07/14/2014 11:50 am ET Updated Sep 13, 2014

Unemployed and Looking for Work? Here's How to Avoid Losing Your Mind


So you are unemployed. Maybe it was your own choice to leave your job; maybe you were fired or laid off. Whatever the case, you are sitting at home in your pajamas and you can't stay unemployed forever. You know the job search is uncertain (when will you land a gig?), the economy still hasn't recovered and you know your unemployment check won't last forever. On top of that, you may be worried about paying your bills. I'm here to tell you I have been in your shoes and I have some ideas to help you stay focused and not go crazy.

First, a little backstory: I was living in New Jersey for over five years and was making good money as a sales executive at a local firm. I decided it was time to seek new opportunities for multiple reasons. I received an opportunity through my consulting firm, Crush the Box, to help launch a software startup and I jumped at the opportunity. However, that blew up in my face a few months later, once I realized the owner didn't know his burn rate (uh, how much cash are we going through, Beavis?), and my contract was cut at the last minute due to a lack of funds. Not only was I not making good money anymore, I had no income whatsoever.

So I've been there -- you are collecting a reduced income on unemployment and looking for a new gig. The key is to prevent panic and doubt from permeating your every waking hour. Especially if you were fired or don't have significant savings, you need to protect your self-confidence with your life.

First things first, if you have any negative people around you, avoid them like the plague (block their numbers!). Even people who love and support you can affect your sense of well-being if they ask you every 30 seconds if you have a new job yet. Protect your fragile psyche. If you need to get out of the house for happy hour, choose happy, loving and supportive people to be around.

The second thing is -- get out of your house! Sitting at home for eight hours a day searching online job boards (or staring into space) is a sure fire way to slip yourself into a strait jacket. Pick a number of days or hours per week you will focus on your LinkedIn, your resume, your job search, and then you need to do something else. Form a hobby, get on a local sports team, go to Meetup events (often cheap or free and great networking).

If need be, volunteer somewhere one day a week. It doesn't matter if you don't love it, sometimes we don't love going to work, but we show up. Commit to it for your own sanity's sake. You might even be surprised that a new job or referral, or at least some new friends, could arise out of the volunteer experience. Serving up soup at a homeless shelter or helping animals at a local rescue is a great way to put our challenges in perspective and to tap into the good feelings we get when helping others (even our furry little friends).

Third, find a place to work outside of your home. I go to a co-working space to get out of my home and be productive. There are numerous co-working spaces all over the country, but one I use is Regus. For $25 a month plus parking, I have a desk to sit at and access to copious amounts of coffee. The social interaction alone is really valuable. At my local Regus location I have become friends with the receptionist, the manager and even other people who utilize the facilities. When we are used to the comfort of a social work environment, sometimes just having an environment to be around people can be reassuring. By mimicking this work environment, we can feel less disconnected from people while unemployed. If you need something that's free, try your local library for a few hours a day.

Fourth -- Another great way to bolster your confidence and stimulate your brain is to read books. I recommend either a novel or positive thinking/self-development books such as those written by Napoleon Hill or Paul Arden. For one stint of unemployment in 2005, I devoured the books It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be and Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite by Paul Arden. His books are unique, easy to read, motivational, and he has a refreshing perspective on getting fired (he says it's a good thing).

The fifth thing you can do is meditate. Don't worry, you don't have to be a yogi to do this one. You can use google to find a number of visualizations that involve grounding exercises to help you. What I recommend is starting with 10 minutes a day, sit in a comfortable chair or couch, and close your eyes. I set my alarm to a soothing alarm sound so it will 'wake' me when my 10 minutes is up. I start by visualizing a grounding chord down the base of my spine connecting all the way down to the center of the earth. Ten minutes a day can help you create a deep sense of calm and balance so that you can think more clearly.

Sixth, you need to exercise. I don't care if that means lifting weights, running or playing a game of basketball in the park with friends - you need to burn off steam for a minimum of 30 minutes, three times per week. One thing I have recently tried and found helpful is Bikram yoga -- 90 minutes of yoga done in 105 degree heat. Even if I have to sit down for a few of the poses, the intensity of the practice combined with the heat means that for that entire day, at a deep muscular level, I can't really have an anxiety attack, it's just impossible. That is a beautiful thing.

Lastly, a cautionary item. If you abide by the rule "It's five o'clock somewhere" it better be in your time zone. That first beer you drink before lunch on a Tuesday may seem harmless, but it's just another habit that takes away from your productivity (and leads to naps). Drink after you have accomplished something for the day, particularly on week days.

The bottom line is you need to distract yourself and not spend every waking hour looking for or thinking about how to land that new job. You need to stay busy, ground yourself (meditation and exercise), and stay engaged with real friends (only the positive ones), so that you can go out into the world with confidence and let an employer know why you will be their next great hire.