Surviving Unemployment Through Emotional Damage Control

Looking for work is a roller-coaster ride: high with elation when you think you've found a great position, low with discouragement when you realize that someone else was offered a job you wanted.

Most of the time, you fall somewhere in between, your mood cycling from cautious optimism to keen disappointment. You try to conceal the inner turmoil, turning a brave face to the world, trying to convince everyone that you are "just fine."

For the sake of your health and your sanity, try these approaches:

1. Identify someone who is willing to be a sounding board for you: your significant other, a fellow job seeker, a career counselor, a good friend. Explain that you need someone to help you express the feelings inside and gain a better understanding of what is happening to you emotionally. Then talk to them, for a few minutes. You don't want to become a burden and your listener is not a paid therapist. Ten minutes of honest revelation and analysis a few times per week can help you avoid ulcers, family fights growing out of your frustration, self-isolation, and will free up the energy it takes to hold everything in. That is energy you need to conserve for job search.

2. Start a journal, if you don't already have one. Chronicle your activities, how you feel while doing them, and how you feel afterwards. Watch the patterns of your emotions so that you can start to predict when something is going to be stressful and uncomfortable. Schedule a fun activity afterwards to help you regain your balance. If certain activities make you feel buoyant and hopeful, concentrate on increasing such activities throughout the week.

3. Approach interviews with the thought that each one is really only practice for the perfect position you will eventually find. Perform as well as you can without investing your sense of worth in one person's decision. If it takes a hundred interviews to secure a job, each "No" you receive brings you one step closer to that final "Yes" you are seeking and therefore every step on the road to unemployment is worthwhile and "rejection" no longer belongs in your vocabulary.

Acknowledging the pressures and emotional swings of unemployment and job search will help you look at the situation more objectively and allow you to continue to function in other important areas of your life, those not connected with work or income.

Virginia Bola operated a rehabilitation company for 20 years, developing innovative job search techniques for disabled workers, while serving as a respected Vocational Expert in Administrative, Civil and Workers' Compensation Courts. Author of an interactive and emotionally supportive workbook, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a monthly ezine, The Worker's Edge, she can be reached at

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