Saturday, June 30, 2012

Handling Depression

One of the biggest killers of a job search is depression. Depression is very common after a job loss and also if the job search continues longer than we think it should. First, we grieve the loss of a job, and second we fear what will happen if we don't find another job. We may also feel ashamed and unproductive while we are out of work. All of these feelings can contribute to depression.

The problem with depression, besides the fact that it doesn't feel good is that it's very difficult to get anybody to offer you a job if you are depressed. After all, who wants to hire somebody who's a downer? The fact is, you must get your depression under control if you want to find a job. It's that simple.

Let me say up front that I'm not a therapist and am not giving mental health advice, but I've lived a long time and have learned some common sense methods for maintaining a positive attitude. I think those common sense ideas are worth sharing.

So what can you do about depression? The most important thing to do is not to ignore it. If you ignore it, the depression will continue unabated. Instead, you have to recognize it, acknowledge it, and take action to manage it.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I made one of the worst decisions of my life while depressed. I left a great job I'd held for 16 years because I was depressed by a layoff and did not recognize or deal with the depression. If I'd had any sense at the time, I would have found a good counselor and talked through the grief and depression I felt over the layoff of my coworkers. This is the best medicine for depression--get treated by a professional.

It's also important not to over-indulge depression. Acknowledge it, yes, treat it, yes, but after a reasonable time of working on it, a month or two, perhaps, simply put your foot down and determine that you will do everything you can to maintain a cheerful attitude towards life no matter what the situation. Even when you don't feel well, "fake it until you make it." That is, put on a cheerful face and attitude, and often your internal emotions will follow. By the way, don't leave therapy while you do this; keep working on your grief, fear, and depression with your therapist, but make the decision that these emotions will not control your life.

Here are some things you can do to lift your attitude:
  • Start each day giving thanks and counting your blessings for what you DO have.
  • Pray, read uplifting spiritual writing, and meditate on God or positive ideas every morning.
  • Sing cheerful or spiritual songs. Cheerful music can't help but lift your mood.
  • Smile at everybody and even sometimes when alone. It feels good to smile, even if it's forced.
  • Watch comedies and read stories that make you laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine.
  • Make a special effort to be kind and helpful. When you help others, it takes your mind off yourself.
  • Trust God or the universe or whatever you call it. Things do have a way of working out over time.
  • Keep moving forward in life and your job search. Positive action makes you feel less like a victim.
In closing, I want to emphasize something I said in an earlier post: You do not have to let your emotions control your life. Recognize them, understand where they're coming from, and deal with them constructively by taking the positive actions listed above, but don't let them control you. YOU decide how you will behave from moment to moment. If you put on a positive attitude--even when you don't feel like it--your emotions and your life will follow, and things will go better for you. Your positive attitude just might even land you a job!
Chuck Petch (

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