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Losing a job can bring on mental, emotional stress

Every day we read of more companies laying off workers. While job loss may have been a fear for many last year, today’s troubled economic climate has made it a reality for millions.

While losing a job may bring financial problems for most people, it’s also important to understand it can also bring significant mental and emotional stress.

For many people, losing a job brings reactions similar to the pattern experienced in the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship. A first reaction is usually one of shock and denial, of being unable to believe this has really happened.

That’s often followed by anger. And while the source of that anger may be those who took away your job, most times the anger is taken out on those close to you. You may find yourself tense, more easily upset and quicker to react to family and friends.

You may also go through a stage of “bargaining,” a preoccupation with trying to get that old job back, no matter how unrealistic or even undesirable that might be. At the same time you may experience sadness and depression as you question your worth and abilities.

It’s important to recognize that these are all normal reactions. Understanding that can help you get through those stages quicker, accept the loss and start creating a new work life.

You can help yourself by trying to avoid adding extra stress to your life. Tell family and friends what’s happened and what you’re feeling, so they can help. Eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of rest and keep socially involved, rather than withdrawing from those close to you. Avoid sudden, rash major life decisions and changes.

Instead, carefully evaluate and set future goals. Do you need more education, to look to a new career field or to sharpen up your job skills? Evaluate what will make you feel rewarded and fulfilled in a new job.

Are you using your network of family, friends and other contacts to help in your job search? Rather than dwelling on the lost job, focus on a positive future.

Losing a job, especially one you’ve held for a long time, can bring real trauma and stress to anyone.

If you find you’re being overwhelmed by the experience, seek professional help. A counseling professional can provide stress management, career guidance and other services to help you handle this loss and move on to a more positive future.

“The Counseling Corner” is provided as a public service by the American Counseling Association, the nation’s largest organization of counseling professionals. For more information and to learn more about the counseling profession, visit

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