November 17, 2023
Maintain a Schedule, Stay Active and Hopeful
December 7, 2020
By Rachael Jarman, PA-C
Looking for a new position in today’s climate is stressful, life-sucking work. Being furloughed and subsequently laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic has left me feeling wilted. The amount of time and energy it takes to scroll through the job boards and fill out endless applications is astounding. I know I am not the first PA to go through unemployment, but I wanted to share a few tips that help me keep a stable mental state (when I follow them). If I take steps towards staying healthy, my circumstances feel less dire.
We will get through temporary unemployment and this pandemic together, but it will change us. And I hope that I am a more compassionate PA that has a deeper understanding of many patients’ daily struggles.
My first suggestion is to set and maintain a good schedule. Initially, I made a concerted effort to wake up before 8:00 a.m. and go to bed by 11:00 p.m. Slowly but surely, the more bored I became, the later I stayed up watching Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, etc. I’m not sure if there is an inverse relationship between increased boredom and decreased sleep but I certainly can attest to it. This lack of sleep added to my sluggish attitude and made it difficult to find the motivation to job search. Structure is more important if you don’t have a shift dictating your schedule. You will feel better about yourself if you consistently get eight hours of sleep. Being physically exhausted makes me less resilient to the ups and downs of unemployment. I am trying to give myself a decent bedtime so I can have more energy to do the things I want to do, like finding a new position that fits.
A loss of employment can steal your self-confidence, which is why staying active is important. My intention was to go on a run or do yoga every day. That was two months ago and I think I stuck to it about a tenth of the time. But when I did, I felt extremely accomplished. Exercising is good for the mind and body and can help us stay positive in the midst of uncertainty. Exercising can also be a good excuse to connect with your spouse, family, and friends. With social distancing the new norm as COVID-19 blows through our country, taking a walk outside with another person can be fulfilling. I may not run a marathon, but movement is a small joy that keeps me going.
Increasing exercise is helpful as is decreasing your alcohol intake. When we get bored, when we feel sad, or when we want to avoid discomfort, alcohol is an easy way out. Keep it to a minimum. I agree, gin and tonics are very tasty. But I also know that if I want to feel healthy and motivated every day, alcohol should be consumed at a minimum. Set up some boundaries that will protect you from overuse. Lean into the emotions from your job loss, don’t smother them. We can do hard things and one of them is to go through the grief process of unemployment without substances to numb it. We know as healthcare providers that overuse leads to many unintended consequences.
Cut down on social media
Overconsumption is not limited to alcohol. Social media is also a way to avoid dealing with emotions and responsibilities. Now, more than ever, feeds are filled with negativity and polarizing arguments. It’s just not worth it. Small doses of scrolling in downtime that doesn’t impede the daily work of editing resumes, writing cover letters, and doing Zoom interviews is fine. But engaging in day-long Facebook wars is pointless and depressing. Utilize social media to network and connect with opportunities, not to rant about political problems. I’ve been through the fire on this one. Convincing someone of my ideology in the comment section is unlikely and only takes time from more fruitful activities.
The last suggestion I have is to stay hopeful. I know this is hard and I struggle to maintain positivity. PAs are qualified, skilled clinicians and the medical world needs us. Our jobs will work out eventually, but we can’t get this time back. Consider the small moments shared with your loved ones as gifts. Wallowing in discouragement won’t get you a job and you will lose the opportunity to connect with friends and family. The extra time won’t always be there so take advantage of it. Read more. Play with your kids. Try a new recipe. Unemployment doesn’t always have to be a drag. And if you are dealing with depression in a serious way, don’t deal with it alone. Talk to your clinician. Let your friends and family know. We will get through this and you don’t have to walk the journey alone.
This article originally appeared in August 2020.