Disclaimer: I am not a mental health specialist. Everything I describe is just what works for me personally. More here
You don’t have a job and it really truly sucks.
You just feel awful all the time.
You might have come to this situation through losing your job, quitting, or many other circumstances.
I graduated from school and moved to a new state without any connections in my fields. It’s only been 2 months since I finally got my transcripts, new driver’s license, and residency. So, I haven’t been actively applying to jobs too long, but I don’t do well if I’m not occupied with things to do.
Needing a purpose is just human nature and why depression during unemployment isn’t uncommon. Ok, now that you know you’re not alone, (which you probably knew anyway because this post isn’t the top Google result) what can you do about it?
I can’t tell you exactly what to do because what works is different for everyone, but I can tell you what works for me. Everything described has also been helpful for non-situational depression.
First, how do you know you have depression?
I’ve read articles that say to know the signs of depression.
Yes, I suppose that can help, but it’s really easy to think you have a disorder even if nothing is wrong.
I know this because almost every psych major has at one time or another diagnosed themselves with mental disorders they don’t have.
So yeah, you can know what the symptoms are, but you need to see a mental health specialist for a diagnosis (or even just because you want to feel better!).
I’ve skipped over this in my current unemployment depression because
1. I’ve been officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder previously.
2. I assumed I was going to be situationally depressed once I graduated and moved because those are some big life changes.
3. My therapist and family also knew this period of life was going to be difficult for me and warned me.
4. Honestly, I’ve dealt with this situational depression thing so often that I know when I have it.
5. I’ve been going to therapy for years.
Whether you have depression too or just aren’t feeling great about being unemployed, here’s some things I do to keep the feelings at bay.
Do something creative
I like drawing.
But I’m super slow at it and I rarely finish anything. Yet, I still do it. A few weeks ago I started a new drawing, but haven’t gotten too far on it.
Doing anything creative requires use of your brain, particularly the right side. It doesn’t have to be something you’re particularly good at., just something you enjoy. I tend to zone out while I’m drawing, which prevents me from overthinking.
Staying out of my own head helps keep me from focusing on being depressed.
Go to therapy
I was recently having a discussion with a friend about diagnoses and therapy.
We both agreed that if you feel like you need mental health treatment, you don’t need a diagnosis as a reason to go.
I’m not going to get into the implications of diagnoses because that would be enough for a whole new post.
Essentially, whether you have a disorder or not, therapy is always a good option.
If you’re having trouble and want to see a therapist to help you through unemployment, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Keep in mind I am quite biased in favor of therapy because I was a psych major and have been going to therapy for ages. But to completely honest, if I did not think it was helpful, I would not be promoting it so much. No one is perfect. We all have things to work on and a therapist can help. Plus they can give way better suggestions than I can.
Keep your brain busy
I am my own worst enemy.
Do you ever just internally talk yourself into feeling bad? I do that all the time. It’s annoying and takes a lot of conscious effort to change. Sometimes it’s just easier to distract it from unpleasant thoughts.
For example you could read an interesting book. I emphasize interesting because I’ve been trying to get through one of the Song of Ice and Fire books and I just space out and can’t focus. That doesn’t help.
If you happen to have any book suggestions, please share!
Ok even if you’re not in love with reading, there’s many other things you can do. I know it can take a lot of energy to come up with new things while you’re feeling crappy, so here’s a short list.
- Logic puzzles
- Figuring out how to write a blog
- Just learning anything new
Cooking reminded me that when you’re depressed your appetite may change.
I usually lose my appetite and don’t eat as much, which just makes everything worse. I get super hangry and can be emotional without enough food. AND it’s impossible to get gains if you’re not eating anything. So for the sake of getting swole, eat. This section doesn’t need to be too long because there’s not much to say. If you can’t eat full meals, snack when you do get hungry so you have some sustenance
Stay in a routine
This is in like every article about unemployment depression. I did my research.
Staying in a routine can be hard, especially when you don’t have anything to do. I wake up everyday with Evan at 6:30. It’s not always fun.
At that time of day, I would much rather be sleeping. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing things with him, but I can’t really be happy and enthusiastic when I’m feeling low. I’m also not a morning person. I’m not too functional until I’ve finished my coffee (that’s just my excuse).
Recently I haven’t followed my own advice. After breakfast I’ve been going back to bed and spending too much time in our room.
I’ve noticed that many articles suggest getting out and about. I’m an introvert and I’d rather not do that even when I’m at my best. So, if you’re like me, just do small things regularly like walk the dog or hang out in the living room instead of the bedroom.
Become a Disney princess and befriend forest creatures
Ok, not literally.
If you did, you might have a few more things to be concerned about besides depression and unemployment.
But animals are a great way to feel better, even if it is just temporary.
I adopted Chili when I was in high school. I was depressed then, and my therapist at the time suggested I get pet birds. I don’t really think of birds as very cuddly. My friends have this bird who is just so mean that they can’t even touch him or he’ll bite. But, he says “aw” when people hug each other, so that’s adorable.
Instead of birds, I adopted a weird, alien-looking chug (Chihuahua-pug). He loves Evan more than he loves me (so rude), but when I’m having an off-day, he’ll be there for snuggles.
If you don’t have a pet, going to animal shelters and spending time with animals who need homes is also nice. Heck, I do that even though I have my own dog.
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy” – Elle Woods.
Yes, like everything else ever written about depression, I also promote exercise as something that helps. Right now I find it useful just because of the routine factor.
It is like the only thing that gets me out of the apartment right now, except maybe pizza. Oh and job interviews. I have to leave for those sometimes.
But really, going to the gym helps. It is also one of things that directs my focus at something besides my emotions and job searching.
Realize it’s not all bad and it will get better
Several months ago when I was stressed about a family issue at therapy, my therapist said “you know everything just kind of works out for you right?” and then lists of everything I’d been worried about that ended up ok.
I thought about it and yeah. I’ve had some pretty rough points in my life, but things turn out alright. We just need to accept that life has ups and downs and not try to control everything, especially things we cannot control.
Try to do something that will make you appreciate this time you have without the responsibility of work. I would not have started this blog if I had gotten a job directly out college. I just wouldn’t have the time, energy, or desire.
Another plug for therapy
These are just a few general things that can be helpful for unemployment depression. Again, therapy can provide more specific information for you and your situation, but these tips can help if you just need a starting point. I have included some resources below. And if you want someone to commiserate with, my email is email@example.com.
Note: unemployment depression is not a psychological term itself. Unemployment and depression are two different things that may coincide or affect one another.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Network of Depression Centers (many more resources listed here): https://nndc.org/
American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/