Tag Archives: coping with being laid off

Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways to Cope With Being Laid Off

jumping off a cliffOn occasional Wednesdays, I offer tips for adulthood.

I was laid off recently. It was something that I both wanted – and welcomed. But now that it’s here, I’m struggling a bit.

When you know that a major change is on the horizon that’s going to upend your daily routines – a move, a break-up, an illness, leaving your job – it’s tempting to treat that event like the proverbial jumping off a precipice: there is a before and an after. And it’s knife-edged. So you throw all of your energy into the *before* – in my case, finishing all those last minute tasks at work…saving your files….going out for (lots of!) drinks with colleagues – and consciously put aside thinking about what comes next.

That’s all normal. After all, change is scary. It’s much easier to make yourself insanely busy with the build-up to the change than to contemplate the abyss of the after. But when the other side of that precipice finally arrives – when “later” becomes “now” – you suddenly discover that you have all this time on your hands and no earthly idea what to do with it. (And yes, for the record, I did take a three-week vacation!)

It isn’t easy to make that adjustment. Here are five strategies that can help you ease into being laid off and make that time both fun and productive:

1. Tackle a big project on your To Do list. It doesn’t have to be something onerous or unpleasant. Pick something that you’ve been wanting to do fora while, but simply haven’t had time for. And then take control of that one thing. I’m finally working my way through Julia Cameron’s brilliant book The Artist’s Way – a 12 week course (I’m doing the book version) that helps you unlock your creativity. I’ve been wanting to tackle this project for at least two years. And guess what? It not only provides a structure for my mornings, I’m also having a fantastic time unleashing my creative self.

2. Exercise. A lot. We all know that exercise is great for all sorts of things including helping us to sleep better, cope with chronic disease and fend off depression. And that’s especially true for older adults. But it’s not just about exercising more regularly. This is can also be a time to experiment. I’ve been swimming for a couple of years now and I’m still doing regularly during this transition. But I’m also taking advantage of my membership at my local gym to try out all manner of new classes: Restorative Fitness…Box Fit…Ballet! Trying something new can be exhilarating as well as a great learning experience.

3. Read. A lot. I’ve long been a fan of reading long books in the summer when you have a bit more daylight and (hopefully!) a bit more time. This summer’s list has included the entire set of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan Novels as well as anything and everything by Donna Tartt. For me, reading fiction expands my feel for voice and style and lets me bring that to my own writing. But it can do more than that. Reading can unlock the wisdom of others and help you to pursue your dreams.

4. Relax. Obvs, right? Even if you’re using some of these techniques to try and structure your down time, the void in your normal routine can be stressful. I’ve long extolled the virtues of mindfulness in the morning. But lately I’ve been experimenting with muscle relaxation exercises at night, to try and relax myself before I go to sleep so that I clench my teeth less and treat sleep less as a new playground for my anxiety and more as a respite from it.

5. Have one guilty pleasure. Mine’s watching Season 4 of Homeland. OK, OK. So it’s not exactly kinky adult programming. But I’m really enjoying it.

How about you? Have you ever had a block of “down time” – whether due to getting laid off or something else that changed in your life – and how did you cope?

Image: Girl leaping off a cliff via Public Domain Pictures.net

How To Redefine Yourself When You Are Made Redundant

pale ale

pale aleI’m about to lose my job. It’s a long story, but the Reader’s Digest version is that I work for a large, British NGO in London that just lost a big chunk of its government funding.

As a result of that decision, my entire department is being shut down at the end of July.

The Upside of Starting Over

I’m actually really happy about this state of affairs – not for my organisation, but for me personally. I’ve already changed careers a couple of times, so I’m all about the “episodic career.”

As we all know, starting over professionally in mid-life doesn’t need to be a negative thing. Indeed, it can be the start of something really exciting and rewarding. I’ve been thinking hard about what was coming next for me for a while now and relish the prospect of trying something new.

Plus, the prospect of collecting a nice severance package sweetens the deal even further. I mean, seriously, how often are you paid to go hunt for a new job?

So why, then, am I feeling so lousy?

Being Made “Redundant”

I think it’s the terminology they use over here to describe this state of affairs. In the UK, it’s called “being made redundant.”

Say what you will about the term “layoff,” but it’s a heckuva lot better than “redundancy.” For me, anyway, getting “laid off” connotes something restful – you’ve been given leave to hang up your cleats and exit the sports field gracefully. You can now kick back with a low-alcohol Pale Ale in the back yard and read The New Yorker to your heart’s content. (Not your fantasy? Feel free to substitute in your personal set of unemployment-induced indulgences…)

But it’s temporary: you’re just hitting the snooze button. Normal life resumes shortly.

In contrast, being told that you are being made “redundant” conjures up images being – at best, burdensome – and at worst, completely unnecessary. In the dictionary, “redundant” is defined as “No longer needed. Superfluous.”

And that depresses me.

The Fear of Slowing Down

I’m a do-er you see. I’m always on the go, from 6 am to 10 pm. For God’s sake, I use a wheelie suitcase as a briefcase! I am a living and breathing metaphor for purposefulness in motion.

So the idea of slowing down terrifies me. Some of that’s about legitimacy – the normal sorts of professional identity issues one struggles with when he or she is unemployed.

But in my own case, there’s a much deeper cause to my uneasiness: the worry that I won’t re-start. That there will be nothing left to do. No more mountains to climb, to borrow a phrase from the Reverend Mother in The Sound of Music. And who am I without constant movement?

So to be labelled by my society as inert and unproductive is quite possibly the worst thing you can do to me. It taps into my worst fears: that the game of life is over and there’s just…me. It’s like a form of dying. Or at least that’s how I experience it.

Redundancy vs. Renewal

I know this is all very silly and superficial. There’s no reason that I have to define my new professional status by the dictionary definition of redundant. As Shakespeare once memorably asked: “What’s in a name?”

I also know that, deep down,it won’t be long before I’m back in the saddle, throwing myself into the next big thing. Indeed, the biggest challenge for me will be remembering to savor “slow living” before I resume the race.

But if you happen to see me before then, whether on the street or in cyber-space, please do me a favor. Try not to mention the word “redundancy” in my presence.

I prefer the word “rebirth.”

Which, according to the dictionary, means “A period of new life, growth or activity. A revival.”

Amen.

Image: Coopers Pale Ale from Adelaide Australia in the Bier Garden Saigon Vietnam JAN 2012 via Wikimedia Commons