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Coping with Job-Loss During the Holidays. Rosanna M. Conti, LAC, CSW, Certified School Counselor, M.A., M.Ed. . Our jobs are much more than just the way we make a living . They influence how we see ourselves, as well as the way others see us .

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coping with job loss during the holidays

Coping with Job-Loss During the Holidays

Rosanna M. Conti, LAC, CSW, Certified School Counselor, M.A., M.Ed.


Our jobs are much more than just the way we make a living.

  • They influence how we see ourselves, as well as the way others see us.
  • Our jobs give us structure, purpose, and meaning.
  • That’s why job loss and unemployment is one of the most stressful things you can experience.

Beyond the loss of income, losing a job also comes with other major losses, some of which may be even more difficult to face:

  • Loss of your professional identity
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Loss of your daily routine
  • Loss of purposeful activity
  • Loss of your work-based social network
  • Loss of your sense of security

Losing your job forces you to make rapid changes.

You may feel





and scared.


Many people will experience some or all of the following stages:

  • Shock and denial: After initially hearing the news, it is common for people to be incredibly shocked by it, even if it was somewhat expected. It can be difficult to comprehend fully what has happened, and some people may need some time before they can process this information. As a result, they may not accept that it is truly happening.
  • Anger: After the initial shock is over, people frequently experience anger towards the company or others perceived to be at fault. People also may experience anger towards themselves for being in this situation, anger towards family and friends, and even anger towards other co-workers who did not lose their jobs.

Resistance: Later in the process, people may engage in resistance to the idea of the job loss, and may believe that there are things that they can do to change the situation. They may think that doing something such as taking a pay cut or agreeing to work fewer hours will help them keep their jobs. In most cases, this is not a viable option.

  • Sadness: Once the reality of the situation has truly set in, people often feel very sad and hurt.


  • Eventually, people learn to accept the situation and move on.

It is important to remember that not all people will experience all stages, not all stages will occur in the order listed, and many who experience job loss will go back and forth among the stages before finally reaching acceptance.




If you experience feelings associated with these stages, keep in mind that this is normal, thatyou can work through these feelings and feel better.

Some people may move through these stages more quickly than others may, and this is normal, too.

However, anyone having great difficulty with the experience, or who is stuck in a certain phase, may need professional help in order to move on.


Studies show that people become more likely to experience depression and anxietyafter a job loss.

However, people are more surprised to learn that the stress of job loss or even the threat of job loss can cause an increase in health problems.

Stress has been linked toheart disease, cancer, depression, obesity, sleep problems, high blood pressure, digestive problems, chronic pain, migraines, anxiety, autoimmune diseases, and skin conditions, all of which can lead to major health expenses. It’s also known to speed up the aging process.


Because health problems are more likely when under stress,

it is especially important that people try to take good care of themselves during this time, even if they don't really feel like doing this.


Financial strain associated with job loss can be the cause of

additional stress

possibly leading to depression or other mental health problems and even problems with physical health.


Polls show that almost 90% of Americans

feel some kind of

anxiety or stress about the holidays.


These feelings can be brought about by many factors, including increased stress and fatigue, unrealistic expectations, too much commercialization, or inability to be with family (or too much family!).

The shopping, out-of-control discretionary spending, decorating, cooking, visiting, and holiday entertaining at home can all add up and cause tremendous pressure on both adults and kids.


How do you know if you’re stressed out?

