This is what experts say to do immediately after you lose your job

As officials try to curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by advising people to avoid large gatherings, a growing number of industries are being forced to cut back on their services and some, in turn, are having to let workers go from their jobs. While many of you may be reading this from the comfort of your own home thanks to work-from-home policies being implemented, not all industries are able to provide this as an option for their employees. (Think restaurants, gyms, hotels, and event management companies, just to name a few.)

According to a recent analysis done by Moody Analytics, close to 80 million jobs in the U.S. are at high to moderate risk due to the coronavirus, equating to 10 million of those workers seeing some sort of impact to their paycheck. Whether it’s layoffs, fewer hours, or wage cuts, people are feeling the effects of the coronavirus recession.

Before you go into panic mode, take a deep breath in and exhale out all your stressful thoughts. While you might be thinking to yourself, “How can I figure out where my next paycheck will come from if I can’t even leave my apartment?” just know that you’re not alone. To help, we connected with experts to provide five steps on how to help you deal with an unexpected job loss without having to step foot outside your front door.

5 unemployment tips to use during coronavirus

1 Breathe and grieve this major life shift

Acknowledge that you are in a very stressful situation and that whatever feelings may arise are perfectly valid. Allow for one to two days to grieve this loss, but don’t permit yourself to wallow in these feelings for too long. “Once our minds are quiet, we are better able to process our emotions and find solutions,” licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Meghan Jablonski tells HelloGiggles.

If you find yourself struggling alone, look into joining an online Facebook group or a virtual group through Meetup or Eventbrite.

“Tap into your support network of friends and family and let them know about your job loss,” Nancy Serling, a licensed clinical social worker, tells HelloGiggles. “While social distancing may be necessary during this time, connecting to others via FaceTime or through a stroll in the park (at a healthy distance, of course) can help give us the social connection we need to not feel alone during this vulnerable time.”

2 Get your finances in check

Talking finances is never a fun topic, especially after an unexpected job loss. Take this time to comb through your money and get a game plan together on how you will move forward. It can be emotionally exhausting, but once you see what kind of shape your finances are in, it can actually be a bit of a relief to know what you’re facing.

  • Explore unemployment benefits:
    Check to see if you’re a candidate to receive unemployment benefits by visiting your state’s unemployment website and apply immediately if you think you’re eligible. New York State has waived the seven-day waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to coronavirus. Fingers crossed that other states will follow New York’s lead.
  • Can’t pay rent?
    If you know you’re unable to pay your rent on time, contact your landlord immediately, tell them your situation, and see if they’re able to give you an extension as you figure out your finances. It’s not a good time to evict tenants, so landlords may be more lenient during this recession. If they’re unwilling to give you an extension, read over your lease and decide what the remedial steps are to prevent eviction. You can also contact free legal services in your city or state.
  • Withdrawing from your retirement account
    If you’re struggling to make ends meet and your savings account is depleted, you may be eligible to take out money from your Roth IRA account, penalty-free. If you have a 401(k), you may be eligible take out a hardship withdrawal, however this withdrawal would be subject to a 10% penalty. While withdrawing from your retirement fund is usually a last-resort option, it’s sometimes unavoidable in times like these.
  • Secure health insurance
    If you received health insurance from your previous employer, it’s always a good idea to check and see if they will allow for healthcare continuation for the next one to three months, which can help you get back on your own two feet. If that’s not an option, look into COBRA coverage, which is basically employer-sponsored health insurance. Here’s the catch: You have to pick up the entire health insurance tab. It can be a bit of shock when you see the price tag, but having coverage can save you money in the long run if you do end up needing emergency healthcare. If you’re unemployed, you may also be entitled to buy affordable health insurance through the marketplace, a service that helps people shop for and enroll in health insurance at a low cost. Lastly, check and see if you’re eligible for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid.
  • Create a realistic budget
    Once you’ve taken financial inventory of what is available to you through your previous employer and unemployment benefits and in terms of health insurance coverage, it’s time to get to work and create a new, honest budget for yourself. Make a budget for only your necessities—think housing, groceries, and anything that’s needed for survival at this point. Evaluate all other items that aren’t a necessity and cancel any current subscriptions. If you have credit card debt, call your credit card company and see if they can allow you to make a payment at a later date. It never hurts to ask and see what is available to you.

3 Find a temporary gig to hold you over

It can feel a bit uncomfortable letting your network know that you’re currently unemployed and looking for a job, but know that many people have been in this boat before and are likely to be more supportive than you may think. While it can be hard to find a new job during the coronavirus recession, it’s important to put feelers out because you never know who may know of a remote gig.

There are also quite a few online market research companies that pay people to take surveys. While the payoff may not be too high, it could be helpful to hold you over until you land your next job. With a quick Google search, you can find plenty of sites that offer these services—but be careful to only sign up for reputable sites.

4 Embrace a new routine and narrative

One of the biggest factors in keeping your mental health in check while unemployed is keeping to a new routine. While your old routine may have involved commuting to work or logging online, try to create a new daily schedule to keep your mind occupied. This may be a great time to set up new self-care rituals for yourself that you may have not had time to do in the past.

“Keep a solid routine with designated rest periods,” Dr. Jablonski says. “A combination of regular activity, rest, and sleep helps improve the creative problem-solving process and also help stabilizes mood, [which will reduce] the risk of depression or overwhelming anxiety. While a little bit of anxiety can help motivate, it’s important to find a healthy balance.”

Have you always wanted to move into a new line of work? This could be the perfect break to dig deep and find out if you want to change careers or even move to a new city. This could be an opportunity to reinvent yourself and your career.

5 Reach out to a mental health professional for help

If you find yourself unable to get through everyday life after your job loss, reach out to a mental health professional. Through a quick Google search you can find pro-bono or sliding scale therapists in your area who may be able to work within your budget. Getting your mental health in check is the most important thing you can do for yourself during this stressful time.

At the end of the day, just remember to be kind to yourself. While it’s an incredibly difficult time, it’s important to put your mental health first.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, HelloGiggles is committed to providing accurate and helpful coverage to our readers. As such, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, we encourage you to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments, and visit our coronavirus hub.

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