It’s officially the holiday season, but the joy and excitement of spending time with loved ones are often overshadowed by another feeling this time of year—the stress over losing your job. As companies get ready to close their books, establish new budgets, and restructure their organizational goals, employees get hit with layoffs, and it happens more often than you’d think. And for those who suffer from anxiety, this reality hits in an entirely different way.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 40 million Americans are living with anxiety disorder—that’s 18.1% of our entire population. When you put it into perspective, that’s a lot of people in the labor force who are living with this day in and day out, and work-related stress can easily heighten these symptoms. Trust me, I would know.
I realized I was living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder when I was in college, because my symptoms heightened and it was affecting my life as a student, and I quickly learned that I wasn’t alone. I didn’t like to socialize, I was struggling to focus in class, and my grades weren’t the best. Moving to a new city on my own and not knowing what I even wanted to go to school for took a huge toll on my mind and my body, so I sought help on campus and doctors confirmed that I was one of the 40 million Americans who live with anxiety. With the help of doctors, medication, and making a core friend group, I eventually got through those very long four years, not realizing what was ahead for me.
Upon graduating, I had some great positions, found my voice as a writer, and felt like I had it all together. On the other hand, I craved something different, and when I got the chance to pack my bags and move to Los Angeles, I jumped at the chance and didn’t look back—until a year and a half later that is. It was right at the beginning of last December when I learned I was being laid off. It took a 10-minute meeting to flip my life entirely upside down, right before the holidays. I felt confused, hopeless, and more anxious than ever. This is what I learned as I had to navigate through this challenging chapter of my life.
I Shouldn’t Have Rushed Into Another Job
I get it. Money is the main concern here, along with benefits and the security of having a 9-5 job. I found myself digging for positions, even outside of my industry, just to find that security again. All I learned was that once I settled for a job that I didn’t really want, I would be even more upset and anxious and dying to get out. I didn’t last long at that job and instead tried freelancing for a bit until I found a position that genuinely interested me. I was willing to deal with waiting a little longer for my checks to do something that I enjoyed. I was a lot happier, more fulfilled, and less anxious.
Your Inner Circle Will be Supportive, But Can Also Add to Your Stress
Our loved ones care about us, so they have our backs when things like this happen. On the other hand, because they care about us, their concern can get overwhelming. When you’re living with anxiety, you need to take things one step at a time and probably won’t have all of the answers they’re looking for. I often heard things like, “Are you looking?”, “Are you collecting unemployment?”, “Do you have any interviews set up”? and quite honestly, I just didn’t feel like answering any of them. My anxiety symptoms would also heighten when others discussed their own work situations around me, and I had absolutely nothing to contribute. Keep in mind that because this happened to me around the holidays, I felt like I had to force a smile for others when in reality I didn’t want to get out of bed. Bottom line, I wish I would’ve taken more time to myself and be more honest when I didn’t want to talk about it. I’m sure they would’ve understood.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
I often forgot that getting laid off didn’t mean I was fired. It wasn’t a reflection of my performance or what I brought to the table, and it was a company matter. I found ways to mentally beat myself up over the situation, instead of focusing on the fact that it was out of my control and nobody was taking my hard work from me, it was just a position that was no longer mine. Yes, plenty of people around me did mistakingly say that I was fired, but I knew I wasn’t and I shouldn’t have let it get to me. I wish I could have realized at that moment, that other doors will open soon and it truly just wasn’t my fault.
Self-Care Is Important
It feels as though the self-care movement is more prominent than ever now. I often confused this definition with relating self-care to things like massages, candles, essential oils, and that’s not the case at all. I wish I had realized that self-care meant taking much needed time to myself during this weird, transitional, and scary moment of my life. I tried to take my mind off of it as much as possible, when I really should have owned it, looked inside myself, and find a solution that worked for me. Self-reflection is a form of self-care, as is staying home for a few days to let out all of your emotions. It’s not uniform, but there’s something that works for everyone.
By: Andrea Navarro