The first one or two weeks of unemployment might feel like a holiday: you finally have some time to rest, to catch up on your favorite TV show, to do more sports. After this honeymoon phase is over though, you realize you cannot tell the difference between weekdays and workdays. There is a lack of motivation, maybe even a slight depression that your last job did not work out. This is even more enhanced if you find yourself in an entirely new country where you do not even speak the language!
How do you avoid freaking out? What is the best way to get out of the pit of self-pity? How can you find structure again while making sure you use your time as well as possible?
The answer in one word: journaling!
What is journaling?
Journaling is a tool that can help you organize your thoughts about the past, present, and the future. It is a great way of self-reflecting and rediscovering structure during times when many constants of your life, such as a steady job or a familiar environment, are lost.
While there are existing journal structures you can follow, such as the Bullet Journal or Morning Pages, how you want to write your journal and what you want to focus on is completely up to you. Did you just move to Amsterdam and you miss your home country? Journal! Have you lost a job and you feel outraged and insecure about what to do next? Journal!
What are the benefits of journaling?
If you have recently quit a position which did not fit you because of a terrible boss or unfitting company culture, or if you were unexpectedly laid off, you may have some negative feelings left towards your ex-employer. It is incredibly important not to bottle up these feelings. While you start applying for new positions, we would suggest writing down your feelings first to make sure you move on with all the weight off your shoulders! You will feel much lighter having found closure and will have more energy and focus to put into your job applications and new position.
Journaling can also help with the job hunt itself. Many people say that looking for a job is basically a full-time job by itself – and they are not wrong! Keeping track of application deadlines, cover letters to prepare or following up with recruiters is not an easy task. To make it easier, keep a journal listing everything you want to do, including reminders and deadlines. This way you can find a better structure and will not have to worry about forgetting anything.
Lastly, journaling can also help with self-improvement. Being unemployed is the perfect time for self-reflection, so take some time and ask yourself:
- What have I learned during my last job?
- How has it shaped me as a person?
- How will this influence my next career moves?
- What do I want to achieve next?
Writing down these questions and their answers can aid you in organizing your thoughts and give you confidence.
Where do I even begin?
This all sounds great, but how to begin? We have collected a few tips to get you started:
1. Write in your journal always at the same time
Picking up any new habit is tricky but doing it at the same time each day makes it much easier. If you are a morning person then it could be a good idea to dedicate 30 minutes to journaling while having your first coffee of the day. If you are a night owl, take time to journal just before going to bed to sum up your day and prepare for tomorrow.
2. