Losing a job might might be a quite distressing experience for many of us. Although we adapt to many adversities in life quickly, research suggests that bouncing back from a long-lasting unemployment can be quite difficult and it can have detrimental effects on our wellbeing.
Loss of a job is one of the top ten traumatic life experiences along with divorce and the death of a loved one. This experience can evoke strong emotions including anger, frustration, disappointment, and fear which might be quite difficult to cope with. Although it is not always easy to express such difficult emotions, inhibition of expressing emotions may impede the healing process.
One way to deal with these negative emotions is expressive writing. Writing is known to have a therapeutic effect and in dealing with job loss, it can be as effective. Well-known studies of Pennebaker and his colleagues, indeed, show that it is worth a try. In one of their studies, recently unemployed professionals were asked to write about the thoughts and emotions surrounding their job loss for 3-5 sessions (each around 15-20 min.), often over consecutive days. Researchers found that those who wrote about their emotions regarding job loss were re-employed more quickly than those who wrote about non-traumatic topics or who did not write at all. Expressive writing emerged as an influential cure to reframe individuals’ attitudes about their old jobs and about finding a new one. Other relevant studies also report that individuals who write about their emotions and thoughts report better physical and psychological health in the long run.
Expressing yourself by focusing on your feelings rather than the event itself helps you better deal with difficult situations. After expressive writing, people observe long-term health benefits such as improved liver and lung function, fewer stress-related visits to the doctors, improved immune system functioning, and improved mood affect. In your expressive writing attempts, you can discover your deepest emotions and eventually, you might let them go. This is also a safe way of sharing since it is personal and not necessarily disclosed to others. With the help of expressive writing, you have the chance to organise your thoughts and give a meaning to the event. You might want to give it a try.
For further reading
Baikie, K. A., & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11(5), 338-346. doi:10.1192/apt.11.5.338
Smyth, J. M. (1998). Written emotional expression: Effect sizes, outcome types, and moderating variables. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 174 –184.
Spera, S. P., Buhrfeind, E. D., & Pennebaker, J. W. (1994). Expressive Writing and Coping with Job Loss. Academy of Management Journal, 37(3), 722-733. doi:10.5465/256708