It seems like the world has come to an end. Everything you worked for has been flushed down the proverbial toilet. 13 years of your life have just vanished before your very eyes. You thought you were building sweat equity but now you are on your own and it doesn’t feel like you have anything to show for it…or do you? Before you allow your anger, disappointment and general feelings of having been exploited take over, stop and think about these four steps to restore calm after losing your job.
This isn’t how it was supposed to go for you. You had it all planned out. Earning a decent wage, keeping your bills paid, maybe you weren’t ever going to get a vacation home, but it was good enough to help your kids through college. It was easy to see spending another 20 years with this company and then tragedy struck: you lost your job.
You might think that the first thing you should do when you lose your job is let everyone know that you are looking. Or maybe the first thing is to update your LinkedIn profile or update your resume. Actually, you are getting ahead of yourself.
It’s instinctual and you don’t have to be taught how to do this, right?! Ironically, in moments of shock, anger or confusion, many find it difficult to breathe. What little oxygen they are taking in seems to be exhaled as quickly as it was drawn. This pace should be for massive exertion, but it doesn’t matter when all you want is to just crawl under a rock and never come out again!
You are going to make it through this!
The first step to restoring calm is getting control of your breathing. Particularly useful in high-stress situations, you don’t have to undergo something traumatic to start practicing. The benefit is almost immediate.
I first encountered this technique while listening to Mark Divine talk about how important breath training is for our elite forces when they are in the middle of a firefight. Deep breathing through your nose counters the fight-or-flight reaction automatically engaged when we feel tensions rise. Try this now:
- Take a deep breath, slowly, through your nose, trying to inhale for at least three to four seconds
- Hold that breath for three to four seconds
- Exhale for three to four seconds (fully)
- Hold again for three to four seconds then repeat
Do this before reacting to a stressful situation – the flow of oxygen is immediately beneficial and will calm you. It’s not going to make it all better or make this nightmare end, but it will give you clarity. Try it just before taking on difficult conversations. Use it before responding to your boss, your spouse or your child when tensions are high. You will notice a difference.
Check out Mark Divine’s box-breathing technique which he describes in this video to learn more. I promise you’ll be glad you did.
Second, Take Out The Trash
There’s a lot of voices in your head telling you all kinds of things at this moment – most of them contradict reality. Truthfully, this started prior to the traumatic events of the day. Ruminating began long before your boss called you into his/her office. Unfortunately, many of us are conditioned to meditate on conversations about ourselves that never even happened.
Ruminating is playing conversations in your head that didn’t occur. It affects your relationships and it’s not helpful or healthy. Dump this trash! I’m not saying that what awful thing you imagined will never happen and I’m not saying that won’t happen to you exactly as you thought; however, I am saying you can impact the quality of your life by stopping these thoughts before they take hold. Don’t waste your life worrying about others and how what they are doing will affect you. Invest that time and energy on improving yourself.
Here’s the problem: part of your ruminating is over conversations with yourself ABOUT YOU! Admitting this is difficult. Sometimes we don’t like ourselves very much and it shows. Getting control of your thoughts about yourself is critical right now.
You are valuable! There’s a good chance your current thinking is contradicting that statement. It doesn’t feel like you are valuable right now because you just lost your job, but I want you to remember this: they hired you! Hiring managers and human resource departments have learned the painful and costly lessons of making mistakes bringing on the wrong people. You made it through the process and were offered the role! That alone should settle the question of whether you are employable.
It’s not enough to know that you were once valuable, so I want you to prove it to yourself. Take out a piece of paper make a list of five things you learned in this role. It might be a technical skill (like learning a new function in Excel), social skill (like how to get along with a difficult personality), team building skill (like how to build inclusion of differing viewpoints) or maybe something you learned while building a relationship with a customer.
Most people won’t do this. If you made it this far, then push past your doubts or questions of value and make the list. You are far more capable now than when you first landed your old role.
If you are teachable, you have a chance. Reflect on what you learned. Think of how frustrating it is when there’s a fly in your car or caught between the window and a window shade. No matter how many alternate escape routes you offer, the fly doesn’t get it. It’s not teachable. it won’t let you show it the way out. Fortunately, you are teachable – take what you’ve learned and capitalize on it.
Fourth, Get Grateful
Whitney George said you can turn frustration into thankfulness. When you are thankful, it’s hard to be angry. It’s the last thing you want to do right now. It’s much easier to count the ways you were wronged rather than counting your blessings. Take a minute with that same piece of paper and list ten things you are grateful for. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Your spouse, children, and friends
- Overall good health – or at least the ability to control your health
- Change and the chance to start again
- Opportunities for growth
Take a breath, take out the trash, reflect on what you’ve learned and be grateful: it’s a recipe for overcoming adversity. You will make it through this!
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
Mark Divine’s box-breathing technique which he describes in this video
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