Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

How to deal with redundancy

Redundancy is a painful, anxiety-ridden experience that too many of us have went through this year. You’ve clinched your ‘dream’ job, poured your heart and soul into it – maybe even worked there for years – only for it to end with a disappointing meeting with HR and a P45 slip.

To say you’re devastated would be a big understatement.

Job loss is tough at the best of times, let alone when you have the added pressures of a recession and a global pandemic to contend with. And it’s natural if you feel frustrated, anxious or just a bit let down. Your emotions are so valid.

Dealing with redundancy emotionally 

Aside from the financial anguish, losing a job can also take a toll on our mental and emotional well being. Because, for many of us, our work is more than just an income – it’s a big part of who we are.

It can give us a sense of purpose, help fulfil our values and make us feel like we’re contributing to society. Or maybe you simply love having a natter with your co-workers and crave the structure of a 9-5.

Let’s face it: you’re bound to have complicated emotions to untangle. You might feel furious at the way your boss delivered the news, ashamed at the thought of the idea of telling friends and family or maybe, more than anything, you just feel a bit numb.

Without the endless emails or to-do lists, we may feel less productive and our self-esteem can take a knock. And, admittedly, we might find it a bit lonely now we don’t have the usual office gossip and tea breaks to count on. After all, we spend 40+ hours working shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues. Of course, we might miss them when we leave.

Redundancy can bring feelings of rejection, sadness and loss to the surface. But, although it’s uncomfortable, don’t try to stuff those emotions down.

Nothing we can say can quickly erase the hurt you’re feeling. There’s no silver lining to job loss. And we know just how difficult it is to focus on resumes and job applications when you’re worrying about the next bill that’s due to come through the letterbox.

It can seem like the rug has been swept from under feet and you may feel overwhelmed. But instead of focusing on what you can’t change, focus on what you can do.

You may not be able to get your old job back, but you can spend time polishing your CV and reaching out to old contacts. And, over time, who knows, you might build up a resilience you never knew you were capable of.

What is the redundancy grief cycle?

For many, the experience of losing a job shares a striking resemblance to how we experience grief. Here are just a few common emotions you can expect. Your journey might not be linear and you may flit back-and-forth between them, so practice self-compassion and be kind to yourself.

  • Denial: Job loss is bound to leave you stunned, especially if you didn’t anticipate it. Days and weeks may pass before you can summon up the courage to look at job boards or revamp your CV because the reality hasn’t settled in. Because you think: ‘This can’t be happening to me’.
  • Frustration/Anger: Redundancy can feel like a kick in the teeth, and your first instinct may be to retaliate. You might feel resentment towards your colleagues who weren’t affected by the cuts. Or perhaps you’re angry at the business because they didn’t take cautionary measures.
  • Bargaining: After the dust has settled, we may try to combat the feeling of helplessness by bargaining. This is a delay tactic whereby we attempt to regain control by ruminating over the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’. “If only I’d been better at my job”, “What if my manager simply didn’t like me?”, “If only I’d taken that extra work shift” – it’s easy to slip into this unhelpful thinking pattern. But it serves no one, and only delays positive action.
  • Depression: Low-self esteem, unsuccessful interviews and that’s to say nothing of the very real financial worries you may be having… The stresses of redundancy can quickly pile up and, if left unchecked, we can quickly sink into a depression. We may feel like we’ll never get back on our feet, like all hope is lost. But remember: this moment will inevitably pass.
  • Acceptance: Eventually, the disappointment and heartache will subside and you’ll reach the final stage: acceptance. Here, you’ll realise that your redundancy isn’t a reflection of your character or performance. Plenty of people are in the same boat as you and it’s best not to take your job loss personally. Remember your job doesn’t define you. Your sense of self-worth should be based on so much more than the emails and spreadsheets you work on. In time, you’ll stop mourning your job loss and you’ll start to focus on the future. Eventually, you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Coping with redundancy depression

Can’t reach a point of acceptance? You’re not alone. It’s normal to feel low after redundancy, but if your mood doesn’t improve, you might be suffering from depression.

Depression can feel like your wading through mud. And when you’re in this headspace, even the simplest tasks seem hard, let alone a three-page job application. So, with this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of strategies to help you cope.

If you’re struggling with depression, it’s important to seek support as soon as possible. Because the sooner you reach out for help, the better your chances for a speedy recovery.

Grieve your loss

Chances are your first instinct is to dive headfirst into job applications. But take a moment to pause and grieve your job loss – the certainty it provided, the friendships you made there, and the map for your future you had made with that company in mind. Don’t worry, it’s not moping. Even if you anticipated it, redundancy blindsides everyone. You may experience a range of emotions – shock, anger, or resentment, sadness. Let yourself feel them.

Remove the blame

Remember there’s no shame in being made redundant. Your inner perfectionist might feel embarrassed. But, given the current economic situation, redundancies are sadly unavoidable. Your job loss isn’t your fault or a reflection of your capabilities – it was simply bad luck. Your family and friends won’t think less of you. So don’t carry this burden.

Ground yourself

Scouring job boards, revising CVs and that’s all before you update your LinkedIn page… Job hunting is tough. Really tough. So if your anxiety is getting on top of you and it all seems too much, try and practice a quick grounding exercise called the “54321 Game”. You can do this anytime, anywhere. Simply stop what you’re doing and name 5 things you can see in the room, 4 things you can feel (e.g. your feet against the floor), 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing good about yourself.

Reassess your values

Do you think you’ve lost sight of your values? Maybe what first attracted you to your job was the chance to be creative. But, in reality, you can’t escape the never-ending emails and video calls. Or perhaps you thought your job was everything and sacrificed other areas of your life to get ahead – only to realise it was all at the expense of your happiness.

It’s easy to get swept up in our jobs. We may feel like we’re on autopilot mode, going from one task to another. But when do we get the chance to ask ourselves: is this what I really want in life? Redundancy essentially puts on the breaks. It makes us stop in our tracks and decide if we really like what we’re doing and where we’re going. Use this opportunity to examine what you really value and, if you need a helping hand, listen to the ‘Discover my purpose’ collection in Self-care, our new audio and video therapy library.

Take action

If there’s one word that sums up redundancy it’s ‘helplessness’. You may feel like you’re free-falling but rather than brooding over what you can’t control, concentrate your efforts on what you can change. Update your CV, network, practice your interview skills. And everything outside of your control? Just let it go…

But let’s say you’ve done all that. Let’s say you’ve been on the lookout for a job for a while now but you haven’t been able to pin one down. If you feel demoralised, set yourself small but meaningful challenges you can do to boost your self-esteem. It doesn’t have to be related to your job search: maybe you could volunteer or pick up a new hobby? Mastering a new skill can make us feel competent, confident and in control so that we’re emotionally ready for when the right role does pop up.

Structure

Bad habits can creep up fast when you’re made redundant, especially when you don’t have 9 am meetings or a chaotic commute to contend with. Before you know it, you can easily fall into the trap of sleeping in, staying in your PJ’s all day and endlessly scrolling through social media. We get it. We’ve all been there. Structure and routine can do wonders for our mental and emotional wellbeing though. So try and wake up and go to bed at the same time each day and plan meals, activities and exercise for yourself. It will give this strange time a sense of order, and make you feel in control.

Stay connected

There’s a popular saying that: ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ – and that’s particularly true when it comes to redundancy. Even amidst lockdown, it’s important to offload and talk about how you’re feeling with friends and family. They can help you make sense of your emotions and keep you in check if you fall into a negative headspace. Alternatively, if you’d rather speak to someone confidentially, therapy might offer the safe space you need to make sure your mind is ticking along okay.

Remain hopeful

Although it’s scary, painful and down-right nerve-wracking, redundancy gives us the chance to hold a magnifying glass up to our lives. It lets us examine whether we’re truly living the way we want to – and to make changes if we find we’re not on the right track.

We’ve all heard the common redundancy clichés – “everything happens for a reason” and “when one door closes another opens”. And, although they’re annoying, there’s sometimes a glimmer of truth in them.

Your job loss might get you out of a rut and push you to make that career change you’ve always been talking about. Or perhaps it hushes your imposter syndrome and allows you to apply for a new job that’s beyond your wildest dreams.

Losing your job can seem like the end of the world. But it’s not. It may not seem like it now, but you’re just getting started – there’s so much ahead of you.