How To Not Lose Your Damn Mind When You’re Not Working

You may have been laid off, just started retirement, transitioned to a stay-at-home parent role, or, if you’re like me, have recently immigrated to a new country and are not allowed to work until you’ve been granted a work permit (still waiting months later…). Regardless of the reason why, you’re not currently working. Sure it was nice the first couple of weeks or months to get some initial projects done, sleep in, lounge on the couch binge watching Netflix, but by this point, you may feel like you’re close to losing your damn mind.

For the past year I’ve struggled to keep myself sane during this long period of unemployment. I’ve also learned that not having purpose or personal goals is a major cause of depression. I don’t feel depressed, but I have definitely gone through periods of discontent, boredom, lonliness, and frustration over the past year. Here’s what I’ve been trying to do to keep myself busy in a healthy, productive way:

Workout. A lot.

The number one reason people do not workout is lack of time. Well, now I’ve got all the damn in the world. All of it. You can start with a walk every morning, you can try out some fitness classes at a local gym, you can try an online fitness program (I know a good one), or  you can do your own thing. Whatever you decide to do, moving your body often promotes a ton of great stimulation for your brain. So you’ll get stronger and help stave off Alzheimer’s down the road. Double whammy!

Get into my finances.

You may be retired and totally not worried about money anymore, but for those of us that aren’t there yet or have been laid off, it’s not totally possible to cruise through the days all carefree and wondrous. Doing new activities and taking up new hobbies isn’t possible when you’re not making any money. But now’s the time to take a deep dive into your finances. Spreadsheet it all out. How much total debt do you have? What do your assets look like? Take the time to build a budget, a savings plan, and a brainstorm new ideas on how to make money. Side hustles are great, even if they’re just temporary. Whenever I take the time to lay it all out, I get even more motivated to improve my financial standing. Plus I can finally figure out what the f*** terms like “dollar cost averaging” and “accelerated dividends” mean. My savings contributions might have slowed down like a snail in molasses, but at least they haven’t stopped completely.

Allow myself to be helped.

I’ve always been extremely independent and self-sufficient but moving to Canada to live with my husband and bonus sons has been a major lesson in letting people help me. Allowing my husband to support me financially until my work permit comes has driven me crazy (mostly because I had the unrealistic expectation that it would only be a couple months, not a full year). Not that I’m ungrateful for his ability to do so, but it’s taken some time to get adjusted to not contributing to the finances. I’m forced to practice “letting go” of stuff that’s out of my control, which, it turns out, I’m really bad at. I’m working on it though.

If people are willing to help you out, whether it’s looking for jobs, giving you money, watching your kids, or introducing you to a new network, you should take it. So many people are alone with nobody willing to lend a hand. Be grateful you’ve got people reaching out.

Get social.

I knew I was a social person, but didn’t know how social I was until I only knew 5 people around and only a couple of them females. Websites like MeetUp.com are excellent ways to meet people in your area that share common interests and get yourself out of the house. They have hiking groups, music jams, cooking lessons, you name it. I’ve gone to immigrant support groups, gone to climbing gyms alone so I’d have to find a belay partner, and simply started introducing myself to people out and about. I’ve met people in the same boat as I am and it’s helped. You don’t have to keep in touch with anybody if you’re not looking for any new friends, but you can get out of the house and do something with other people that needing the same. Hiking groups are the best, in my opinion – physical activity, social activity, enjoying nature, finding new public places to discover – Quadruple Whammy!

Learn to cook / discover new (healthy) recipes.

One of the reasons I used to hate cooking is that it was boring to eat the same thing all the time because it was fast, but trying out new recipes takes so much time. I can’t focus on learning a new recipes when I’ve got to be at work soon or get laundry done so I can get to bed. I now have the time to search new recipes, take my time at the grocery store (during the day!) and get my sh** together enough to cook new things. I’ve been reading this book about the science of cooking and am learning a ton.

Learn a new language.

El oso come pescado! Elle mange une pomme! I’ve always wanted to become fluent in another language. I’ve been using the free Duolingo App and with short, 5 minute lessons every day I’m learning a ton in Spanish and French. Living in Canada gives me the opportunity to speak French with the locals (I mean… I’m not there yet, but I could. And I will, when I learn more than 10 words.) So, one of these days, when I’m making money again and can afford to travel abroad again, I won’t be one of those Americans that makes other people speak my language because I haven’t bothered to learn theirs. Woot! And I hear it’s good for your brain, so there’s that.

Volunteer.

I really have no excuse to not be using my free time and energy to help others. I’ve sent out some applications to a few children’s charities and am in the process of applying to help the local food bank. It doesn’t have to be 24/7 but spending a couple hours per week helping out the community is a great way to give back and also meet new people in this town. Plus, this gets me out of the house so I don’t waste away watching Netflix for hours on end.

Catch up with friends/family on phone.

Not to get all Cats in the Cradle on you, but I really do need to spend more time talking with my people. We all think there’s plenty of time, but that ish goes by fast and there’s so much to catch up on. I love talking on the phone with old friends and extended family while I take my dog for a walk. If anybody is ever bored, GIVE ME A CALL. I’m around! Let’s chat.

Read more books.

Get to a library and check out some books. Books are great.

Get involved in local politics.

You don’t have to run for office, but you could get involved. We could all be a little more involved. Here’s a great article on how to get involved in your local scene. I can’t vote here, but I’m in a couple Facebook groups that keep me up to date on local meetings I can attend and learn.

Start a new business.

There’s nothing like sinking your energy into that business idea that’s always been swimming around in the back of your head. I’ve had to learn so many skills during the process of launching my online program (marketing, coding, video editing, etc) and now I have a way to possibly make a little bit of money. Plus, these skills may help me in future job endeavors and they also keep my mind occupied and growing. One of the causes of depression is not having a personal goal and getting increasingly bored or stagnant. This process has definitely made me keep my sh** together. I used the web platform Kajabi to launch my program and it’s good for any kind of content you want to teach/sell. They offer tons of included support to get you going. Check it out.

Take stock of myself.

I’m a textbook compartmentalizer. And I’m really good at it. But in times of increasing busyness, it’s easily to lose oneself in the madness of every day life. I’ve been trying to take this time to pay attention to myself  and ask myself some important questions more often. How does my body feel? How do I respond to this type of food? What’s behind this or that feeling? What do I want to do? When I’m feeling crappy, I try to get to the bottom of it asap. The good thing about extra time: you have time to think about how to take care of yourself better and grow. It’s easy to let victim thoughts creep into your psyche, but while you may not be in charge of everything happening to you, you’re definitely still in charge of how you respond to it and overcome. It’s also helped me keep a healthy communication with my husband. When I can pinpoint certain feelings, I can talk about them easier and we can work through it together.

Travel.

You may not have the means to go hike the Himalaya or backpack across Europe, (if you do, go rock that out) but you could also take the bus across town to a neighborhood or part of town you’ve never taken the time to discover. Drink coffee and talk to other patrons. Go to a local museum that gives you the history of the region. Travel opens your mind to new perspectives and is vital to understanding others. Get out of your comfort zone. I like to go for new hikes around town to learn where sh** is. You can download bus schedules and trail maps from your city’s website.

 

Moral of the Story: 

Lay around for a bit and get caught up on sleep and projects, but when you start to get bored or start feeling depressed, take some action. Get some new goals, start a side hustle, or meet some new people, but keep yourself sharp. Your mental and physical health are important. Stay on top of it. And if you need to vent to or chat with somebody, I’m around. We can go for a walk and talk on the phone!

fitwithflash@gmail.com

Anybody have cool stuff to add? What do you to keep sane while not working?

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