Long-Term Unemployment Can Affect a Person’s Health
If you’ve been facing long-term unemployment, you may be experiencing emotional as well as financial effects of job loss. Realizing that feeling is normal will help you get through this difficult time. By Wyatt Myers | Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
Over the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend, I read several articles on the effect of long-term unemployment to a person’s health and well-being. Like grief, being unemployed is similar to the loss of someone you love and care about. The first three weeks I spent dressed in my pajamas in front of the computer, feeling both ashamed and angry at my current situation.
Emotions Can Fuel Passion
Perusing the shelves of the library close to my house I discovered “Healing After Job Loss” by Alan D. Wolfelt Ph.D. Two weeks later I finished the book and discovered the frustration, low self-esteem, and anger I was feeling was similar to the Five Stages of Grief and was a healthy method of dealing with the loss. Though it was not the death of a loved one, the stages of recovery were the same.
Then I made a decision to share my story. Posting on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn I turned my mindset around and used those emotions to fuel my desire to start writing again. I sat down one morning, downloaded WordPress and over a three-day period I created my first blog.
How Boxing Gave Me a Different View of My Situation
In my first post, I mentioned I attend a Boxfit class at my gym, Charlotte Athletic Club, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Through the drills, sweat, and encouragement I received from the other participants and Seky, my instructor, the perception of my current situation changed. I no longer felt the anger, the low self-esteem, and most of all shame. Unemployment carries stigmata of being less. The emotions that I held onto did not matter. I slipped on my boxing gloves, stepped in front of the heavy bag and with my first punch those negative emotions were left behind.
This Too Will Pass – Nothing is Forever
Here are the five ways I learned that this part of my journey was temporary and how Boxing helped me through it.
The Sense of Community
Class size varies depending on the day and the season. Tuesdays attract at least six to eight participants while Thursday night’s attendance is much lower. The club is much slower generally Thursday evenings, some believe that it is the first night of the weekend. The core members who attend no matter the night or season have become a great group of friends. Each knows one another by name and some details of our lives outside of the class. Work is never the topic of conversation. Once the gloves are put on we are equal. I look forward to training with each of them and whenever I am unable to attend a class I truly miss it.
The class is twice a week for 45 minutes long. Hitting the heavy bag and sparring with fellow classmates gives me energy, burns calories, and reduces the stress that is faced each day while searching for employment. It also forces me to use my brain. Not going to work, interacting with customers and employees, solving problems, reduces the feeling of accomplishment through the daily tasks we take for granted.
Growing up I was not good at sports. At the age of two, I was told by my ophthalmologist that I would never be able to hit a ball or shoot a gun because I was born with Ocular Weakness. This haunted me all through my younger and teenage years. When I completed the first boxing class five years ago, I discovered a sport that I was good at and enjoyed. I never thought I would be able to participate in any organized sports because of the condition of my eyes. Several surgeries later I do not need glasses and Boxing has given me the confidence that I can be good at a sport.
On the average, I burn 800+ calories, sometimes more depending on the intensity of the drills and how many laps we run during the warm up. Combined with keeping a food journal through MyFitnessPal, and tracking steps with my Fitbit, I have lost weight. I look and feel better, have more energy, and went down a pant size.
The one thing that I had a difficult time adapting to was not having a schedule. So I created one. Each Sunday I open up Google Calendar on my desktop and design a weekly schedule. I set blocks of time aside for exercise, social media, reading emails, and searching and applying for jobs. It gives me a sense of comfort knowing that I can rely on having my Boxing class every Tuesday and Thursday. The calendar sends alerts to my smart phone and desktop. I accomplish more each day.
Boxing has helped me deal with low self-esteem, kept me organized and on task, and has given me purpose. Exercise has always helped me alleviate stress in my life. I am fortunate to have found an outlet through Boxing, that I am good at and enjoy.
Finding employment is the long-term goal. It is essential to pay attention to both our physical and mental health. Find something that you enjoy, a hobby, exercise, volunteering. Without Boxing, I would still be sitting in front of my computer dressed in my pajamas.