Between October to August 2014, 16.6 per cent of 16-24 year-olds were unemployed. That’s 754,000 people. Whilst lower than the figure for the same period of time in 2013, it’s still higher than unemployment rates amongst the 25 and over. The realities of the economic situation mean that many of us will experience a period of unemployment at some point, maybe once we’ve first graduated, or have left a job to pursue a career.

Unemployment is the pits. The uncertainty, the endless waiting and hoping, and the never-ending worry and mental health impact that can have. I was unemployed for a year when I decided to move abroad to pursue experience in a developing country, and hit rock bottom before springing back and finally getting a job. Here are five things I did that helped me during unemployment, if you find yourself in the same unfortunate situation maybe give them a go for yourself:

1. Show up

I don’t mean this in terms of showing up for interviews, though that is obviously important if you have one, I mean showing up for the small things, everyday. It can be demotivating when each day feels the same, and you lack the energy and spirit to be gung-ho. If it gets to this, just think of one thing a day that would be good for your mental and physical health, and do that one thing. That could be going for a walk, or trying out a new recipe, or returning that friend’s phone call. Whatever it is, choose that one thing and do it. You will feel good for having ticked something off your to-do list, and since it will be something good for your health, you’ll feel good for that too.

2. Do something for someone else

It is scientifically proven that volunteering to help others makes you feel good and can contribute to longer term happiness. As does spending money on someone else rather than yourself. Whilst volunteering may seem like a waste of time and a distraction from applying for jobs, it is valuable not only for the wellbeing that comes from the volunteering itself, but provides much-needed structure and routine. Also, it gives you a reason to leave the house and socially interact, which adds to your wellbeing. Do something you really want to do so it is not a chore but a source of enjoyment, and maybe you’ll learn a new skill or two.

3. Take an online course

Online universities have free courses to suit pretty much any interest. Not only will taking a course give you a goal, but it will keep you mentally stimulated, you may learn new things which could help you get a job, and putting it on your CV helps demonstrate that you are a self-starter and seek ways to develop yourself. It doesn’t even have to be related to what you want to do, pursuing a course just because it interests you is also completely valid. Maybe even take a basic language course with a programme like Duolingo to try something different.

4. Do what you want to do

It sounds frivolous, especially when so many things we want to do involve some sort of money, which is obviously a bit tight during unemployment, but there are plenty of life’s pleasures which we put off when we’re working because we ‘don’t have enough time’. Now time is on your side. That book everyone’s been talking about that you’ve been meaning to read? Borrow it from the library. The health kick you wanted to go on? Use the thousands of online resources to educate yourself and get started on a healthier lifestyle. If you can afford it, go on that trip of a lifetime you’ve been dreaming of. If the job market isn’t going your way, you at least have control over making some of your wishes come true.

5. Redefine yourself

This is not a cue for a film montage of someone getting a new haircut and a new wardrobe in order to reinvent him or herself. What I am talking about goes deeper, to your sense of self and identity. Being unemployed not only affects your bank balance, but it affects the very core of your identity and how you see yourself. From an early age we are asked ‘what we want to be when we grow up’, not ‘what we want to work as’. In our society a person’s job is intricately tied to who they are, this is why it is one of the first questions we ask any new person we meet. You have the opportunity to change that when you are unemployed. What really makes you, you? How do you define yourself? How could you have a healthier relationship to your next job and not let it be such a prominent part of your identity?

All of these techniques helped me to manage unemployment, and I’ve come out the other side a better person for having pursued things I’ve put off for so long, like getting into shape and learning a new language, and most importantly I’ve learnt the place of a job in my life and my identity. Here’s to hoping you won’t have to face unemployment, but that these tips will help you if you do.

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