you can start workshopping solutions and making plans.
“Those are real worries so talk them through with friends or your partner. Be gentle on your partner as well as yourself, because remember, they might be in shock as well. They'll be going through some of these emotions themselves, that you have lost your job and what the repercussions are for you as a family unit,” says Ruth.
“If you need support with food or with your kids’ education, reach out to the appropriate places and ask. You could start by calling Lifeline and talking to them or by calling your kids’ school and asking how they can help.”
BE COMPASSIONATE TOWARDS YOURSELF
“Treat yourself like a burns victim in the early days when the redundancy is still raw and painful. Again, just let things settle and practise self-compassion. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally," says Ruth.
Also keep in mind, "during the initial circumstances of shock, fear and panic, is not the time to be making big decisions."
Ruth advocates for practising mindfulness and being in the present moment using the S.T.O.P.P. acronym:
Stop: what you’re doing.
Take: a breath.
Observe: what's going on inside your body. Notice the fear, anger, 'sticky' thoughts and tense muscles. Then notice what's going on in the environment around you, your immediate world and put it back in perspective...
Perspective: Imagine five or 10 years from now and ponder whether it’s likely you’ll get through this. You will and you'll get another job, it will be okay.
Practise: something effective and healthy. It could be as simple as taking a shower, preparing a healthy meal, talking to a friend, exercising or taking a nap.
MAINTAIN A ROUTINE
COVID-19 has already disrupted our regular routines beyond recognition and dealing with a redundancy adds yet another major unsettling layer to this disruption. During a job loss, the ‘new normal’ routine you’ve become adjusted to – such as working from home – has now vanished, too.
“Coronavirus has thrown a lot of our routines right out of the window and many of the ways in which we recognise ourselves are gone. Get dressed in the morning so you recognise yourself as that person transitioning from like sleepy and at home, to being engaged in the day thing. Make sure you brush your teeth, exercise and keep doing these things,” says Ruth.
“The same goes for mental and emotional health - you don't just have one chat with a friend or do one lot of mindfulness. You have to work at it and practise it so it becomes a habit to take care of yourself. The thing about a routine is you do have to work at it every day.”
If you struggle to find a new source of employment during the pandemic, finding other avenues to stay 'working' and engaged with society will benefit your mental health.
“Look after your need to be working. Working doesn't have to be paid but it's a way to feel like you're contributing something meaningful to this world perhaps through volunteering.”
SEE A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
“Seek professional support if you need an external, neutral person to listen to you. Talk to your GP about getting a referral to a psychologist. Telehealth sessions are available through Medicare at the moment, so it’s very accessible,” says Ruth.
- Beyond Blue provides mental health information and support for all Australians.
- Headspace is a free online and telephone service that supports young people aged between 12 and 25 and their families going through a tough time. Phone 1800 650 890.
- MindSpot Clinic is an online and telephone clinic providing free assessment and treatment services for Australian adults with anxiety or depression. Phone 1800 61 44 34.
- Kids Helpline provides a free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service for young people between the ages of 5 and 25. Phone 1800 55 1800.
- Open Arms is a government service providing free mental health and wellbeing support for current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel and their families. Phone 1800 011 046.
- Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Phone: 13 11 14 (24 hours/7 days) or text 0477 131 114 (6pm-midnight AEDT, 7 nights).
- This Way Up delivers online courses to equip you with the skills to navigate a variety of mental health concerns. This Way Up is providing free courses until 30 April due to COVID-19.
- If you need emergency assistance, please phone 000.
Main image credit: @alizeegamberini