Even people who absolutely love their job have to deal with at least occasional work-related stress and anxiety. And while plenty of companies like to talk about prioritizing employees’ mental health and well-being, their actions often say otherwise—including maintaining an environment where the threat of layoffs is constant.
Though there’s not much that you, as an employee, can do to change that culture, there are strategies to help you cope with the resulting layoff anxiety. Here’s what to know.
How the threat of layoffs can hurt our mental health
Living with prolonged uncertainty—whether in relation to our career or other aspects of our life—can be a major blow to our mental health. The constant anxiety isn’t great for our physical health either.
And let’s not forget that layoffs can take a variety of forms, beyond losing a full-time salaried job with benefits.
According to a 2022 survey, roughly 36% of employed Americans are gig workers—cobbling an income together from multiple sources, none of which likely come with benefits. So while they don’t have a full-time job to lose, layoffs can take the form of an employer cutting their hours, or capping their earnings in ways that result in a drop in their income.
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How to cope with layoff anxiety
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that American work culture will change to the point of eliminating layoff anxiety, but for now, here are a few ways that can help us cope with it.
Have a backup plan
Even if having a financial safety net isn’t feasible, coming up with a backup plan gives you some sort of control over your situation. The idea is to lay out the steps you’d need to take in the event that you lost your job. This could include everything from updating your resume, expanding your professional network, and knowing how and where you’d search for a new job, if it came to that.
Speak to a career counselor or therapist
Work has a major impact on our mental health, and fortunately, there are professionals and resources out there to help. If it’s in your budget, consider booking a few sessions (or even just one) with a career counselor or therapist, as a fresh perspective from an outsider—who also happens to specialize in helping people cope with that type of anxiety—can be useful.
But even if you’re not in a position where you can afford to pay for counseling, you can still look into free or low-cost options out there, including attending free job and career fairs in your area or virtually, and taking advantage of any public libraries in your region offer free career services (many do).
Channel your anxiety into learning new skills
As soon as you recognize that your layoff anxiety is spiraling out of control, deliberately shift your attention to something else—like learning something new. Not only is it a distraction from worrying about your job, but by learning a new skill or expanding your knowledge on a particular topic, you’re doing your future self a favor, regardless of what happens with your current position.