How to cope with joblessness

Mental health counselors like Don Durkee have been talking more about jobs and 401(k)s and less about “family-of-origin” issues when helping clients reduce stress in their lives.

Don Durkee

Don Durkee

It wasn’t long ago, Durkee said, that the lion’s share of the one-on-one conversations in his Sandy Springs office focused on a client’s aspirations for the future.

“Aspiration is choice and the exercise of power,” said Durkee, incoming president of the 2,800 member Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia.

But the economic crisis of the last few years knocked choice and power out of many workers’ lives.

“The issue became not growing, but surviving,” Durkee said. “The environment shifted and clients felt a loss of control. People are feeling powerless.”

What happens when they feel that way?

“They’ll wonder ‘what’s wrong with me,’” he said. “There are feelings of failure, even if the layoff is not caused by the person.”

Stress, anxiety, substance abuse, depression and suicide can rise as a result.

“Stress is what keeps therapists in business and, in the modern world, stress is a way of life,” Durkee, 68, said. “I’m getting more referrals from physicians … who can’t find an organic cause” for complaints, including sleeplessness and gastrointestinal discomfort.

Obsessive compulsive disorder also can increase, Durkee explained, because some people try to regain a sense of control in their lives by adopting a ritual, such as repeatedly checking locks in the house.

These days, men may be particularly vulnerable to stress — they’ve been laid off in greater numbers, which is compounded by the fact that many have gained much of their self-worth from their work.

“There is a widespread sense of shame [among men],” he said. “When they lose their job, they lose a part of themselves.”

This recession not only has affected the jobless, Durkee said, but also those who remain employed. Many are fearful of losing their jobs. To compensate, they work on holidays, weekends and vacations.

“There’s pressure to do more and more and more,” he said. Ironically, that could lead to burnout and eventual job loss.

What are the best ways to cope?

One key, Durkee said, is to for people to reduce unrealistic expectations of themselves and their situation.

To do that, he gets clients to talk about their expectations, as they try to come up with an appropriate blend of hope and realism. They also define a course of action for the job search, which often includes networking or volunteering.

The goal is to reduce uncertainty — the enemy of both the stock market and emotional health, Durkee said.

He also advises clients to “look for choices that create choices.” In other words, go back to school to improve your skills. Or leverage the transferable skills already developed in one job to land another job.

Finally, Durkee is a big believer in investing in your physical well-being through diet, exercise and rest.

“Keep your equipment in good working order,” he said. “Take 30 minutes a day and sit under a tree. Take time to be with yourself. It’s not the quantity of time [that matters], but the quality of time.”

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16 comments Add your comment

June 15th, 2010
8:58 am

you can work from home, its very easy to find out how :)


June 15th, 2010
9:16 am

I get tired of work at home misrepresentations. Whether it be licking envelopes. Making money with some search engine. Data entry. Or the job that replaced selling hairbrushes door to door. Multi level marketing. Please don’t encourage these people. Most of these are scams. Lick a tick sucking blood. There is no easy way.

June 15th, 2010
9:20 am

never said it was easy, just said it was easy to find out how :) … but you are correct, working from home is not for everyone!!


June 15th, 2010
9:35 am

Enjoyed this read and was so Right On for me. I have been unemployed for a very long time and it’s hard at times to stay motivated, but I have to keep pressing on. Thanks!


June 15th, 2010
9:52 am

I believe this recession has really changed people’s expectations about the future. Coming to terms that things may not get better economically for a very long time is extremely stressful.

I believe in keeping it simple. Keep yourself alive each day and consider that success.

walter hampton

June 15th, 2010
9:58 am

Enter your comments here

walter hampton

June 15th, 2010
10:06 am

I take it one day at a time. Stay active with a gym membership or just taking a long walk in a park. Talk about how you are feeling to close friends who understand what’s going on in you life. Stay away from negative people and places. Stay positive , somehow find a way to stay busy with something that you like to do. Don’t search everyday for a job . Take some time out from your job search. Go to a movie in the middle of the day. Also the atlanta area has great public libraries go there and read some magazines or check out the latest books or dvd’s. Keep your mind active. With prayer and staying positive you can move forward. Just take it one day at a time.


June 15th, 2010
10:38 am



June 15th, 2010
12:07 pm

Walter Hampton gave excellent advice. I was out work for a year and now have a position. It is hard to grasp now, and it was hard for me to understand it too, but you WILL find a job. Good luck and blessings to everyone!


June 15th, 2010
3:43 pm


June 15th, 2010
10:38 am

Yeah, we big government libs turned the crooks loose to make loans to anyone breathing without any supporting documentation on income. Big business goes berserk during Republican administrations and we have to come in and try to clean up the mess.

Hats off to Mr. Durkee. Sound advice indeed. The lack of jobs is sad and totally unnecessary. But we still have more than enough jobs to support our population. It will take a while to get the right people filling them. The key has to be on well paying jobs. We have too many that don’t fall into that category. Maybe we need to “redistribute the wealth” by changing our pay structure?


June 15th, 2010
4:17 pm

A Conservative. Listen to the pookfester. How does anyone have control of any aspect of your life. I mean does Nancy Pelosi brake for you when you drive? Think about that. Does Newt Gingrich check your trunk for drugs? Of course not. You just feel like you have a loss of control. Because you actually are not in the Government. So the people you VOTED for are in control. Of the Government. Not of anything else in your life.


June 19th, 2010
11:07 am

Personally, i do Yoga, go to the gym, go fishing, and get drunk every night. Its like vacation!

American Dream

June 19th, 2010
1:19 pm

I lost my job two years ago. Since then I have enjyed life more than before. I wake up ready to smell the roses and more eager to see the bright side of things than ever before. It has helped that I have found a good support group in my neighborhood. We meet three times a week in the basement of a local Catholic priest. It is fun hanging out my the guys. We talk, we pray, we enjoy each other’s company, and best of all we keep each other warm. I have discovered that my interests are broad and that my mind is ready for anything.


June 19th, 2010
1:41 pm

Accentuate the positive. Stay away from negative people and places. The biggest challenge for me is to say away from the negative place [my workplace] where negativity and depression runs rampant. Many blessings to all that are happy and employed, unhappy and employed [I fall into this category], and to those unemployed.

times up

July 14th, 2010
12:14 am

When my unemployment benefits run out in a few months, it will be time to start looking for a job. Until then, I’m enjoying the time off, doing little except watching TV and playing poker at night.


July 23rd, 2010
10:16 am

Go to the high-end and low-end stores and pick up every product possible and read the country
where it was manufactured. Then we learn the biggest lesson of life and the cardinal reason
of the worst recession we are faced with. Lous Dobbs of CNN wrote a book ten years back
“exporting America”, and now are seeing the fulfillment of his predictions. America became rich
due to manufacturing consumer goods; from pencil to automobiles for our own consumption and
for export. I grew up in India with, most everything from the U.S.A., and the rest from England.
I never saw a car made in Japan until I was 20.

Now, how much export we have and how much we consume produced in foreign countries,
especially from China. In 1972, when President Richard Nixon was landed in China, it was
on two wheels (bicycles) but now it is on four wheels and they took most of our blue collar

Our standard of living will be plummeting fast, and may go back to the stage of, how we lived
forty years back. In those days, Sunday was considered as a day of worship and family get
together. God is going to teach us a lesson that He controls the affairs of nations. Our idol of
“materialism” can’t save us at this point, and we were worshipping that idol without realizing it.