Monday 26 January 2015

Why losing your job can mean a new lease of life

sad businesswoman
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It's a horrible situation, but there are ways of surviving if you train your mind, writes Áilín Quinlan

LOSING your job is the pits. One minute you're moaning about your boss or the quality of the canteen, the next you're history.

Since Ireland's economy hit the skids five years ago, we've been inundated with horror stories of redundancy and job loss – our unemployment rate has shot up to 14pc, with 294,000 people now officially unemployed and a total of 426,100 signing on the Live Register to access benefits of different kinds.

It's a cold, hard world out there for the jobless – and the effects can be devastating.

The mortality rate for unemployed people is two and a half times higher, and they face a higher risk of suicide, cardiovascular disease, injuries and accidents than people who have not suffered unemployment according to one 23-year-long Swedish study.

"Unemployment kills people," warns Professor Robert L Leahy, a psychologist and specialist in cognitive behavioural therapy.

Leahy's just written a book on the subject; 'Keeping Your Head After Losing Your Job'. It's a self-help book – but not one that shows you how to land another job. Instead it provides a range of psychological tools to cope with career armageddon.

And, it seems, most of us could do with some guidelines for when the worst happens.

"There is an increase in depression, insomnia, anxiety, worry, suicide risk, low self-esteem, malnutrition, alcohol intake, smoking and poor physical health," warns the director of the American Institute of Cognitive Therapy.

Leahy, whose ancestors came from Co Cork, says that even the prospect of becoming unemployed can deeply upset people: "One study found that even thinking about being unemployed can increase your cholesterol levels."

It's a well grounded fear because, he says: "There are a lot of psychological and physical consequences of being unemployed."

He believes, however, that simple cognitive behavioural therapies can help you change the way you think, and lead to a different outcome.

Often the first reaction of those who have become unemployed is to feel humiliated, says Leahy.

"They will isolate themselves. Because they isolate themselves they become more depressed and more self-critical and are more likely to ruminate on the negative. Often they feel like a victim."

Instead of saying 'I'm a loser because I lost my job', he says, look at the huge numbers of people who are unemployed.

Do you think your friend/uncle/ sister is a loser because they're unemployed?

The worry brought on by job loss – because we tend to see work as central to our identity – can be a torment.

Irish Independent

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