Maintaining Mental Health During Unemployment

Mental health problems associated with unemployment

One in three unemployed Australians will experience mental health issues of some kind, with anxiety and depression being the most common disorders. When you are feeling stressed, simply reaching out to those around you or seeking professional support can really help to lessen the load, especially since feelings of anxiety, isolation or low self-worth maybe symptoms of wider mental health problems and the sooner these are addressed, the easier they are to overcome.

Recognising symptoms of depression and anxiety

Everyone feels down sometimes, especially during stressful periods. Feeling low, having difficulty sleeping and lacking motivation are all common responses to the trauma of job loss and unemployment. If you are worried or unhappy you should consider seeking support to help you through this difficult period.

Sometimes, these feelings may be indicators of clinical depression, particularly if you are feeling down for a longer period (more than two weeks) or if you’re finding it difficult to manage day-to-day life.

Other symptoms to look for include:

• Insomnia or broken sleep and/or low level of energy

• Reduced self-esteem

• Changes in appetite

• Reduced libido

• A lack of motivation

• Emotional instability

• A lack of pleasure in activities which are normally of interest

• Difficulty concentrating


Anxiety can also be an issue. There are different kinds of anxiety, each with its own symptoms, but some key signs to look out for are:

• Experiencing feelings of worry or anxiety most of the time

• Struggling to calm down

• Repeatedly worrying about things which may seem unimportant or silly to others

• Avoiding people or situations which may make you feel anxious

• Having recurring distressing episodes, such as nightmares, related to a traumatic experience

• Experiencing sudden, intense panic and/or anxiety that makes you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope

Having some of these symptoms does not mean you are depressed or suffering from anxiety: many are just normal responses to stressful or upsetting experiences. You may, however, want to seek professional support to help you manage these feelings, especially if they are upsetting your well-being.

Tips for reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety in daily life

While more serious cases of anxiety and depression are likely to require treatment – and a medical opinion should always be sought – there are some steps that you can take to manage the effects of these disorders. It is highly recommended that you talk to a counsellor who can help you to come up with a plan for ways to include activities such as these in your day-to-day life.

  • Make time in your day for activities you enjoy such as listening to music or going for a walk.Try to see this time as special and focus on the activity itself – turning off your mobile can help here.
  • Address conflicts with the people around you as they arise. It’s important to find ways to tell people about your feelings in a productive way.Pent up feelings of frustration or anger will only aggravate existing stress, depression and anxiety.
  • Keep healthy and fit by eating well, getting regular exercise and sleeping enough. Exercise can also relieve physical symptoms of stress,anxiety and depression by helping to reduce the tension in your muscles that can lead to cramps,headaches and migraines.
  • Consider taking up meditation or other relaxation practices. Simple techniques such as learning to control your breathing can help you to overcome episodes of anxiety.
  • Reduce your intake of alcohol and other drugs,which may aggravate your symptoms. If you are experiencing episodes of acute anxiety or panic, consider reducing or cutting out common stimulants such as sugar and caffeine.

Getting further support and treatment

Effective treatments are available for both anxiety and depression and the sooner help is accessed,the easier these conditions are to treat.

There are a number of different types of depression,each requiring different kinds of treatment. For example, in cases where depression reflects physical changes in the body’s brain chemistry,medical treatments may be most appropriate. As with anxiety, milder symptoms of depression can sometimes be alleviated through lifestyle changes alone, while more severe depression may require psychological and/or medical treatment.

Regardless of how serious you consider your symptoms to be, it’s probably a good idea to talk to a professional early on. Further information and support for anyone who is concerned about depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders can also be found through specialist websites such as beyondblue and the Black Dog Institute.

Key points

  • Feelings of stress, depression and anxiety are all common during unemployment, but they can also be more serious. It’s a good idea to seek support early on, if you feel that stress is impacting negatively on your life.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, you might be able to help yourself by ensuring you eat healthily, sleep well, take regular exercise and reduce your intake of alcohol and any drugs.
  • Anyone who is concerned about their mental health should seek assistance from a medical professional.

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