Five Tips for Staying Sane Between Jobs

How to achieve clarity and calm during a stressful time.

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So you finally did it. You took the leap and left that job you hated. It’s time to find what you really love. Or maybe your current lack of 9-5 gig wasn’t your choice at all, and you can’t wait to get back to work. No matter the circumstance, congratulations. You are now in a special club most people will never get to experience. Taking a beat between jobs, whether planned or unexpected, can be your own Secret Garden of clarity. It’s challenging, mystifying, frustrating and no doubt difficult, but with the right attitude you can make the most of it. Your divorce from the daily grind is the perfect opportunity for a reset, both personally and professionally. Employ these top tips to stay on track.

1. To-Do Lists: There is real power in productivity, and that can be in short supply when you’re not reporting to a manager or showing up for work every day. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a job to do! Your daily checklist can include big items like finishing a cover letter, or narrowing down grad school choices, but don’t forget about the seemingly smaller tasks, like dropping off the dry cleaning, sending your mom a birthday card or signing up for yoga. Making a list and checking things off will go a long way in fueling your productive fires. How many times have you felt like a slug and decided to solve that problem by sitting on the couch and watching reruns of Scandal? Break the cycle, people! I promise it pays off.

2. Mindset: This is perhaps the most important of all. Mindset is everything. Mindset will make or break you. If you’re like most humans on the planet, you will worry what people are thinking about you. Any of these ring a bell?: “Wow, her career is in the toilet.” “Must be nice not to have a job.” “Who does she think she is?” Newsflash: most people probably aren’t thinking those things. A. They are way too busy worrying about themselves, and B. If they are thinking those things, they are jerks who should only serve as confirmation that you are busy living your life, not criticizing someone else’s. You are in the arena, baby. No time for the noise. You must be aware of that rude roommate in your head who fills your mind with self-doubt. Evict her. Over and over again. Change your phone’s wallpaper, write a mantra on a post-it, or do whatever it is you have to do to remind yourself that you are not your negative thoughts. Choose the positive ones only and keep it moving.

3. Movement: Here’s a challenge. Wait for something annoying to happen to you. Feel the frustration spread through your body. Then go for a 30 minute walk (or run or do a cycling class or yoga, etc.). Feel better? Is there any situation that a little movement doesn’t help? Movement is your lifeline. Your reminder that we’re all just flesh and bones, with blood pumping through our veins as we wander our one plant in a vast universe. Okay, so we don’t have to go all Neil deGrasse Tyson to get the point—moving your body is perspective. It can literally move us out of a funk and into the present. It also helps you sleep at night, feel strong, and balances out the extra Ben & Jerry’s that may or may not be consumed on this hero’s journey. Trust me on this one. Get moving, Toots.

4. Self-Care: In addition to getting your blood flowing through movement, taking care of your mind and body will provide major payoff. Not having a regular paycheck is stress inducing no matter your situation. Whether you have an endless financial cushion or you’re counting down the exact number of days before you’re officially broke-as-a-joke, you are likely feeling added pressure. Some days the itch to get through this particular period and onto the next endeavor will feel crushing. To counteract that stress, get yourself some extra TLC (but skip the scrubs).

a. Sleep! Eight hours at least. If you’re struggling with figuring out what your next step or true passion is, really focus on quality rest. We need deep sleep to dream big. Treat your sleep as the sacred tool it is.

b. Eat real food. Cooking at home nourishes the body and soul, and goes easy on the bank account. This is another way to feel productive, btw. Add ‘cook dinner’ to your to-do list if you like. Plus there’s nothing like savory crockpot smells wafting through your apartment to get the creative juices flowing.

c. Feed your spirit. If that’s church for you—go. Meditation? Get your zen on. Maybe it’s music or yoga or prayer. Whatever you fancy, set aside a few minutes each day to center your mind and find gratitude for exactly where you are, this very minute. Because believe it or not, you’re on the path to big things. This is all part of your story.

5. Socialize: Quality time with your fellow man may not be high on your priority list. You may not even feel like you deserve it. In the words of our president, “wrong!” This is critical. If money is tight, forgo happy hour and go for a walk with a friend (moving and socializing? two birds, one stone!). Sharing your struggles and little victories will help you both immensely. The introverts out there may scoff at this step, but rest assured, it is necessary. Stepping away from the traditional workplace means a lot less built-in social interaction, and this can spark loneliness in what is already an isolating situation. Reach out and connect with positive people in your life. Let them encourage you and practice encouraging yourself. Return to your to-do list relaxed and refreshed.

Ultimately, treat yourself like someone you love. Imagine how you would bolster your best friend or niece or nephew. Nothing but love. Channel that energy and use it for good. You’ve got this.

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