Coping with Job Loss During the Holidays

Contributor: Leigh Bell, BA, writer for Eating Disorder Hope

Computer on at nightJob loss and unemployment is one of the most stressful things you can experience at any time of the year, but it’s especially troubling during the holidays. If you or a family member loses a job around this time, you need to weather the worries so stress doesn’t compromise your recovery.

Our jobs earn us a living, but they also provide us identity, structure, purpose, and meaning, to our lives according to Rosanna M. Conti, LAC, CSW, Certified School Counselor, M.A., M.Ed. [1]. When we lose a job, we lose these integral qualities the job gave us. We begin asking ourselves without this job who are we? What is my purpose?

The loss of structure and purpose is notably tough for someone who recently let go of an eating disorder, which is another way people find, albeit negatively, identity, structure, purpose and meaning. Job loss, however, provides a pause in life, a time to regroup and reassess your true career aspirations.

Take a Deep Breath

Give yourself some time to regroup but don’t wallow in self-pity, getting caught up in the “what-was or what-ifs,” says Sherrie Bourg Carter, author of “High-Octane Women: How Super Achievers Can Avoid Burnout.” “As hard as it may be to do, thinking of job loss as an opportunity moves you into the future. Thinking of it as a negative keeps you in the past” [2].

man and woman working in officeThe silver linings of unemployment during the holidays are more time to spend with your family; an opportunity to truly analyze your career aspirations and decide you may go a different direction; and, lastly, this season is ideal for networking at holiday gatherings and parties [3].

Holiday Stress

This is not to ignore the stress of job loss and how, if not handled healthfully, it could sabotage recovery. The holidays are, after all, the season of giving – buying, in other words. Americans open their pocketbooks widely during the winter holidays and, on average, individually spend $730 on gifts, decorations, food, etc., according to the National Retail Foundation’s Retail Insight Center.

If you’ve just lost your job, you probably want to lock your pocketbook. And it’s okay to spend far less this year. Take a deep breath, focus on your recovery, and figure what you can cut from the budget (yes, make a budget). Buy a smaller tree. Carefully choose a few presents to buy or make your gifts.

Conti suggests these other ways to reduce job-loss stress so you can enjoy the holidays and maintain recovery from an eating disorder:

  1. Establish realistic goals. You don’t have to attend every party.
  2. Limit drinking. Alcohol is a depressant, so it won’t help if you’re already feeling down.
  3. You don’t have to have the holiday spirit. It’s okay that this year is a difficult one.
  4. Practice altruism. Buy smaller, less expensive gifts and volunteer to help the unfortunate.
  5. Take care of yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone doing something revitalizing is enough to lift our spirits.
  6. Learn to say no. If there’s anything you don’t want to do, don’t do it.
  7. Talk to your family about your job loss. They are also affected, and they probably want to support you during this rough time.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you or your loved one experienced job loss as a result of disordered eating? How long did the unemployment last? What steps were taken to obtain employment?


[1]: Conti, R.M. (n.d.) Coping with job loss during the holidays [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from
[2]: Bourg Carter, S. (2014, November 24). How to Get Back in the Game After Job Loss. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
[3]: Lavine, L. (2014, December 12). How To Rebound From Job Loss During The Holidays. Retrieved October 19, 2015.

Leigh BellAbout the Author: Leigh Bell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in Creative Writing and French from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is a published author, journalist with 15 years of experience, and a recipient of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. Leigh is recovered from a near-fatal, decade-long battle with anorexia and the mother of three young, rambunctious children.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 11, 2015
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