  • Look for these symptoms:
  • Frequent anger or agitation
  • Feeling overwhelmed, sad or hopeless
  • Moodiness, going from high to low
  • Feeling lonely or isolated
  • Constant worrying
  • Feeling pessimistic
  • Can’t relax

You might also be experiencing physical or behavioral side effects, such as:

  • Weight gain orweight loss
  • Inability to sleep, or sleeping too much
  • Neglecting your responsibilities
  • Using alcoholordrugs to relax
  • Diarrheaorconstipation
  • Chest pain or rapid heartbeat
  • Frequent colds or little sicknesses from a
  • weakened immune system
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Loss of sex drive

Common stress reactions during holidays can include:




andtrouble sleeping



HOLIDAY STRESS:1. Start planning early. Doing your shopping piece by piece throughout the year prevents the large accumulation of bills that comes from doing it all at once. It also allows you to shop at your leisure, and to avoid the holiday crowds.2. Take some time with yourself to consider what your history with the holidays is. If it’s consistently stressful, give some thought to what keeps you doing the same thing year after year. 3. Establish realistic goals. You do not have to attend every party or stay the whole time. You do not have to find the perfect gift for everyone. You do not have to sample every hors d’oeuvre for fear of offending the host. Every person is an individual. Do as much as you are comfortable with and can financially afford—stick to a budget.


4. Limit drinking. Alcohol is a depressant, so it will not help you if you already have a case of the blues. Furthermore, it’s empty calories, which can contribute to holiday weight gain, another source of stress. Try drinking non-alcoholic punch, water, or juice. 5. Do not feel obliged to feel festive. For many people, having to offer an annual update on the progress their lives and careers at holiday gatherings can be painful if things are not going as well as they hoped. Do not force yourself to express specific feelings. Honor the feelings that you have inside you. If you have recently experienced a loss (e.g., breakup, loss of a job, death, or even thoughts of September 11), tell people about your needs. You will not bring people down by doing so, and you are not responsible for their feelings. If you need to confront someone with your problems, begin your sentences with, “I feel...”.


6. To relieve stress, know your spending limit and stick to it. Try to enjoy activities that are free, such as concerts or looking at lights. Window shop. Do not be afraid to say no to your children! Buy a smaller tree. Choose a few presents with care. Go for quality over quantity.7. Furthermore, consider other ways to structure this time for your children. Set a limit on what you will spend for them to give gifts to friends or classmates. Arrange car pools to ease the burden of playing chauffeur to parties. When taking your children into a store, tell them before you go in what you expect of their behavior and what the consequences will be if they do not follow directions (e.g., “When we are in the store, I expect you to stay by me, keep your hands to yourself, and use an inside voice. If you do not do these things, we will leave the store.”) Follow through. At parties or gatherings, remind small children about the basic expectations you have for manners, such as use of please and thank you.


8. Be sure to take care of yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Beef up simple indulgences such as hot baths, candles, phone calls to friends, movie rentals, time spent in hobbies, and getting enough sleep.

  • If you are having company, clean your house in segments days before event or don’t invite people over who dislike unclean houses.
  • If you are an exerciser, don’t stop. If you don’t exercise, consider starting a program, very slowly and gradually, with the guidance of your physician. Exercise has been proven, time and time again, to lower stress level and increase serotonin (the chemical in our brains that make us happy). Even a brisk walk around the block can re-energize a tired body and mind—especially looking at all the holiday decorations around you.
  • Remember: your life should not be a To-Do list.

9. Practice altruism.

Instead of big gifts for others, buy smaller gifts and volunteer at community events. Bring some homemade food or baked goods to your local nursing care facility. Volunteer at a shelter.

Sometimes reflecting on those less fortunate helps us regain perspective about how lucky we are and how commercialized our holidays can become. .


Learn to Say “No”

  • You don’t have to hit every holiday party. You don’t have to go to your sister’s for New Year’s Eve if you don’t want to. And you sure don’t have to go with your mom out to the mall to help her shop.
  • If there’s anything you don’t want to do, don’t do it. Say “No.” It might be a novel concept, but trust me…it’s really liberating.
  • If you find yourself rushing from task to task or errand to errand while your patience is running thin, force yourself to slow down. I’m serious. Ask yourself this: will the world end if I don’t get this done? Will I even remember what this all-important task was a week from now? Much of the time, that answer will be a resounding “no.”

