3 min read
Unemployment benefits form on a table.

Around the world, people are trying to cope with unexpected changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unforeseen changes such as job loss, school closings, business shutdowns, and social distancing escalate feelings of fear, anger, anxiety, worry, confusion, and depression. These emotions can lead to stress and, if left unmanaged, adversely affect health.

Unexpected job loss affects thousands of individuals and families every day. Job loss is devastating in any situation, but unexpected job loss is worse because of the element of surprise. Individuals and families don’t have time to prepare. Job loss not only affects careers but also self-esteem, security, and finances. As a result of COVID-19– related shutdowns and closures nationwide, the United States Department of Labor estimates between 4 and 6 million new jobless claims, setting new records. Consider the following to offset job loss, one of life’s toughest experiences.

Apply for Unemployment Insurance

One of the first things you should do is file an unemployment insurance claim to determine if you qualify for benefits. Unemployment insurance is a government program that provides temporary financial assistance to qualified individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. In Alabama, you can check your eligibility for UI benefits at the Alabama Department of Labor website. If eligible, UI will provide temporary income.

Continue Health Insurance

A loss of employment doesn’t mean a loss of health insurance. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, better known as COBRA, is a health insurance program that allows you to keep your same health care coverage at group rate. Your premiums will be higher because your former employer no longer pays a share of the cost. Although health insurance may seem like a luxury when unemployed, it can prevent you from quickly falling into debt due to medical expenses. Contact the human resource representative at your former place of employment or the Alabama Department of Insurance for more information about COBRA.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Unexpected job loss causes a flood of emotions that can result in sleeplessness, changes in appetite and energy levels, increased hostility, and feelings of worthlessness. It is, therefore, critical that you take care of yourself. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help you control your emotions so you can make sound rational decisions. This involves eating a balanced diet, staying active, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough sleep.

Evaluate Your Finances

Take a critical look at your sources of income. Based on your monthly living expenses, determine how long your finances will last. Develop an emergency budget to identify ways to reduce expenses. Reevaluate your wants and needs. Do not take on more debt. Remember to call your creditors and discuss your financial situation. Also, contact your former employer to make sure that you receive any accrued, unused vacation or sick time or severance package.

Talk to Your Family

Losing your job affects not only you but also your entire family. Don’t leave your children and spouse out of the job loss conversation or try to hide it from them. Just as you worry about them and their future, they worry about you. By sharing your concerns and plans and allowing them to share their concerns and suggestions, some of their fears may be eased. If your children or spouse want to contribute to the financial situation of the household by reducing their allowance, seeking temporary employment, or forgoing purchases or events, allow them to do so. This makes them feel as though they are making a contribution to improve the situation.

Don’t be Defined by Your Job

People often attach their self-worth to their job. Remember that you are not your job. Don’t play the blame game by blaming yourself or others. Keep a positive and confident attitude. Take your focus off of losing a job and put it on obtaining a job.

Reevaluate Your Goals

Use your time wisely. This is the time to reassess your education and career goals. Think about what you want to do and the skills and abilities needed to do it. Identify the skills that employers say are important to the specific job you are seeking. Then enroll in courses, webinars, or online training to develop those skills. Use this time to enhance the skills you already have. Remember to pay attention to those things that drive you (passion) and determine how you can turn your passion into your job.

Stay Positive

Although losing your job can be a devastating experience, don’t act on impulses and don’t take it personally. Remain calm, focused, and positive. Don’t try to deal with job loss alone. Include family members and friends. See this as an unfortunate circumstance that can provide valuable opportunities.


Visit www.aces.edu for more information on workforce development or contact Dorothy Brandon, an Alabama Extension family and consumer sciences specialist, at (256) 372-5458.


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