COVID-19 unemployment pressures are very real. Don’t cheapen the struggle.

The following post I put together for ‘Small Biz Mental Health’. A great new volunteer-based initiative by people that understand the unique pressures of small business, and the toll it can take on our mental health. Please follow them on Facebook.

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When I was first asked to write this article, my initial idea was to come up with a piece that highlights some of the innovative ideas from both individuals and businesses during these challenging times that have not only saved them from financial ruin, but in fact brought them great success.

However, then I started to think about the real human side and the human cost of a situation that none of us asked for, none of us caused, and none of us are responsible for, yet we’re all suffering because of it.

That’s when I realised that painting a ‘rainbows and unicorns’ picture of all these fantastic successes that only a select few are achieving isn’t going to be particularly helpful or motivational for many people that are really hurting right now.

All these terms like ‘pivoting’ and ‘innovating’ don’t mean a lot when you’ve suddenly found yourself without an income and struggling to put food on the table for the first time in 20 years.

I’ve spoken with a lot of these people over the past few months, and that’s why it didn’t feel right to cheapen their struggle in any way by somehow giving the impression that they’ve failed, or that they’re only in the situation that they’re in because they didn’t do x, y or z.

The truth is that it breaks my heart. It really breaks my heart to see so many good, smart and hard-working people that have built a fantastic business or career through years of grit and determination have it all come crashing down overnight.

For anybody that is reading this and identifies with the above, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Myself, along with many others have been there before.

I know how it feels.

I’ve experienced the stresses, the guilt, the frustration and the feelings of hopelessness that all come with sudden (and sometimes prolonged) unemployment.

This is in no way meant to belittle anyone’s opinion, but I don’t think you can truly appreciate how it actually feels unless you’ve been there yourself. After a while, you realise that you can’t just shake off these feelings, you cannot ignore the negatives and just focus on the positives. The effect it has on your entire psyche sometimes just cripples you, and doesn’t allow you to do what you want to do.

I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve hit rock bottom in the past. 2012 and 2014 were both incredibly difficult years for me, and it took me a long time to fully recover.

When I look back on those times now through clear eyes and a clear mind, I barely recognise that person, and I wonder why they didn’t make the right decisions to get their life back on track sooner.

But…

But, then I realise that when you’re in the middle of a situation like this and feeling all the different pressures that are associated with it, you’re not yourself. And, sometimes you’re just not capable of making the decisions and taking the actions that at the time you know you should be.

If I can offer just one little bit of advice here it is that it’s ok to be feeling like you’re feeling. It’s completely understandable and completely justifiable.

If you can give yourself permission to feel that it’s ok to not be feeling ok, then you’re going to be ok (if that makes any sense?).

Everybody’s situation is different, and everybody approaches these things differently. As long as you don’t get too caught up in how you think you ‘should’ be feeling (be careful of falling into the ‘should trap’. It can eat you up inside) and instead focus on and accept how you ‘are’ feeling, then in my opinion you’re putting yourself on the right track to get through this.

I’m not a councilor or a psychologist or anything like that. I’m just a guy that’s been there and has a genuine empathy towards anyone that’s going through a similar situation.

If what I’ve written here has provided just a little guidance or encouragement to at least one person out there that’s doing it tough at the moment, then I feel that I’ve achieved something.

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