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Joblessness Can Harm your Mental Health
Work supplies us with many good things, apart from money, to live on.
Sigmund Freud believed that the main essentials of a fulfilled life are work and love. If you had to choose between the two, it may not be such an obvious thing to go for love. For one thing, along with work you get something like love into the bargain. Work can supply us with the esteem and affection of our colleagues; and the satisfaction of our customers or clients is also emotionally satisfying for us as well.
Work provides daily casual contacts which in an ideal world might be available from friends, neighbors and family. In today's cities it is an effort to make those casual contacts without a job to throw us together.
So the economic downturn has been cruel indeed to those who have lost their work, perhaps particularly people who live alone.
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Joblessness impacts on the body as well as the mind.
Every job has some physical elements, even if only in the need to get a good night's sleep and get up early, and in the daily commute.
In addition, the health of the mind and the body are intertwined, so that a general lowness of mood can lead to self harming behavior, which leads in its turn to physical ill-health, such as drinking and smoking too much, or eating more than you need while exercising little.
But you can combat the risks to your mental and physical well-being.
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Break the Cycle, and Find Life is Still Worthwhile
To start with, before bad habits have a chance to set in, sit down and set yourself some achievable goals, timetables and daily routines, and write them down, so that you don't have to decide every day whether you really want or need to do something. To an extent, your day should be laid out for you ahead of time, as it was when you were working. Try writing down each night exactly what you will be doing the next day.
Each day you should be looking to do some exercise, to take steps towards volunteering your time, and also towards improving your skills through education or self-help. All these things will combat the effects of unemployment on your mental and physical health, and may actually get you opportunities and benefits that you wouldn't have had if you had kept working in your old job.
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The amount of exercise you take is entirely in your own hands. If you cannot afford equipment or gym membership, you can take up jogging or just walking for exercise. Take it slowly, at first and for short distances -- the effect on your state of mind is likely to be dramatic. You may find that you are entering half marathons before long, but if jogging is not for you, then set aside an hour a day for brisk walking.
Exercise gives a great mental lift and provides huge physical benefits.
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Volunteer Work is Real Work
Find a volunteer role to fit your talents or interests. Volunteering will combat loneliness, and give you back your self-worth. There should be a local volunteer bureau, and you can find local charities on the Internet.
This may be the single most important step you can take. Volunteering your time and labor for a worthwhile cause provides a sense of purpose, and social contacts. If you are giving your time for free to a good cause you are at least as valuable to society as a person in paid work, sometimes more so.
You can get new skills, and you may acquire a whole new direction in life. When you apply for paid jobs you will be able to point to the excellent use you have made of your time whilst not in employment.
And most importantly for your mental health, you will have the frequent personal contacts that we all need.
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Learn Something New
Look for ways to improve your skills and knowledge. You should be able to find free or low-cost courses on the Internet, or you might even find college scholarships for the unemployed.
Make use of your local library: there will be notices about courses and activities as well as books there.
Being unemployed is an opportunity for self-development. You should be able to find courses in your area in subjects that interest you. There is no need to stagnate, and you can treat your joblessness as an opportunity for further education and personal development.
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An Achievement to be Proud of
You will not get all of this up and running in an instant.
Making a worthwhile life for yourself without paid work is almost certainly harder than any task you were assigned in your job, but you can do it, a bit at a time. You can keep your mind and body fit when you are unemployed.
It is never too late to start on this project, but the sooner the better. If you do all these things, you may wonder how on earth you found time for paid work. And when you do find paid work again, you will have a better perspective on life and work than you ever did before.
You will also have conquered the demons that defeat many, and you should be proud.
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Based on Personal Experience
- Freud Museum Website http://www.freud.org.uk/
- Policy Studies Institute Paper on Youth Unemployment http://www.psi.org.uk/news/pressrelease.asp?news_item_id=20
- UK Department of Work and Pensions resources on health work and well-being http://www.dwp.gov.uk/health-work-and-well-being/resources/
- Sigmund Freud by David Web http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sigmund_Freud_Anciano.jpg courtesy of www.all-about-psychology.com/
- Psychedelia by Aneek Bangabash http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Psychedelia.JPG Public Domain
- Central Park Jogging by Patrick Gruban http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Central_Park_jogging.jpg Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0 Generic license
- Progress by Joshua L Ray http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FPVS_progress.jpg Public Domain
- Adult EducationCentre By Jan Sund http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiedosto:Finnish_adult_education_centre.jpg Public Domain
- Sunrise Over the Sea http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sunrise_over_the_sea.jpg Creative Commons Sahre Alike 3.0 Unported