Redundancy. Like a slap in the face. Unexpected, shocking, and painful. Last year, many of us would have confidently said it wasn’t something we had to consider. But then Covid-19 happened. In the UK alone there have been over 183,000 redundancies; 56 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance; and the UN has estimated that before Coronavirus is done, over 95 million jobs will have been wiped out worldwide.
So, you’ve been made redundant. You’ve had the chat, received the letter, left the job. What’s next? Laura Peters, Head of Advice & Information Services at Mental Health & Money Advice, says the most important thing to do is not ignore it. “This is likely to be an unsettling time. It’s totally normal to experience a range of emotions, from anger to sadness or hopelessness,” she says.
If you’ve got friends who’ve also been made redundant, you might compare yourself to them. Don’t. “Some people respond to redundancy by springing into action, submitting 10 applications a day,” says Peters. “Others take the opportunity to reset a bit and think about what they want to do. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with this. The important thing is to think about what’s right for you, to prioritise your mental health and look after your financial wellbeing.”
TAKE FINANCIAL CONTROL ASAP
The idea of not being able to pay your bills can be a daunting one – and mental health and money problems often go hand in hand. “We all manage our finances in different ways,” explains Peters. “Sometimes people can find it hard to confront their financial issues, and this can have a significant effect on their mental health and their relationships.”
Start by sitting down and making a plan to manage your money, completing a budget and identifying which bills are a priority. It may be the first time that you’ve been forced to this. “Make yourself accountable,” says Peters. “Let friends and family know that this is an important focus for you. Accept that those impulse purchases and that holiday you were planning for 2021 are out.” However, this doesn’t mean you have to take away all the little extras. “If you can afford to, put some money aside each month for things that aren’t strictly essential, but will bring you a bit of happiness,” she adds.
Figuring out what you should and shouldn’t pay can be difficult, but if you’re likely to struggle with essentials like your mortgage, rent or council tax, don’t make payments to your debts. Contact your creditors before it becomes a problem and find a way of making it work.
It can be tempting to reach for the credit card at this point. Try not to, as this can lead to problems further down the line. Instead, only consider borrowing money to tide you over as a last resort. Shop around for the right type of credit or loan for your situation and don’t pay more than you need to.
DO A SPENDING AUDIT
You can make quick savings by making a list of your non-essential items. But this isn’t a one-off task. As Peters stresses: “review it regularly and adapt it as you need to. You might decide to cancel your gym membership, but then find you’re struggling to manage your mental and physical health without access to the gym.”
Start a spending diary, as understanding your spending patterns can help you feel more in control. You may not have thought about how your mental health affects your money management, but the two are connected. Think about temporarily taking shopping apps off your phone and unsubscribing from mailing lists. You’ll be less tempted to mindlessly scroll or buy something you don’t really need.
And you’ll feel other changes beyond those to your bank balance. Work naturally provides structure and routine to our day, so finding that again can be a struggle. Try and create new routines – these will be beneficial to your mental health. “Make sure you stick to a regular sleep pattern,” Peters advises. “That means no late-night binges on your favourite new series. Try to make time for regular exercise and social activities with friends, as well as the essential admin and job hunting that needs to be done.”
STAY BUSY AND CONSIDER UPSKILLING
While job searches are important, look out for more educational tools too, to expand your career horizons. There will be online training courses out there and other resources, which can help you upskill or even pivot careers before you return to the workforce.
“Learning and taking on new projects can help to give you a sense of purpose,” explains Laura. “It will help you feel more positive about your position.” Update your CV and LinkedIn profile and stay connected with your work contacts. Redundancy is often a massive shock, but don’t abandon your networks. Let people know that you’re available for freelancing and other opportunities.
Finally, and most importantly, ask for help. Being made redundant can be a huge challenge for both your mental health and financial wellbeing. Don’t struggle alone. It isn’t personal and it certainly isn’t a verdict on your job performance. You may not have wanted to be made redundant, but now you have, take the time and see it as an opportunity. Reassess whether you were really happy in your old job and what you really want to do next. It’s time to make 2020 the year you found the job you always wanted.
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