I lost my job last year in November and haven’t been able to get a new one yet. I don’t know if it was because of the pandemic – even though that’s what my employer told me at the time – no one else got fired. My self-confidence is at an all-time low, so much so that I start to stutter during interviews (I didn’t used to before). The money crunch that I’m feeling is not helping. Both things mean constant fights with my wife, who is threatening to leave me if I don’t get my act together. I’ve been trying but I’m so shattered. How do I move past this?
A reader who wishes to stay anonymous asks
Answered by Dr Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and Managing Director of The Lighthouse Arabia
I am sorry to hear you are struggling. This is a very stressful life event, so you are going to have to work very hard to find your calm and center. It will not be easy, but by actively engaging in practices that ground you and keep you physically and mentally healthy, you will be able to navigate this difficult life experience and come out of it stronger and wiser. Remember, a lot of our energy goes into being upset with what happened, instead of accepting that it has happened and using the energy to create a future that you want.
You mentioned a few different things in your question so I will address them one at a time.
Millions of people lost their job during the past year, you are not alone in this. There are jobs that were made redundant, company priorities that were shifted as a result of COVID-19. If your employer told you that it was because of the pandemic then I would trust that, and if you still have a relationship with that person, I would ask for an ‘exit interview feedback’ on things you can work on and improve.
You are going through a very stressful life event. Job loss and financial difficulties threaten our basic human needs of survival, so you will be in a fight or flight response unless you actively manage it. Follow the below steps to take charge of your stress and mental health.
a. Work on establishing a good sleep routine. Limit your caffeine intake after 10am, don’t eat or drink for 3 hours before bedtime, only take a hot shower and drink chamomile, and try to sleep at the same time every day.
b. Eat healthy. This is not so you can lose weight, but so you can have good mental health. Our gut microbiome influences our moods significantly. If you are eating junk, you will feel like junk.
c. Move. Whether it’s a walk, or a high intensity workout, do something active every day. Just when you don’t feel like moving, is precisely when you need to move the most. A lot of your anxiety and agitation will be released if you exercise.
Financial stress is one of the biggest points of stress in a relationship. It will be very important for you to manage your stress so that you do not take it out or spill the stress over onto your relationships, and we often take it out on those closest to us. Look for ways to calm yourself before you interact with your wife, whether it is through breathwork, intense workout or meditation. Find ways to do something fun that doesn’t cost a lot of money (have a picnic on the beach, cook a meal together, or simply go for an evening walk) to add more positivity into your relationship intentionally.
Have a routine to your day. Anxiety increases when our days are not within a routine or when they don’t have a rhythm. There should be some consistency and predictability to your days. Have a schedule for your days even if that is not anchored by a job. Wake up every morning, exercise, shower, get dressed, learn something to build your resume, and then get to work. Treat the process of looking for a job like a job itself where you send resumes and practice interviewing skills.
Solicit the help of a friend to practice role playing interview questions. Confidence comes through practice, and in practice there will be many difficult moments and even some ‘fails’. Make sure you dress in your interview suit as you practice the roleplay of interviews because the brain will associate the ‘power suit’ with confidence. Find a way to calm your mind before the mock interviews through mindfulness meditation (there are many apps for this) and through practicing breath work. The more still, clear and calm your mind is the less likely you are to stutter.
Avoid numbing and passive ways of coping. Many people will sit in front of social media, Netflix, or their gaming counsel and lose themselves for hours in the virtual world to escape the reality of this world. Even though it feels good in the moment, that is not going to help you in the long run.
Increase positive experiences. Find ways to engage in activities you find pleasurable. When you are playful and having fun, your creative centers are a lot more active and you can often find solutions to problems that you would not consider at first. When we become problem focused, our fight or flight centers are a lot more activated, our mental aperture narrows, and we can lose perspective.
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Disclaimer: This blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of doctors are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.