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Laid off? Five Ways to Cope with the Stress, Shame and Fear

heart & mindset mastery Mar 27, 2020
laid off - stress shame and fear

As a business mentor to aspiring consulting and coaching business owners, I deal with people who have been laid off all the time. I sit with their shame and fear as they find their courage to pursue the entrepreneurial dreams that the layoff simply accelerated. It's hard enough when it's only your career that takes a hit. For many who are dealing with layoffs right now, it's a career hit, in the middle of a health crisis, in a market where no one is hiring.

Here's some advice that hopefully will help you cope and see the light at the end of this trial:

1. Normalize any and all feelings you might have

Getting laid off, even in times like now, is a shock to the system. The losses are on multiple levels that begin with money and fears around how you're going to provide for yourself and your loved ones. But the real shame that keeps many people stuck is the personal rejection after years of investing oneself and talents to help grow someone else's bottom-line. On a rational level, you may get that this crisis is unexpected and that your company didn't have a lot of choices. But dang? What about all the value you have created for the company? Certainly, you were worth saving, right?

For many of us high achievers, what we do IS who we are and when this is taken away from us in a blink, it's beyond disorienting. It becomes an identity crisis. And today you don't have a lot of choices to resolve this crisis as you can't simply sign up with an executive recruiter and get busy finding a job because the opportunities simply aren't there.

So now it's just you...and your stress...and your shame and fear. The only thing you can do to transcend these uncomfortable feelings is to embrace, comfort and give voice to them. You can't ignore them as they aren't going away. They'll just get passive-aggressive. So accept that you have them and allow the emotional energy to move through you - the anger, sadness and disappointment.

2. Offer your money fears some serious broken record truth

One of the things my daughter and I are doing during lockdown is watching all the Marvel movies in chronological order. We just finished Captain Marvel and there is this great scene where Carol is being mentally attacked by all of these memories of her falling down and failing. She is at the bottom of the bottom until she takes a step back and is reminded of all the times that even though she fell down, she got up. As she reframes her past experience from falling to resilience, she regains her power, kicks butt and figures out that she can literally fly.

This movie scene is what you need to do with your money fears. Take fear captive and replace it with the truth of who you are and all the times you got up when you were bullied, how you survived a difficult childhood or deep loss in adulthood. Dig into your memory banks and find all the times that you got yourself out of difficult experiences, rose after failure, found meaning in suffering and challenge.

This is the truth - you live in a benevolent universe that cares for you. If you're from a Jewish background, remind yourself of all the stories when God provided for His people. If you're from a Christian background, comfort yourself with the words of Jesus who said to not worry as God provides for us like he does nature.

3. Use the time you have now productively

The two reactions of the recently laid off are the "crawling into bed and wishing to never come out" reaction and "frantic activity" reaction. Both of these reactions are your survival brain kicking in, trying to do what it can to help you survive. But it has no interest in your highest potential. So you need to tap into the higher part of you that can calm this side down and make lemonade out this lemon situation.

Use this time to take inventory of your career and life and consider that while challenging, the layoff (and lockdown) provides a gift of time for introspection to discover who you really are and what you really want. It is not too late and it's never the wrong time to give voice to your true self and your dreams. Who knows? Perhaps when this crisis is over you can have a whole new direction, ready-to-implement.

4. Talk to someone who has been where you are and gets it

While it's helpful to connect with people who are in the same boat you are, it's even more valuable to meet with people who have been there and are now on the other side.

In my mentoring community there are dozens of people who have been laid off and found their way to success ON THEIR OWN TERMS on the other side. Sure, they weren't laid off in the middle of a pandemic, but the money fears and shame were very real for them. Meet people like that who know how to take a career hit and use the experience for good. You are not alone!

5. Cultivate hope as this crisis will not last

Several years ago, Michael Zipursky of Consulting Success, interviewed me for his podcast on my "$0 to $300K in 18 months Business Launch story." The focus of the interview of course was how I got to $300K...which is a lot more fun to talk about then the $0 part.

Here's the painful "zero" part of the story - I was practically at zero. I had gone through a divorce that decimated me financially. So there I was. Single mom. $200 in the bank with no desire to go back to corporate.

At the same time, my grandmother died. She became a millionaire through growing her own talent agency in the 40's and 50's, as a single parent like me. She left me a little bit of money which gave me two choices - pay my bills or invest it in my business. I decided that the only way to honor her legacy was to invest it in my business. (You can listen to more about my story on Michael's podcast or on my blog)

The reason I am telling you this story isn't to brag or to relive bad memories but to point out that this crisis shall pass and you have a choice on who you will be on the other side. Your current challenge doesn't have to define you and there is hope even though the news and your survival brain is telling you otherwise.

I promise you that although it might feel dark today, the sun will rise. YOU will rise.


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