How To Look After Your Mental Health When You’re Unemployed

Being unemployed feels demoralising and just plain wrong. You’ve been socialised to place your sense of worth on how much money you can rake in. It’s why you tried so hard in school, racked up so much on your HECs debt, and networked without dignity. The correlation between employment and self worth means that your mental health can take a severe hit when you’re out of work.

It’s a suffocating predicament to be in. One in five Americans who have been unemployed for over a year are being treated for depression. And it’s not so different on home soil, either. One in three unemployed Australians are reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression, too.

It’s understandable, but it can be prevented. Here’s some things to keep in mind while you’re hitting the pavement searching for a job:

Remember, it’s not you

The job market right now is volatile as all get out. If you’re receiving a bunch of rejections, or even just dead silence, remind yourself that youth unemployment is the worst it’s been in 40 years. It’s staggering. There’s simply not enough jobs to go around, and the ones that do exist are going to be taken over my robots soon. 


Not to mention that on top of that, 18 per cent of us are underemployed, meaning that we’re still flipping burgers when we have certified degrees. This means that a third (a WHOLE THIRD) of young Australians are un- or under-employed.

You’re absolutely not alone. It’s a terrible, unfair time. But you also shouldn’t let the grim reality close you into a box. Keep trying. Remind yourself that you will bring a lot to a workplace. Spend the time educating and empowering yourself.

Stay calm and positive

As we mentioned above, but you really can’t let the grim realities of unemployment take you down because if you let it, it will. And your situation will become much more dire.

Career coach Kathy Caprino said, “Negativity tends to escalate, and as it does, it strips away future opportunities for success, self-esteem, trust, confidence, and growth.” It’s almost like an infectious disease.

We’re not saying positivity is the definitive answer to your woes, because it’s not. And thinking that it is could be damaging. But sustaining a sunny disposition will help make the whole process a lot easier to stomach. A spoonful of sugar, if you will.

Here are some scientifically proven ways to keep your head above water: eat healthily, meditate regularly, exercise, see friends. Actually, the last point brings us right to our next.

Make lots of time for friends and family

A 2011 study found that people who were long-term unemployed are more likely to not see anyone socially for more than 2 hours a day. At most. We take for granted how much of our social interaction happens at work and when our role falls out from under us, the office banter follows.

Make an effort to get out of your pyjamas and into the wide world every single day. Frequent a local cafe to do your job hunting. Do a regular gym class. Take your dog to the community dog park.


Most importantly, visit friends and family. It’s crucial to keep your relationships in tact during hard personal times like these. The same study we mentioned above found that family relationships were “put under strain” during periods of no work.

As one person who experienced unemployment explained to The Atlantic, “I look at my peers who are getting married and having children and generally living life and it’s depressing.  They’ve got jobs, health insurance, relationships, homes; I don’t even have a real bed to sleep on.”

Comparing your situation to others will just bring you deeper into that pending dark hole. You’re on your own path right now, albeit a much more tough one, but yours all the same. Accept it, own it, and keep trudging on.

Take a break

Sending off your resume, filling in selection criteria, writing different cover letters every single day is exhausting. As. Hell. Even just thinking about getting a job is consuming.

People with full time jobs get a weekend, and you should too. Set hours for yourself and stick to them. It will provide a sense of structure and routine that can lack from an unemployed life. It will also mean that your time off is well deserved.

Josephine is a writer from western Sydney. You can find her words in Junkee, The Cusp, AWOL, The Guardian and on food she bagsed in the fridge.