How to manage redundancy anxiety

Redundancies can be very stressful and can mean a significant life change. They can affect our self-confidence and challenge our sense of purpose and identity that work provides. It’s common to experience feelings of disbelief, denial, anger, loss of confidence and sadness in the face of a loss which is usually outside of our control. Some of us may think ‘why me?’, others may be more relieved and feel excited to start something new. 

coping with redundancy

We all react differently in times of change and uncertainty and it is completely normal to feel worried, sad or stressed as a result, especially if it comes as a surprise. The purpose of this guide is to give you some practical advice for managing these feelings and preventing them from impacting your mental well-being, allowing you to focus positively on the road ahead. 

Please note that while this guide is aimed at people who have recently been made redundant, the tips in this guide can be applied to other situations where a loss or significant change has occurred.

How to cope with anxiety, worries and stress during significant life changes

Change inevitably creates uncertainty. When things stay the same we feel comfortable knowing what to expect on a day to day basis. When something shifts, even our sense of who we are can go through some odd and potentially uncomfortable alterations. Try not to judge yourself. 

It’s okay – and perfectly normal – to be nervous about change. It’s also normal to have a hard time managing the transition. No matter how awkwardly or uncomfortable you might feel though, it’s important to be kind to yourself and share your feelings with others. Social support is a great way to deal with uncertainty as it allows you to proactively troubleshoot problems and consider different approaches. 

Whilst this redundancy may have come as a shock to you, try to embrace the experience and consider this transition as an opportunity to build internal psychological, emotional, and intellectual “muscle” that will help you with the next change. 

Man on laptop

Take care of yourself

Reframe the situation: What can you change and what is out of your control? Could this redundancy actually help you to achieve new goals and help you to grow? Is there something you always wanted to change or do? You may not have control over losing your job, but you are able to control how you deal with that loss and move forward.

Reframe your position: You may try not to think “I was made redundant”, but rather “My position was made redundant”. This may help you see that this was not a personal critique of your skills but rather a necessary business decision. This can help to protect your self-esteem.

Stay connected and share your feelings: Friends, family and colleagues make a great support network. It can sometimes feel hard to reach out for support, but speaking with your loved ones can be a crucial part of the redundancy process. It’s important to be as open and honest with your partner or close support networks as early on as you can. Together, you can tackle any financial or emotional worries; you don’t have to face these alone. Remember that you have nothing to be ashamed of; redundancy can happen to anyone, at any time.

Remember, the way we think affects how we feel and act: Awareness helps us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier and helps us deal with them better. 

  • Relaxation exercises can tackle those fight, flight or freeze symptoms we might be feeling in stressful situations by helping us to slow down our heart rate and calm our mind. Mediation can help us to build awareness of how worrying thoughts capture our attention and how to let go of them. Meditation is a skill that requires practice and might not be for everyone but is worth trying.
  • Other ways you can be mindful might include going for a walk, doing yoga, reading, or anything else that helps to relax and distract your mind.

man walking dog

Organise your time: Make lists, plans and daily calendars. Time management is key to helping you feel in control and able to handle the pressure.

Structure and routine: Try to keep a structure or schedule in your day. Creating a routine enables you to set clear boundaries. For example, stick to a similar sleep schedule, get up at the same time as you would do for work, and be strict with yourself about when you look for new job opportunities and when you do something you enjoy. A clear structure during the day will help you to stay well and switch off each day. 

Set yourself small manageable goals and make sure to take the time to appreciate achieving even just the small daily goals that you set for yourself

Be active: Exercise won’t make stress disappear, but it may clear your thoughts which helps when dealing with stress.

Allocate a worry budget

Sometimes, worrying can feel hard to control. Rather than trying to stop it altogether, one technique is to allocate yourself a ‘worry budget’ where you can dedicate time to think about your worries. Dealing with worries in this way can help to challenge hypothetical concerns, negative emotions and to put things into perspective, as well as make you feel more confident and productive.

