What to do when you’re unemployed and depressed

Keeping a smile on your face while tryna survive off your savings can be tough to say the least. Especially if your job applications keep getting rejected. But we’re here to help you turn that frown upside down (or at least help you crack a smile every now and again). Welcome to The Mix’s guide to surviving unemployment.

Two young people are unemployed and depressed. This is a wide-angle image.

Is this your life? Wake up; job application; absentmindedly stuff some Weetabix into your mouth; do a job application; get eight rejection letters; cry; do another job application; work out if you can afford to eat lunch; do a job application; get another rejection; scream into your pillow; feel depressed and bored; do yet another job application; repeat

Unemployed and depressed? Don’t worry! Psychologist and career coach Denise Taylor has some advice that’ll be sure to help you cope with unemployment.

It’s actually perfectly normal for someone to feel a bit miserable in the short term when they lose their job and are left without a clear career path. But if you think your depressive symptoms are turning into more serious mental health issues, you should take action. Check out our mental health resources here or speak to a member of our team right away using our crisis messenger service.

If you keep getting rejected for every job you apply for

So you’ve applied for dozens of jobs – maybe even hundreds – but the job losses keep crawling into your inbox. That is, if the employer can even be bothered to give you the time of day.

It’s no secret that the economy is crap. And to some degree, the job market is to blame for your current employment, or more accurately lack-there-of, status. At the same time, your throw-stuff-at-the-wall-and see what sticks approach isn’t exactly helping matters. Remember, job applications are very much about quality, not quantity. So if you’re wondering what to do when you’re unemployed, the answer is pretty simple – NOT that.

“If you’re applying for loads of jobs in a short period of time then you’re not probably not doing it right,” says Denise. “Rather than 10 a day, maybe try four really well-researched and detail-oriented applications a week.”

Is it your CV or your interview technique that’s the problem?

If you’re not getting any job interviews then take a minute to evaluate the reasons why. You may need to look at your CV and covering letter. As a guide, read our CV checklist and how to write a cover letter articles to see where things are going wrong. 

Alternatively, if you’re getting through to the interview but can’t seem to seal the deal, then read our job interview tips and interview body language tips to brush up on your technique.

Structuring your day when you’re unemployed

What to do when you’re unemployed and depression and anxiety start to kick in? Give yourself some structure. 

Even if you’re unemployed for a while it’s still important to have a semblance of a daily routine. Not just for your mental health, but also for showing potential employers that you’re a put-together human being.

“The worst thing you can do during unemployment is stay in bed ’til noon, watch TV all day, and then go to bed at 4am,” says Denise. “Employers want to know you’re capable of getting up in the morning and that you have a good work ethic. Having no routine is a sure-fire way to make sure you aren’t living up to their standards.”

You can start by gradually incorporating a routine into your daily life. Get up at the same (reasonable) hour, dedicate a certain amount of time to working on job applications. But it’s not all work. You should also factor in activities like going for a walk, going to networking events and volunteering in your spare time. Heck, you could even learn a new skill like playing the guitar.

Think about all the valuable ways that you could spend your time. “Doing voluntary work, especially lending a hand to people less fortunate than you, can really help put things in perspective,” says Denise. “Not to mention it gets you out of the house and, as an added bonus, it’s something to talk about at an interview.”

How to make some cash when you’re unemployed and bored

A combination of a) being young, and b) having a lot of spare time, could actually provide ample opportunity to find a side-hustle while you job search.

Look around your local community. What service could you provide to others that’ll stop you going stir-crazy AND help you earn some cash? Maybe dog walking? Or babysitting? Even if it’s just for friends and family to start with, anything productive done during this time off will look good on your CV.

Or if you fancy being really entrepreneurial, use that creative gen-z energy inside your brain to make cash. For instance, you grew up with the internet and using it comes instinctively to you. But lots of older people despise modern technology – despite the world moving to an almost utterly-digital age. So why not ask local businesses if you can create them a Facebook page or Twitter account? From there, you’ll be looking into getting a loan to expand your mini-business. For more inspo, you can take a look at our article on starting your own business here.

What to do when you’re unemployed and depressed and can’t be bothered to do anything

“You should try to keep active. But, honestly sometimes the healthiest thing to do is just be unemployed and depressed for, say, a week,” she says. “ Give yourself permission to go full-on hibernation mode, and then you’ll be able to start again with new, revitalised energy.”

On the other hand, if you’ve spent a long time unemployed and depression doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, it may be worth getting some medical advice. Try speaking to your GP or a mental health professional. You never know, they might be able to provide you with a diagnosis or treatment for mental health conditions which was exactly what you needed. We’ve also got an article on depression here, which might help.

Check out Denise Taylor here.

Next Steps

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By Holly Bourne

Updated on 06-Jun-2022