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I lost my job

Being unemployed is temporary and nothing to be ashamed of - but it can make money tight, which is very stressful. Most people will experience a job loss or redundancy one or more times in their life.

Young person looking upset, carrying a box with a drink bottle, plant and other items in it

Losing your job can be really stressful

If you derive a strong sense of identity or purpose from your work, you can feel really lost. And not only does it hurt your pride… it hurts your bank balance.

Financial stress is one of the main causes of interpersonal conflict and psychological distress.

According to research, there is a link between unemployment, depression and suicide. So financial wellbeing is a very important aspect of mental wellness.

Let’s look at how losing your job affects your brain and mind, and then go through some coping strategies. 

If you are feeling depressed, hopeless or are having thoughts of suicide, it’s important to reach out for help.

Our brain under stress

We all have basic needs around having shelter, food and enough essentials in order to survive.

When it becomes a struggle to make ends meet, this triggers a number of brain and body changes known as our ‘stress response’.

Our stress response was designed to help us:

  • Survive immediate physical danger (short term response)
  • Survive a famine/starvation (longer term response)


Learn more about how the brain responds to stress.

Changes in the brain

Chronic stress – like unemployment – can be interpreted a bit like a famine by your brain. This can have significant impacts on your health and wellbeing, including:

Mood disorders, such as anxiety or depression

Sleep, immune, digestive or reproductive issues

Difficulties functioning or carrying out your usual everyday tasks

Maladaptive coping strategies like drug or alcohol abuse, gambling, etc.

“People who are struggling financially can feel ashamed, like they aren’t good enough or even blame themselves for their situation. This might prevent them from asking for help.

Change is really hard without help, especially when you are already doing your best. Everyone deserves to be financially healthy. Getting help isn’t about blame or judgement, it’s about empowerment.” 

– Amanda, Kids Helpline Counsellor

Practical coping options

Counsellors/Kids Helpline can’t tell you how to budget or give you any financial advice, because we’re not financial experts. But we can refer you to other places and people that might be able to help.

If you are struggling financially and finding it hard to find a new job, it’s important (and empowering) to get additional support:

  • Find out what financial support is available for job seekers.
  • Connect with a job service provider. The Australian government provides funding to services to help people find and keep jobs. 
  • Connect with Financial Services Australia for free professional financial advice; this can help you manage your existing finances to reduce some of the financial pressure. 
  • If you are having trouble paying bills, rent, repayments, etc., contact the service provider and let them know what’s going on. They can talk through options like extensions, payment plans or postponing repayments.
  • Check insurance policies and your superannuation. Some people have income protection insurance, inside or outside their superannuation, that can help.
  • If your mental health is being affected, contact Kids Helpline to speak to a tertiary-qualified counsellor for free.
  • Speak to your GP about creating a mental health care plan. Go here to see if you are eligible for subsidised psychological support.

Emotional coping strategies

Here are some options for managing the stress side of things:

  • Volunteering can give you a renewed sense of purpose, build connections and networks and looks good on your resume. 
  • Further education can expand your skillset and make you more employable. Even if money is tight, there are lots of ways to get educated in an affordable way. If you are receiving financial government support, you may be eligible for subsidised education.
  • Start your own business or try something new. Some people find that being unemployed gave them an opportunity to do something different. You might find creative ways of making money, or try pursuing a passion you didn’t have time to follow before.
  • Seek support from trusted sources, like family, friends or Kids Helpline.
  • Find ‘dopamine hit’ rewards that don’t cost money and are an adaptive coping strategy. For example, start a new exercise regime or hobby.
  • Be aware of your beliefs. Research has shown that people who believe they can improve their financial situation are more likely to overcome financial hurdles than those who feel powerless!
  • Spend energy and time on the things that make life valuable. The good news is most of these things are free! This can include spending quality time with people you care about, having fun, laughter, a great conversation, etc. These things also help you to have a mental break from stress, which is important for your self-care.

Even people who are wildly famous and successful have experienced job losses, whether during their early career, or at unexpected times along the way.

If you’ve lost your job, you don’t have to go through it alone.

Talking to someone can really help you sort out your options and find ways to cope.

Give us a call, start a WebChat or send us an email anytime, for any reason.

If you would like individual online support to help you reach your work and study goals headspace Work and Study Online can help.

This content was last reviewed 20/05/2020

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