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7 ways to keep your spirits up when you're unemployed

Now that we're all agreed that the country is in the grip of (tired of hearing it yet?) recession, the government has started pouring resources into making sure that we all stay chipper. 

The NHS has it's own 'credit crunch' phoneline for those left in stress by the economic downturn, and any of us can ask for access to CBT-based 'beating the blues' computer programmes through referral by our GP. So far, so shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

As far as the state of the nation is concerned, nothing breeds depression and anxiety like recession. We're losing our jobs in our thousands, and times are tight: new positions are scarce, and fiercely contested. 

The constant cycle of application, hope, and rejection, can be crushing and leaves many of us questioning our self-worth. At times like these, keeping your self-belief and self-esteem high is just as important as is keeping your CV up to date and writing a really great accompanying letter. Probably even more so.


So how can we keep our spirits?

1. Don't personalise the rejection and / or deafening silence that comes back from your applications. Accept the maxim that “Einstein would get lost in the pile in this climate”. There are literally millions of people in the same situation as you, and don't beat yourself up for not being able to buck the trend. 

Yes, it is discouraging to spend time on an application only to never hear anything back, but you can never know when something in your application form or CV will catch an employer's eye. Just keep on keepin' on: one day a job will come along for which you will be the perfect candidate.

2. You're going to feel down some of the time – there's nothing that contributes so much to our self-worth as feeling usefully employed. Don't allow the blues to drag you down completely, but do accept that it's normal to feel terrible some of the time. Allow yourself a bit of time to wallow, but don't allow it to take over; set yourself a time limit for worry, and stick to it. 

One technique is to write your worries down on a piece of paper, and to then set it aside and say to yourself “I'll worry about that later on”. Daft as it sounds, this can actually be very effective.

3. Even if they feel like a distant memory, remember the things you're good at; projects you've successfully worked on, or pieces of work that have got genuine good feedback from a client. In dark moments, you'll probably tell yourself “I'll never do anything that good again”. Tell yourself to stop talking rubbish. You will. Write them down on index cards and pull them out at times when you're filling in applications and having a dark moment; they will pull you through.

4. There are tons of things a girl can do to enhance her mood and take her mind off things. The single best free mood-enhancing thing anybody can do is to take some exercise in a green environment, like a forest or a park. Exercise in green environments has been shown to lower anxiety and stress, and enables exercisers to think more clearly. Plus, it will get you out of the house. (If you don't live near anywhere green, try looking for exercise videos on YouTube and doing them in your living room).

5. The second best thing you can do to enhance your mood is to have a really good laugh – preferably by speaking to a good friend. There is nothing like genuine human interaction to lift mood, and if it looks like the period of unemployment will be lengthy (although that's difficult to predict), it might be worth doing some voluntary work that will get you interacting with people. 

Older peoples' community projects and projects for people with learning disabilities are always desperate for volunteers, and any work that you do will be highly valued by the organisation you work for.

6. Set achievable goals for yourself. The key here is to set goals that you have direct control over, and in which you can be sure of the outcome. Don't set goals like, “by the end of this week I'll have a job interview”, because you can't be sure of you will, and setting an unassured goal can only lead to more unhappiness. As trite and small as a goal like, “today I'm going to clean the bathroom” seems, daily goal-setting and achieving has been shown to improve people's self-esteem and sense of self-worth massively, and it's well worth trying..

7. Do something that's difficult to do when you're in full time work. Study. Write a novel. Read Ulysses, if you haven't already, or read it a second time and try to make sense of it. Spend the entire day sitting out in the sunshine (how many times do we lament going into work on days when the weather's far more suited to sitting outdoors?) Embrace the positive side of unemployment – one of which is having the sort of free time which will no longer be yours once you're back in work.