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The financial cost of long-term unemployment is easy to recognize. Less obvious are the hidden costs to emotional and physical health that career counselors tend to see behind closed doors. It is often the topic government-funded agencies want staff to skip over. Staff are told not to deal with personal issues – just get everyone back to work as soon as possible.

In case you are wondering, continued funding of employment agencies is often based on back-to-work stats. That is why some agencies only want to work with the most employable. This results in more of a lose/lose situation for everyone else.

In my own career counseling jobs, my co-workers and I have been told not to work with people’s feelings.  Wisely, most of us have ignored that advice. Ignore people’s feelings? Really! Isn’t that what makes us people rather than robots?

Bureaucrats in Head Office fail to acknowledge the emotional pain of unemployment. Common reactions to long-term unemployment include feelings of despair, helplessness, hopelessness, frustration, isolation, fear and anger.

When clients break down in tears (a common occurrence) it is not something you can easily ignore. Feelings need to be addressed and worked through before anyone is ready to begin an active job search.

Recognize that job loss takes away more than your income. It removes your co-workers, your daily structure and often your sense of purpose and meaning.

If you are feeling the roller-coaster ride of emotions that accompany unemployment – do reach out for help. Don’t stop until you find it.

A few suggestions:

  • Talk with family and friends about what you are experiencing.
  • Realize you are not alone on this path. Find a support group. See if there is a local Job Club you can join. If not, find an online support group.
  • Participate in volunteer work doing something you enjoy. It will give you structure, co-workers and a purpose. You can also use volunteer work as a way to upgrade your skills and to get a current reference. Volunteer jobs can also lead to paid work.
  • Give yourself time to get over the shock before you go knocking on the doors of potential employers.
  • Spend more time outside. Nature can be healing. Go for a walk, run or bike ride. Make a list of all the fun, low-cost activities you can participate in. Be sure to have some fun!
  • Spend time on a hobby you have neglected.
  • Express your feelings in writing. Try to find something good about your job loss. List everything you didn’t enjoy about your last job. Be grateful for what you have.