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Unemployment may come as a complete surprise, or it may be on the horizon for quite some time. When you are in between jobs, it is completely normal to also have an air of uncertainty that is hard to escape. Many times, those who are struggling with unemployment fight to stay positive; be strong for their family and loved ones, but who helps the unemployed?

Particularly for men, it may be hard to admit that you are worried and fearful. But when unemployment drags on, and possibilities of a new position get thinner and thinner, staying positive becomes more and more difficult. At first, unemployment may have seemed like a welcome vacation. But soon, loneliness and discouragement sets in, and the world seems dark. Weight gain, loss of social connection, unhealthy habits, and depression can become regular habits. But there are ways that you can prevent and attempt to overcome these hazards. Using these tips, you can keep your mind as healthy as possible.

1. Be patient with yourself.

It is completely normal to feel sad, worried, frustrated, angry, and lonely. When you are open and honest about this with your loved ones, you allow others to help you and be patient with you.

2. Stay physically active.

Weight gain is a common byproduct of unemployment. Without a regular schedule and rhythm to the day, eating becomes more frequent for many. Many people take comfort in food, and this leads to weight gain, which then leads to lower self-esteem. This is a vicious cycle that can be avoided by staying active.

3. Stay mentally active.

Look for ways to keep your brain active during this time. Take a free computer classes at the local career center, joined a book club at the local library, do a crossword puzzle, and be sure to keep up with the news. It is easy to turn your brain off for a time, and you may need a break. But be sure to quickly get back in the groove of being mentally active.

4. Keep structure in your life.

When you are unemployed, you may have a tendency to watch tv all day, stay in bed, go out late at night, and get little or too much sleep. This is because we can lose our sense of purpose and direction if we start meandering each day, getting used to a lifestyle that is foreign to us, or unhealthy. It will feel great in the moment when you get to sleep until noon, but you will later realize that your week has been wasted or felt like a blur. Maintaining a daily routine will help you be goal oriented and ready to reenter the workforce.

5. Take advantage of free resources.

While unemployed, you are going to experience varying amounts of stress and anxiety, so it’s essential for you to look for solutions. Consider going to the library and looking for books or journals on stress management and how you can effectively manage it. There are many amazing low cost and free resources to help with your job search, and also to manage your life and stress levels.

6. Set goals.

Maybe you will research one new job lead each day. Maybe you will make five phone calls every day. Maybe you will reach out to one new person every week. Whatever you believe is reasonable and helpful in your situation, make a point to stick to that schedule.

7. Spend time with others.

When unemployed, it can be very easy to make the terrible mistake of isolating yourself. You may feel too ashamed to spend time with friends and feel like you do not even deserve to have social time. The truth is, however, that you need support of good friends and family to keep motivated. We can be great at encouraging ourselves, but relying on your own self-esteem is too big of a risk to take. Instead of putting yourself in exile, surround yourself with good people that will encourage and inspire you. A friend may be very helpful in pointing you to a new job opportunity.

8. Think of others.

Spend time volunteering and getting more perspective into your life. It is often quite helpful to understand that others are struggling as well, maybe even more than you. There may be a cause that you are passionate about that you have never had time to explore. Seize this opportunity!

9. Always look to the future.

Evaluate your situation daily. Write down everything that you have accomplished so far and think about what has and has not been working. Make sure you’re staying open to new types of job opportunities that would serve as a temporary buffer. You may even end up shifting your career entirely, going for a new avenue that is closer to what you really want. The key is to always be looking to the future with optimism, ensuring yourself that there is always a backup plan. As long as you’re staying busy, maintaining structure, and relying on a strong support system, you are in a great position to come out of this tough transition stronger than you were before.

10. Be realistic.

Validate your feelings. Your income has decreased, your future is uncertain, and you may lack a sense of purpose. But your world has not crumbled. Your work does not define all of who you are as a person. Be realistic about the timeframe for gaining new employment, and understand that you are more than this situation.

When you put these steps into action, you can avoid the usual pitfalls of unemployment. Use this time to become a better, healthier person, ready to rejoin the workforce on your own terms. If you feel like you are struggling with a more serious mental health issue, such as depression or an addiction, seek professional counseling. This is a difficult time; you do not have to struggle through it alone.

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