  • Create a list of worries as and when they come into your head.
  • Allocate yourself no more than 30 minutes per day at a specified time to work through your worry list (do this somewhere that you won’t be disturbed and that you don’t associate with sleep or relaxation).
  • When the time comes, work through your worry list one by one and sort it into things you can do something about now and things you might have to deal with at a later date.
  • Think about how you might solve some of these worries and make a plan to tackle them.
  • For hypothetical worries (e.g. “what if I don’t get another job”) ask yourself “then what?” and think about what you would do and how you would manage it or prevent it from happening (e.g. “I will apply for one job a day and reach out to my networks”).

This might feel a bit strange in the beginning, but over time this process will become automatic as you learn cognitive skills for proactively managing worries, rather than letting them overwhelm you. 

woman writing worry list

Reassess your personal goals and development

While we often struggle to see redundancy as a ‘good thing’, it can present the opportunity to help you take stock of your skills, talent, and experiences. Is there anything you want to change in your career? Have your goals remained the same or is now the chance to start on a new journey?

Think about your options and identify where your passions are. If you aren’t sure what your passions are, what you want to do next, or what your long-term goals are you could speak to friends, family or old colleagues. Sometimes speaking about it and reflecting with others helps us to move forward.

Start planning, networking and prepping your CV

Start with updating your CV and professional/social media accounts (e.g. LinkedIn). Take the time to consider all of the skills, tasks and achievements from your last role and how you can take these forward into a new position. Your CV should outline your goals, experience, accomplishments and personality. 

Also, have a clear social media presence, be proactive on groups, and have an active, engaged account on websites like LinkedIn, professional Facebook groups, and Twitter. Share your expertise and industry knowledge; the more you put yourself out there, the more you can start raising your profile and increase the chance to be noticed by future employers.

Manage financial pressure

Think about your budget. Are there areas you can cut back on? Could you save money by switching bill providers, changing tariffs on your mobile or broadband, or switching to cashback sites when shopping online? Making several small changes may not seem like much, but together they can go a long way.

Remember to check if there are any benefits or grants you may be entitled to whilst looking for a new job. Thoughtfully managing your finances can be key to reducing feelings of stress and worry. Find out more about free money advice at Money Advice Service

couple looking at finances

How can I support someone who has been made redundant?

Sometimes, when it comes to helping others we can feel a little lost, especially when it comes to mental health and emotional well-being. Remember that simply being there for someone can make all the difference. If you are supporting someone through a redundancy, some helpful things you can do are:

  • Listen to how they’re feeling. Having a chance to talk openly could help someone to feel calmer and more able to move forward.
  • Ask open questions (e.g. “how do you feel”) and actively listen.
  • Avoid telling them how they should feel (e.g. “you shouldn’t be this stressed”) or invalidating their feelings (e.g. “you don’t need to be this upset”) as this can reinforce low self-esteem. 
  • Reassure them that stressful situations can pass and support them in the next steps. However, try to prevent phrases like ‘it could be worse’ … ‘it happens to a lot of people’… ‘ou never liked that job anyway’. All this may be true. But the risk can be that the person is not in an emotional position to see this.
  • Help them to identify the triggers of their stress.
  • Do not be surprised if the individual is angry. This anger may not just be directed towards the job loss but could be about anything. Irritability can be common during this transitional period.
  • Help them to learn and practise relaxation techniques.
  • Support them to seek professional help. Make sure the individual has the contact telephone number of someone who will listen if they are distressed, for example 24 hour crisis centres such as the Samaritans.

Thrive supports more than three million people globally with its mental well-being platform, including tools to help deal with anxiety and stress as well as screening for mental health conditions, making prevention part of general well-being for all.

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Written by Johanna Scheutzow
Johanna Scheutzow is a Business Psychologist at Thrive mental wellbeing platform, with an MSc in Organisational Psychiatry and Psychology from King's College London.
Written by Johanna Scheutzow
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