Dr Mazvita Machinga
Covid-19 is affecting everyone in many ways. As a result of the lockdown and physical distancing, the pandemic has changed the way people work.
Other people are going to work, others are working from home, while others have lost their jobs completely.
This week I had some counselling sessions with two individuals who have been affected by the pandemic and are anxious about the prospects of them losing their jobs and livelihoods. Their working hours and incomes have dropped.
It was quite disheartening to hear their stories and feel their anxiety. Many people, just like the two above, are afraid of what the future holds. As indicated by business leaders, Zimbabwe should brace for massive economic dislocation as they project that 25 percent of formal and 75 percent of informal jobs in the country will be negatively impacted by Covid-19.
Throughout the world, scores of people have lost their jobs, companies have slowed down, while some have even closed. In Zimbabwe, due to the ongoing lockdown, some workers, especially those in the informal sector, are already feeling the pinch. The livelihoods of thousands of people employed in the informal economy are hanging in the balance due to the continued decline in working hours brought about by the lockdown as we seek to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Losing a job is one of the most stressful experiences that people go through in their lives. A difficult effect of job loss is that unemployment takes a toll on mental health apart from other issues.
But there are ways to protect your mental well-being while identifying your next steps After a job loss, people react in different ways. Allow yourselves to feel the frustration, sadness, anger, disappointment and confusion about the future.
It’s also important to come to terms with accepting that this is the situation you are in right now. You may go through denial but gradually reality should be faced. Remember, you can either sink, swim or be the captain of your life now.
The feelings above are normal and proportionate to the external threats of losing a job. It is common to experience high levels of stress, depression and anxiety during such difficult times.
There are primary and secondary costs of a job loss. So how can one cope with the unavoidable loss of livelihood? While it is quite tough, life must go on. Here is what you must do:
Be patient with yourself as you grieve the loss. It is painful, and you need to be compassionate with yourself. Being hard on your self only makes things worse for you.
Practice acceptance, self-compassion and stop comparing yourself to others.
Take steps to sustain your self-esteem. Challenge your inner critic and acknowledge the hard work you are putting to try and figure out your next move.
Recognise factors outside your control which may have played a role toward the situation you are in — the job loss. These factors could be issues within your organisation, your economy or a pandemic like Covid-19.
Focus on your future and identify various possible next step options.
Evaluate the pros and cons of each option and move towards doing something.
Look at other things to occupy your time, for example gardening, volunteering in the community, taking a class (eg driving), joining or establishing a social network. Spirituality and relationships also matter during such times.
Re-do your story — We all have a narrative or a story we’ve created about ourselves that shapes our self-perceptions, upon which our core self-image is based.
Simply becoming aware of our negative self-talk, we begin to distance ourselves from the feelings it brings up. This enables us to identify with them less. Without this awareness, we can easily fall into the trap of believing our self-limiting talk.
Enjoy positive relationships, eliminate negative relationships.
Be open to new roles and career paths. Expand your networks. This type of flexibility and adaptability may be your key to determine your way forward.
Take care of yourself (adequate sleep, healthy diet, etc). Exercises can help reduce symptoms of depression.
Connect with family and friends. Stick to a schedule and a routine that includes both job seeking/creation and restorative or fun activities. Surround yourself with positive people.
Find what makes you feel good and make time for it every day.
Ask for help is you see that you are being overwhelmed.
Remember that when it comes to your self-worth, only one opinion truly matters — your own. Also, you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have. Stay future-focused as it is easy to get stuck in the past that you can no longer change.
Dr. Mazvita Machinga (Ph.D) is a qualified psychotherapist and mental health specialist, a member of the Zimbabwe Psychological Association and works at Africa University in Mutare. For feedback call 0771 754 519.