Lay-off Stress

While having lunch with an old friend a few months ago, we commiserated over the stress of life in its various forms. My friend, a long-time public health nurse and program manager, was highly stressed by the fact that she was soon going to have to tell several hard working members of the department that the budget-based decisions were going to dissolve the highly effective team they had worked so hard to form. She was concerned about those who would lose their job and also about those who would not. She was losing sleep and constantly worried about what was going to happen to those co-workers she valued so highly. She was also concerned about the ailing community members who needed services that were no longer going to be available. I realized that we don’t often think about t he health consequences suffered by the managers whose job involves giving their workers the bad news about a layoff.

Now I know (we all know) that lay-offs cause stress for many people in addition to the person being laid off. We are aware of the effects of layoffs on families and on others who will be affected by the decreased amount of money available to buy goods and services. J. loses his job and his wife and children must cancel summer trip to visit relatives because they can no longer afford to travel. In addition, buying groceries becomes a game of “What’s on Sale this Week?” to keep the spending down. The extra money given to Grandmother every month to supplement her social security check may no longer be available and she may have to give up her low rent apartment to come live with the family to help meet the mortgage payments with her small income. All are stressors that may lead to poor health consequences for many and the loss of health insurance may prevent some from seeking the medical help needed.

Small business owners are stressed by decreased spending and many small businesses have closed, unable to meet the constant demands of expenses when their income has lessened. Little money is being spent as actual layoffs and fear of layoffs become the reality of customers.

Another group of people affected by a layoff are the “survivors”, the people left behind in the workplace. They will need to grieve the loss of coworkers at the same time that the work they will be asked to do becomes more demanding than the heavy workload they are already bearing. The layoff “survivors” may also feel guilty because they were not laid off and then fearful that additional layoffs will affect them in the future. The research tells us that increased work demands sometime to lead to “cutting corners” and can result in injury and/or accidents. The fear of layoffs can cause unrelieved anxiety resulting in physical and emotional illness. More demand for health service and health services are on the budgetary chopping block.

The trend since the current economic downturn started last year has been a nearly parallel downturn in the physical and mental health of nearly all members of our community. What can we do to help our loved ones who are suffering because of the stress of actual or pending layoffs?

When someone is laid off from their job, there is a real sense of loss and sometimes a feeling of failure, whether or not the job loss is budget related or performance related. It is not uncommon for the person who has been laid off to delay telling their friends and family because of the loss of self-esteem. Once our loved one tell us about the loss, we can help them by reminding them of a few important pieces of information:

. Layoff is a loss and the process of grieving begins with all its predictable steps (shock and denial, anger, resistance, sadness and, finally, acceptance). Anticipate these feelings and allow yourself to go through the process.

. Begin your stress management plan immediately. Be sure you nourish yourself, sleep and get exercise. Think positive and use the extra time you now have to keep yourself healthy. Find patient assistance programs to help pay ongoing costs of medications.

. File for unemployment insurance if you are eligible. In California contact the Employment Development Department at to find out if you are eligible and to file your claim online. Help is available if you cannot do it yourself.

. Accept what you cannot change and take time to adjust to unemployment. Try to keep a positive attitude and remember that this is probably temporary. This is good time to assess your career path. Are you in job that is very satisfying? Or is it time to contact the Employment Developing Department and see what other training may be available to you for a career change.

. Use very community and networking source available to find a new job and to provide for your family. Search the internet for resources available in your community.

. American College of Nursing, in partnership with the Philippine Nurses Association of Northern California and the ABS-CBN Foundation (Sagip Kapamilya Program) is providing scholarships to individuals who may be interested in pursuing a career in Nursing. The Nurse Assistant certification Training Scholarship Program began on May 15th with 15 community members who will undergo theory, skills and clinical training tuition-free. Graduates of this program are eligible to become CNAs. They are working toward a brighter future and may choose to go on to become Licensed Vocational Nurses and the Registered Nurses. It is anticipated that this pilot program will be repeated in the Fall. Contact the ABS-CBN Foundation if you are interested at