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Laid Off? Fight On.

How to refocus and rebound from this major change

This is the end of the world as you know it. You got laid off. It’s like a death in the family, really—your job is (was) part of your identity and now it’s gone. You’re not “Bob from Accounting” anymore—you’re just plain old Bob. Mourn your loss. Let it sink in. Feel it. Tell your family how badly you’re hurting. Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back out there and charge that freaking hill. You’re a Soldier. You can do it. I believe in you. When you’re ready, here’s how.


Holding on to your past is a recipe for negative spirals—the kind that can lead you to a very rough place. Accepting your new situation is one of the first steps toward recovery. Your life really will never be the same as it was before, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Life goes on, whether you want it to or not. Embrace that fact, and every time you find yourself asking, “How did this go wrong?” or “Why did they do this to me?” retrain yourself to think, “What do I do now?”


Stop trying to figure out your next 30 years. Life is a series of millions of decisions, and in your entire life almost none of them will have unrecoverable effects. If you pick the wrong next step, the world is still going to keep spinning. There’s a subtle but important difference between planning for your future (good) and planning out your future (bad). Planning for your future means making the smartest decision you can with the information that’s in front of you. Planning out your future means committing the rest of your life to decisions you can’t possibly know for sure are the right ones. That will lead to frustration and stress.


Surprise—you’re a social creature. That’s just science. And science says that you will be healthier if you share your ups and your downs with other social creatures. Some people who have experienced a significant emotional event (that’s you) withdraw into a defensive shell. Don’t do that. Reach out. If you don’t have friends you can lean on, give Military OneSource a call (800-342-9647). They have professional listeners who are just waiting to talk to people like you who need to get stuff off their chest.


You might as well just get used to the fact that you’re going to have a lot of emotions over the next few months. Some outlets for those extra feelings are more positive than others. Don’t let yourself default to certain coping mechanisms if they might be self-destructive, like eating, drinking or self-loathing. Instead, pick positive channels like exercise or hobbies to help with those feelings, and remember that you can decide which outlets to use.


A study earlier this year from the University of Hertfordshire, located in the United Kingdom, found that the one habit most closely related to happiness was self-acceptance. You’re going to find it harder right now to accept yourself “just as you are.” But the sooner you can come to the realization that your job loss doesn’t define you as a person, the sooner you can get back on the road to happiness.


One of the best ways to really stress yourself out is by trying to control things that you can’t. Getting laid off is like being on an ice rink in bare feet. Your foundation’s been rocked, and you want to reach out and grab on to anything that’s within reach to keep yourself upright. But grabbing on to the wrong things is worse than standing still. Update your resume. Start networking. Join LinkedIn. Instead of spending time wishing you could go back and change things (hint: you can’t) or worrying about whether you’ll be able to find another job, spend time putting one foot in front of the other. That you can do.