11. Don’t lose sight of the real spirit of the holidays, which is about enjoying and being thankful for each others’ company.

Make the holidays what you want them to be, right now. Don’t put the bar so high that you make yourself miserable trying to reach it. Be here, now.


IF SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS EXPERIENCING HOLIDAY BLUES:1. Try to involve that person in activities, but don’t be forceful.2. Be a good listener. If they express depressive thoughts or feelings of worthlessness, be supportive. Let them know you are there and willing to help them seek professional help. Never challenge or deny their feelings. Show them this article!3. Be aware that holidays can be difficult for some people, especially when reality doesn’t measure up to their expectations. Help people establish what is realistic and what is not. 4. Familiarize yourself with local resources such as crisis hot lines, mental health professionals, or mental health centers if you have particularly high concerns about someone (including yourself).Holiday blues can sometimes carry over into the New Year, if someone becomes sufficiently exhausted and stressed. Do not hesitate to seek mental health treatment if mood problems persist!


Unemployment affects the whole family, so keep the lines of communication open. Tell your family what’s going on and involve them in major decisions. Keeping your job loss or your unemployment a secret will only make the situation worse. Working together as a family will help you survive and thrive, even in this difficult time.

  • Keep your family in the loop. Tell them about your job search plans, let them know how you’re spending your time, update them on promising developments, and let them know how they can support you while you’re unemployed.
  • Listen to their concerns. Your family members are worried about you, as well as their own stability and future. Give them a chance to talk about their concerns and offer suggestions regarding your job loss and unemployment.
  • Make time for family fun. Set aside regular family fun time where you can enjoy each other's company, let off steam, and forget about your job loss and unemployment troubles. This will help the whole family stay positive.

Helping Children Cope with a Parent’s Unemployment

  • Children may be deeply affected by a parent's unemployment. It is important for them to know what has happened and how it will affect the family. However, try not to overburden them with the responsibility of too many of the emotional or financial details.
  • Keep an open dialogue with your children. Letting them know what is really going on is vital. Children have a way of imagining the worst when they write their own "scripts," so the facts can actually be far less devastating than what they envision.
  • Make sure your children know it's not anybody's fault. Children may not understand about job loss and immediately think that you did something wrong to cause it. Or, they may feel that somehow they are responsible or financially burdensome. They need reassurance in these matters, regardless of their age.
  • Children need to feel they are helping. They want to help and having them do something like taking a cut in allowance, deferring expensive purchases, or getting an after-school job can make them feel as if they are part of the team.

Especially during times of stress, it can be very helpful to have a strong network of people that you can turn to for emotional support. After a job loss, it may seem as though you will never find another job, or you may feel bad about yourself, but having the support of family members and friends can help you gain and maintain perspective. Seek out positive people who can help you identify good strategies, who encourage your efforts, and who remind you that this is a temporary setback. This can help you weather this difficult time.

Some also find it helpful to keep a journal in order to let out some of the thoughts and feelings they are having.


You may even join a job seeker's support group. This is a group that educates people on how to find work. Neighbors helping Neighbors (NhN) is such a groupandhas a strong track record of helping members find work. Also check out

According to John Fugazzie: Neighbors helping Neighbors “has about 200-250 members who attend our meetings weekly and follow our program. With 357 success stories, that is a high rate of success for those who fully engage in our group meetings and use all our tools and then go apply them.”

A weekly NhN group is starting here at Fair Lawn Library on Thursday evenings in January.



Frank, J.Financial stress management during the holidays. Clinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida: Gainesville Family Magazine . Retrieved from:

Job Loss and Unemployment Stress.Retrieved from:

Levin, H. Tips for holiday stress management and relief. Retrieved from:

Mayo Clinic staff. Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your health. Being realistic, planning ahead and seeking support can help ward off stress and depression.Retrieved from: /articles_files/art_55attached_file.asphttp://cpa

Radunovich, H.L. Coping with stress during a job loss. Retrievedfrom: