A recent study in South Africa has revealed how unemployment has significantly impaired mental wellbeing. An estimated two million people lost their jobs following the nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19, bringing the number of unemployed South Africans to over 7 million.
Job losses have negatively impacted individuals' mental and psychological wellbeing, with many job seekers feeling anxious and uncertain about the future.
It's completely normal to experience a range of emotions during the job hunting process. Add Covid-19 to the picture, and it becomes even more challenging to stay positive.
However, working through your feelings and applying coping strategies will help you achieve a state of mental equilibrium.
Reflect on your strengths and passions
Job hunting may be an excellent time to reflect on your strengths, talents, and passions. Ask yourself: What are you good at? What would you really like to do? What can you create with your hands with the potential to monetize?
Focusing on your strengths and passions may lead you to something new. It may be a new career or business idea. Stats reveal that while the nationwide lockdown left many South Africans jobless, some people could launch successful businesses. So, don't be afraid to explore different interests or pivot into something completely new.
By reflecting on your passions, you may also find that you have a creative side that can help you express your emotions through writing, drawing, painting, or even moulding clay.
Use your time wisely
Use this time to upskill yourself via affordable or free courses. Taking the time to build job skills will make you more marketable and increase your chances of attracting new job opportunities.
Apart from upskilling, you can keep your brain stimulated and expand your knowledge by reading a book and articles or listen to podcasts that nourish your brain. You may also find valuable content to help you improve your interview skills, ensuring readiness when the opportunity arises.
If contributing is important to you, you can use this time to work as a volunteer for an organisation. Volunteering is a great way to uphold your self-esteem and at the same time feel good about the positive impact you're making to other people.
Recognise the possibilities
As hard as it may be, try to focus on what's positive and possible. A Harvard study found that people who concentrate on the problem are limited from exploring other possibilities. To explore other options, it's essential to create a growth mindset.
A growth mindset starts by acknowledging reality and your feelings. By doing this, you recognise the effects of unemployment in your life. However, you begin to think from a place of abundance and limitless opportunities.
When you believe there are opportunities available for you, it builds your self-confidence and influences your ability to stay motivated and find resilience during the job searching process.
Coping is a process. Some days will be better than others. It's crucial to maintain a positive mindset as self-doubt can creep in and release stress-related hormones, affecting your mental health.
Follow a daily routine
Following a routine is a great way to stay productive. It will help you balance job searching and managing your physical and mental wellbeing.
Try to incorporate physical exercise into your daily routine. Exercise isn't only good for your health, but it helps boost your mood. When your mood is improved, it will help keep your mind away from temporary emotional fixes like alcohol and drugs, as these can worsen your mental state and increase your risk of developing anxiety and depression.
In addition to searching for a job, other activities to consider in your routine can include talking to a friend, learning a new hobby, reading a book, taking a walk outside, journaling, cleaning the house, and eating dinner with family.
Create a support network
It's natural to react to hard times by isolating. However, this tendency only exacerbates feelings of depression and anxiety. You must surround yourself with people who will help you keep your head high and maintain optimism during the job hunting process. These people will not only send you vacancies to apply for, but they will mention your name in a room full of opportunities.
To create a support network, reach out to some of your professional and social contacts and let them know you're in the market. Someone from your network may also assist with looking at your cv and providing you with honest feedback that can advance your chances of landing a new job.
Talk to someone
When you talk about your issues, you realise that you're not alone. There are millions of people in the country in the same state of affairs.
Talking to people also helps you realise many others have experienced the same problem but have since found employment. It enables you to weather these challenging circumstances and stay motivated to persevere with your job search.
A study published in the journal of business and psychology found that job-search motivation (a coping resource) had a direct positive impact on re-employment. Individuals who remain motivated and optimistic about the future are less likely to exhibit depressive symptoms.
If your mental state does not improve and you experience feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or suicide, seek professional help from your GP or mental health support centres such as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group.
Tracey Dube is a certified transformational life coach and founder of Positive Minds Africa