The nation’s employment situation is precarious, at best.
In the media industry, alone, organizations like NPR, Buzzfeed and Vice have made significant cuts in their newsrooms. Lest we forget the tech layoffs of late 2022 and 2023. Large tech empires, such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter and Meta have, in one fell swoop, dismissed thousands of employees. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “Unemployment rate increased by 0.3 percentage point to 3.7 percent in May, and the number of unemployed persons rose by 440,000 to 6.1 million.” Conversely, the Bureau also reports that the nation bolstered the job market with 339,000 new positions in May. Perhaps things are on the up-and-up?
Still, if you find yourself amongst the millions of Americans who are unemployed, we see you. Life might be tough. While unemployment can adversely impact mental and physical health, leaving individuals to a depressing and bleak place. But, it doesn’t have to.
Enter, Dora Kamau.
Referring to herself as a “mindfulness artist,” Dora Kamau is a meditation teacher on the Headspace app. The former psychiatric nurse began her mindfulness practice in 2010. After leaving her career in nursing, she went on to work with Headspace in 2020. Kamau was the first Black woman to be a meditation instructor on the wellness platform.
For this instructor, meditation and mindfulness is a moment-to-moment practice. “I guess my response to life is a reflection of the power of the practice. I’m very mindful in the moments where this could be quite stressful for me, I may notice my heart is racing or I’m sweating and my mouth is dry. I have the tools and the practice to regulate myself, which has taken a really, really long time,” says Kamau.
For ESSENCE, Dora Kamau shares tips on how to shift one’s mindset during difficult situations, like unemployment.
Honor how you’re feeling. I think a lot of the times when you read about mindfulness, meditation, even gratitude, we can kind of put it on top and think that things will be better. But I think the antidote to that is to be human, to allow yourself to feel like you just lost your job, therefore you’re not thinking about your livelihood, your home, your bills, cars, food, all these different things. And sometimes it’s really difficult to be positive and to allow yourself to feel sad to grieve the loss of your job. Also, that loss of identity as well, that’s a part of the process. And I think when we hear certain wellness practices, we may bypass our experience because we’re just kind of putting it on top as a bandaid. But I think that return to humanness is so important.
Find practices that can allow you to attend to your whole self while you’re looking for a job. I think this is really, really essential. So whether that’s cultivating compassion, befriending yourself in those moments, trying to let go of judgment, life is uncertain. Things are always changing, and being able to be compassionate towards ourselves in those moments of uncertainty helps us to ride the waves of that change with much more grace.
Be in community. So many other people are experiencing the same thing. And when we’re isolated and by ourselves, it’s so easy to just think that it is just me. Use community as this place where you’re seeking validation or wanting to be seen, or just cultivating a sense of connection for the sake of cultivating a sense of connection. And if that doesn’t feel good, maybe you still need time to be by yourself, then also honoring that. But I find it most helpful when I’m able to see that I’m not the only one that’s struggling and what I’m going through. The other stuff, the perceptions, opinions, unsolicited advice, I’m good without. Be intentional about who you surround yourself with at this time.
Get back to the things that you love. If you have free time, now that you no longer have a job, find those things, find hobbies, find things that you can use to, again, tend to your emotional, spiritual, mental wellbeing in that transit transition time as well. Because the waiting for what’s going to happen next, that anticipation can create a lot of anxiety and stress. So filling your time with the things that fill you up and nourish you.
Start journaling. I’m a big journaler. I love to journal. I’ve been journaling since I was 10 years old. And all now because I meditate, I’ll write down all the different things that I’ve noticed about myself, about others, about the world that I’m in. But for me, I love journaling because it allows you to document the journey. I can go back and look at where I was five years ago from today, and I’m like, there’s so much growth. There’s so much that has evolved in my life, and it’s really beautiful to be able to reflect on that and to celebrate myself.
Start a meditation or mindfulness practice. I think people overlook the power of meditation and mindfulness, but again, it just becomes so second nature. It helps us to deal with our emotions, help us, helps us to deal with our thoughts as well, and to find a sense of peace in the chaos that we may be experiencing. If you’re new to meditation for three minutes, maybe watch the coming and going of the breath in your body. That’s one way to practice meditation. Mindfulness may look like placing a hand on your heart and just noticing what thoughts are present, what emotions are present, how your body feels, being able to offer yourself compassion.
Get some rest. I think rest is also a really important self-care practice. Whatever rest may look like to you, creative rest, spiritual rest, community, rest, but finding out what it is that you are needing and then attending to that and resting.
Be kind to yourself. In these moments when we’re in the middle of looking for a job or in a liminal split space in our careers, what are words that you could offer to a friend that was also in the same transition? And then offering those words to yourself because it’s so easy to be kind to other people, but to offer that to ourselves can be really tricky. And that’s a practice for me that I’ve been working on–how can I befriend myself in these moments? Because to be at war with myself just makes it so much more difficult.
Relax. I was reading Sisters of the Yams by Bell Hooks. It’s about self-care and self-discovery. There’s one quote that I have highlighted, the quote says, over 90% of what we worry about never happens. And I think that’s really important for people to remember that the incessant worrying anxiety over something that hasn’t happened yet or something that we’re waiting for to happen intensifies that feeling of uncertainty and fear. And sometimes it gives us a sense of control and comfort, “If I’m worrying, I feel like I’m doing something, I feel productive,” but it’s actually more harmful than it is beneficial.
Get clear on your values. I think when you’re in desperation and looking for a job, you’ll take anything and that will lead you into places that maybe you aren’t meant to be. So being able to have a clear set of values so that when you are applying for jobs, those values can lead you and guide you in the right direction instead of just being open to any and everything. And I think that’s the beauty of being unemployed. I have a friend right now that’s unemployed and she’s been doing so much inner work and so much self discovery and getting clear on what her values are so that her next employer is someone that’s more aligned. Intentions give us a sense of direction as well. If you don’t have an intention, it’s kind of like you’re willing to go any which way. So getting clear on how you want to feel and having daily practices that reinforce that feeling, which is what we talked about as well.
Don’t forget to network! Networking is really important. So putting yourself out there, not just sitting at home and waiting for the job to come to you, but being out there, the world and connecting with other people.