Nearly 25 million jobs and $3.4 trillion in income could be lost in the worst-case scenario due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic. Members of Mindcare Club, a network of mental health counselors offering video consultation, weighed in on how to cope with this chapter of your career.

By Patricia B. Mirasol

Getting laid off from work is a jarring jolt to one’s existence. The financial strain is exacerbated by the uncertainty of the current pandemic, heightening the emotional roller coaster of shock, sadness, shame, and grief associated with losing your job.

A study by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information found that laid-off workers are prone to experience a wide range of negative effects, including mental and physical health issues, lifestyle and social life impacts, and newly stressful family dynamics.

It might be small comfort to remember that there are many other people in the same boat since COVID-19 has caused massive job losses globally.

Members of Mindcare Club, a network of mental health counselors offering video consultation, weighed in on how to cope with this chapter of your career in an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld.

Anthony Abala, a board-certified psychiatrist, active medical staff at Asian Hospital, and faculty member at the College of Medicine at De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute, acknowledged that grief is a valid emotion. He emphasized that one’s identity should never be tied up with work for a corporation:

First, it’s important to acknowledge that grief is a valid emotion in this situation and that bereavement or the grieving process is not linear. Negative effects are going to be unavoidable. Often individuals will experience anxiety and uncertainty about the future, fear about how they will cope and deal with the future. A lot of these concerns are valid, unavoidable, and may not be minimized.

People are allowed to wallow, grieve, be afraid, be anxious, and the whole gamut of negative emotions. There is no ‘deadline’ or specific amount of time for this as it depends on each individual and his or her circumstances. If, however, they start to manifest signs that may indicate clinical depression or anxiety then that may be the time to seek professional help.

I think it’s important for a worker to remember that they are not their jobs; that is, their identity should never be tied up with their work for a corporation or company that will always prioritize profit and its own well-being over any individual cog in the machine. It’s important to remember that old adage that it’s a business and that it’s not a personal affront. I think it’s important for employees, in general, to remember that and to always maintain a healthy distinction between their work and the rest of their lives.

Carol Angeline P. Macawile, MA, a registered guidance counselor and Mindcare Club’s mental health counselor, meanwhile, advocated for reaching out for support as a way to move forward:

Although being laid off or losing your job may sometimes carry with it a sense of shame and fear of other people’s judgment, it is crucial for the person to be able to reach out and open himself to receiving help and support from the people around him.

To move forward, acceptance is very important. Sometimes people pretend that they’re already okay because they want to (or feel the need to) appear strong in front of other people. This may be the case for a parent or breadwinner who doesn’t want his family to worry about their financial problems, so he puts on a brave face in front of his spouse and children, when deep inside he’s devastated and panicking for the loss of income. For others, they may be afraid to acknowledge their feelings because it might then seem more “real,” and they are just not ready yet to accept their reality.

If your loved one has lost his job, be sure to express empathy, comfort and moral support. This will enable the person to activate hope and gather strength to shift his mindset by choosing to focus less on the negative aspects of the situation, and eventually help him to take positive action as he moves forward in life. While we cannot force people to grieve or to face their true emotions when they are not yet ready, the best we can do is affirm them of our support and remind them that “it’s okay not to be okay.”

Dr. Abala also offered four insights for coping:

1. It’s ok to not be okay, to feel bad, to feel sad, to feel anxious. If these things become chronic and cause significant distress in numerous areas of functioning, then seek help.

2. Avoid quick-fix substances, especially alcohol; they’ll only make things worse in the long run.

3. Do not be afraid to rely on your support system, to admit feeling down or anxious, or to ask for help.

4. It will definitely feel terrible, but it’s important to maintain a schedule and be regular activities-oriented to keep you active, whether physically or mentally.

Ms. Macawile added a few more nuggets of advice:

1. Almost everyone is experiencing anxiety, fear, loss, and helplessness at this time. Be gentle with yourself and practice self-care.

2. Know that this, too, shall pass. Take comfort and have faith that this crisis will not last forever. For now, you can choose to focus on the things that are within your control. You may also use this time to assess your strengths and use your resourcefulness and creativity to find other sources of income.

3. Get in touch with your loved ones or friends and share with them your thoughts and feelings about what you’re going through. Stay physically distant but not disconnected. Remember that we’re in this together, and that there is hope for a better future.