How to Stop Bad Habits When You're Unemployed


If the first thing you think of when you hear the word “unemployed” is a depressed person sitting at home watching TV and compulsively eating bon-bons, you may need to alter your thinking about what this period of your life entails. While it can be easy to spend your days doing nothing, or even eating and drinking to excess, you should be thinking of this period as a time of opportunity.

Here are some tips for stopping -- and avoiding -- bad habits when unemployed.

Take a Vacation -- and then Get Back to “Work.”

When you first get laid off, fired, or you quit your job, it’s natural to feel depressed and to spend a few days holed up in your living room watching daytime TV. That’s a bad habit, but sometimes you need to let those bad habits run their course.

Allow yourself a few days to mope around -- but put a time limit on it. If you were working a stressful job, or one in which you weren’t entirely successful, you may need this down time to decompress and to reflect. While you’re lounging on the sofa, keep a notebook handy so you can jot down notes about your goals for the future and what you’d need to do to get there. That way you’ll have accomplished at least something when your short period -- ideally no more than a week or two -- of languish is over.

Schedule a Set Amount of Time for Job Hunting

Next comes the vigorous hunt for a new job -- that you should treat like your job. Inform your family or other members of your household that while you may be home, you’re “on the clock” during a certain time frame each day. Whether you set aside four hours or 10 each day, keep to that schedule, so you avoid the bad habit of wasting the days worrying or feeling depressed.

Volunteer to Keep Your Skills Sharp

Volunteering not only can help you utilize the skills you already have -- it can also put you in front of a new set of prospective employers and possible career contacts. Whether you’re volunteering in a soup kitchen or you’re helping to build new homes for low-income families, the management and the people with whom you volunteer will get a chance to get to know you and to see your work ethic. If you treat that volunteer gig with the same integrity that you would a “real” job, it can take you places. Sometimes, volunteer gigs even turn into paid ones.

Look into Training Programs for Unemployed Workers

Your period of unemployment can also be a time to learn a new set of skills or to finally get that degree or certificate you’ve been wanting. In some cases, you can even get financial assistance. Check with your local employment department about training programs, support for budding entrepreneurs and other opportunities that you can take advantage of while you’re unemployed. That can imbue you with a renewed sense of purpose and help you avoid filling all of your days with time on the couch.

Fill the Rest of Your Free Time with Positive Experiences.

Another bad habit you might find yourself falling into is the trap of feeling sorry for yourself. While it can be difficult to stay positive when you’re not working, think of this as a time to learn and grow. Involve friends or family members who work non-traditional jobs to join you in going for an afternoon hike, joining a recreational sports team or participating in a club or hobby that you’ve always wanted to try. Having something like that to look forward to will make this entire experience more positive.

Being unemployed can mean lots of down time and down moods, but you don’t have to let the situation get worse by falling into bad habits.

Have you fallen into bad habits while unemployed? What did you do to counteract them? Your thoughts and comments below please...