How to Handle Being Laid Off

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 20, 2021
3 min read

You've just lost something: your job. Whether you're stressed or relieved, there's no doubt your life is changing.

When you lose a job that you were excited about, you've been at for several decades, or you were successful at, you'll probably grieve. This is because you've lost something significant to you.

Grief. Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross theorized the Five Stages of Grief to outline the grieving process. These stages are:

  • Denial of the event
  • Anger toward the event
  • Bargaining for a better outcome of the event
  • Depression about the event
  • Acceptance of the event

Job loss is a different experience than losing a loved one. However, your mind responds similarly. Recovering from being laid off takes time to grieve.

Your relationship to your job typically influences your reaction to being laid off.

For example, being laid off from a bad job might feel like a relief. But, losing a good job will likely have a profound emotional effect.

If your job loss is shocking, you may experience some of these emotional symptoms.

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Irritability, anger, and frustration
  • Sadness and loss of joy
  • Fear
  • Low self-esteem, shame, and feelings of worthlessness

Your mental and emotional health can take a toll on your physical health. The emotional impact of job loss may lead to the following physical symptoms.

  • Fatigue
  • Migraines
  • Changes in weight
  • Changes in sleep patterns (i.e. too much or too little sleep, not sleeping through the night, etc.)
  • Upset stomach and nausea
  • Muscles pains and aches

So, what now?

Take your time. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to grieve and adjust to the change.

During this time, you'll likely feel uncomfortable. But, this time is a vital part of grief because it gives you time to process your feelings.

Write your feelings down. You may not be ready to talk about your feelings with your loved ones yet. You may have bottled-up words for your supervisors or coworkers. Write them down.

Journaling will clear your head and clarify what you're feeling. By relieving your mind of these burdens, you can move forward in the grieving process.

Stick to reality. Job loss is difficult. It's easy to get beaten down by the drastic change. Remind yourself of what's true about the circumstance:

  • Being laid off isn't your fault.
  • Losing your job is temporary.
  • There's something positive to come from job loss.

Practice gratitude. During the grieving process, everything can seem bleak. Try maintaining a gratitude journal to keep your mind focused on what's good about your life.

Maintain your relationships. Closing yourself off to your loved ones may provide some relief from any shame you feel. However, the support you'll receive from friends and family is vital for your grieving process.

Participate in your community. Jobs provide social outlets, work satisfaction, and a sense of community. Without a job, it can be easy to feel isolated and purposeless. Look around your neighborhood for the following communities:

  • Events
  • Religious organizations
  • Political groups
  • Hobby clubs
  • Classes at local libraries

Additionally, there are clubs and classes for people in the same situation. They can help you network, provide support, and help you overcome challenges during your job search.

Start a hobby. You may feel bored with extra time on your hands. The spare time may fill you with stress and anxiety. Picking up old hobbies or starting some new ones will provide a much-needed outlet during this time of grief.

Take care of your health. Stress often leads to improper nutrition and exercise. Taking care of your health after being laid off is vital to being the best you can be. Along with eating well and exercising, make sure you get enough sleep and spend some time in nature.

Avoid quick fixes. Drugs, nicotine, and alcohol are all quick fixes for stress. Unfortunately, they're also temporary and can easily lead to dangerous addictions. Opt for safer and sustainable outlets instead.

Stick to a routine. Jobs typically provide structure to your day. After being laid off, it's easy to lose track of time and your routine. Find a routine that works for you to maintain structure in your life.

Make a plan. If you intend to go back to work, lay the groundwork for how you'll start job hunting. Prepare your resume, look at who's hiring, and set dates for when you'll begin applying.