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Coping With Unemployment This Summer

Unemployed Woman

First Posted: 07/15/11 06:43 PM ET Updated: 09/14/11 06:12 AM ET

The unemployment rate was 9.2 percent last month: that's the highest it's been this year to date, according to the Department of Labor. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, job recovery for women has been moving along more slowly than it has for men over the last two years.

In addition to the financial stress that can come with losing your job, being unemployed can have a host of effects on your mental state.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to combat the unemployment blues, especially during the summer:

  1. GET MOVING

    Stress can lead to sleep deprivation, bad eating habits and even forgoing annual health check-ups. Exercise is a great way to stay focused on taking care of yourself, and summer is the perfect time to try a new workout. If you're getting rid of your gym membership to save money, go for a run in the park, take a bike ride, swim laps if you live near water, or walk part of your commute, if possible.

    "If there's a time to pay attention to your health, it's when you're stressed," said Dr. Holly Thacker, director of the Women's Health Center at the Cleveland Clinic.


  2. EAT RIGHT

    Another health must when you're down? "Not turning to food to reduce stress," says Thacker. It may be tempting to nurse your wounds with a bottle of wine or a pint of ice cream, but it's best not to make a habit of either.


  3. SCHEDULE TIME FOR YOURSELF

    If you've lost your job, you might feel like your whole day should be focused on finding a new one, but experts stress the importance of also setting aside time to enjoy yourself. Women tend to not put themselves first anyway, but it's especially essential when times are tough. "Do what nourishes and nurtures you: that's one thing job seekers overlook," said Sharon McCormick, a certified mental health counselor and career coach. "If you like the piano, I want you to play the piano for an hour a day." The same goes for getting a pedicure, checking out a museum or reading in the park. Your computer will still be there when you get home.


  4. STAY SOCIAL

    "What do you do for a living?" is an all-too-common conversational opener and when you've recently been laid off, it's not fun to answer. For that reason, you may be tempted to avoid social gatherings.

    Dr. Lynn Joseph, a psychologist and former executive search consultant, says the better solution is to do the opposite.

    "You can be social any time of year, but it's a little easier in the summer because people tend to want to get outside," Joseph said. "By all means, don't hide in the house and don't hide behind the computer. Get out and be with people."

    Being social also falls under the important umbrella of networking: tell everyone you know when you're out that you're looking for a job and you'll be more likely to find one.


  5. VOLUNTEER

    When you don't have a job, you may feel like you're not contributing to the world in the way you once did, which can cause your self-esteem to plummet. To avoid that free-fall, consider being productive in a non-professional context.

    Deborah Wheatman, a certified professional career coach, suggests volunteering.

    "It's amazing how things are put in perspective when you are working on something that helps other people," Wheatman said. "When you're busy, you don't always focus on things that are inclined to drag you down."

    If your job search has you cooped up indoors with your laptop most of the day, consider volunteer work that you can do outside. Habitat for Humanity and your local parks department might be good places to start. Besides the obvious pluses (like making the world a better place), you never know who you're going to meet in the process.


  6. TAKE A WORK-RELATED CLASS

    If you can swing it financially, furthering your occupational education can be good for more than just your resume.

    "When we're not working, it sort of can feel like our life is stagnant," Wheatman said, noting that keeping your mind fresh can combat this. Taking a class can help you feel relevant to your industry, and make you more valuable to future employers.


  7. TAKE AN UNRELATED CLASS

    Wheatman also advises exploring opportunities outside your industry to figure out if a career change might make sense for you.

    Been curious about how to start your own business? Or what it might be like to work in fashion or real estate? Classes can be a great toe-dip into another industry to help you determine if your job search should be expanded.


  8. JOURNAL

    To write down your feelings may sound cliche, but it helps, says Kimberly Kay, a former president of the National Employment Counseling Association.

    "There's all that crap in your head, the angst, the anxiety," Key said. "When you're journaling, you can write about it and get some of it out of the way."


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