If You Were Laid Off Recently, Here's How to Cope

woman carrying box of office supplies after getting laid off

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Key Takeaways

  • Mass layoffs have impacted thousands of workers across the tech and media industries.
  • In some instances, employees have been given little to no notice.
  • People who have been laid off or fear they could be deal with poor mental health.

If you’ve spent any amount of time online this past January you’re probably aware of the mass layoffs occurring across the tech and media industries.

There was the day Google laid off about 12,000 of its employees, leading early arrivals at the office to line up and see if their badge would turn green (job safe) or red (let go). Microsoft cut about 10,000 jobs. Amazon laid off over 18,000 people. Spotify, Intel, and IBM are among the other tech giants to announce layoffs recently.

The first month of the year has been just as bleak for the media industry. Vox Media and Dotdash Meredith (publisher of Verywell Mind, among other titles) each laid off 7% of their respective employees. NBC News and MSNBC laid off 75 employees. The Washington Post laid off 20 people and took down 30 job listings. 

Whether you’ve recently lost your job or are in an industry experiencing continual layoffs, this can undoubtedly hurt your mental health and can be especially hard when you're laid off remotely. The psychological impact should not be overlooked.

Layoffs Hurt A Lot More Than Just Your Ego

“Abrupt changes to your financial stability, such as being laid off, can be traumatic. This shift disrupts your ability to find a sense of safety and security while navigating a capitalistic society,” says Kenya Crawford, a licensed psychotherapist and racial equity consultant. Consistent research, as recent as an August 2022 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology, demonstrates a link between unemployment and poorer mental health. 

Layoffs have been ongoing since before the new year. Take Sararosa, who was laid off without warning in November after three months of working for a health podcasting company. Neither her nor her fellow full-time employees have been paid for their final week of work. They've since filed wage complaints.

The December 2022 ZipRecruiter Job Seeker Confidence Index found 26% of people currently looking for a job had been laid off recently. Of those layoffs reported to ZipRecruiter, only 29% reported receiving severance. With health insurance tied to employment or temporary packages given to former employees, the anxiety around being laid off increases exponentially.

Amber Robinson, psychotherapist

Often these individuals feel so off balance that what they are really experiencing internally is fear, sadness, confusion, and anxiety.

— Amber Robinson, psychotherapist

Sararosa describes her mental health as "pretty shaky" since the layoff—something she blames on the sudden nature. "I'm autistic and have bipolar disorder and the sudden change of the layoff was really tough on my routine, on top of everything else in my life," she explains. "I almost had to go up on my anti-psychotic as I felt really depressed for a few weeks, but decided against it after a few therapy sessions."

According to Amber Robinson, a psychotherapist with a Los Angeles-based private practice, layoffs can feel like an upending force, leaving some people to seek control in other aspects of their life. This lack of control of one’s livelihood usually leads to a subconscious reaction to try to control different areas of one’s life. “This can lead to behaviors like irritability, anger, and lack of patience,” she says. “Often these individuals feel so off balance that what they are really experiencing internally is fear, sadness, confusion, and anxiety.”

For those worried about their jobs, “the constant stream of layoff announcements can trigger preemptive anxiety and distress in the workplace. These experiences can lead to a decrease in engagement, trust, and buy-in from staff,” says Crawford. Fear and worry about losing a job and income can become all-consuming if not tended to carefully. 

Caring For Your Mental Health In The Face of Layoffs

Losing or fearing the loss of a job is an incredibly stressful time. But you can take steps to help your mental health and become more prepared for different outcomes. 

A significant aspect of this involves separating your identity from your workplace. “Work towards decentering your work from your life,” says Crawford. “Your job should not be your only priority in life. If there is anything we’ve learned from these layoffs is that you and your work can be terminated at any point.” To this end, Crawford recommends creating a regular ritual of sorts that symbolizes the end of your work day. It could be anything from a usual walk every day at five, a few minutes dancing to a song, or a grounding meditation. This habit can be especially beneficial in creating a separation when working from home. 

If you’re unsure about the future of your job or unhappy with it, look into other opportunities. While you explore other options, start creating a transition plan to leave, says Crawford. 

Kenya Crawford, LMHC

Your job should not be your only priority in life. If there is anything we’ve learned from these layoffs is that you and your work can be terminated at any point

— Kenya Crawford, LMHC

As you navigate this, lean on those around you for opportunities and support if your mental health is suffering. Talk about your concerns. “Someone may not be able to control being laid off, but it will only cause more harm to hold all those thoughts and feelings in,” says Robinson. “Loved ones may not be able to provide a solution or offer employment, but just speaking about one’s feelings can provide tremendous relief.” 

Sararosa credits her support network with helping her through this difficult time and the gradual improvement of her mental health. In addition to loved ones, she has found comfort in connecting with her former coworkers. "I think the layoff really shook us all, and it's been helpful to realize I'm not alone in this," Sararosa says. "My connection with them has been a lifeline in trying to process this all." She also dedicates time to go to therapy.

If you've been struggling with your mental health due for any reason, inclduing layoffs, you may choose to speak to a therapist. Individuals still employed may find reduced or no-cost options through their Employees Assistance Program

What This Means For You

Be proactive when you can and try to look out for yourself and others. Losing your job is incredibly difficult and everyone needs all the support they can get.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. ZipRecruiter. December 2022 job seeker confidence index.

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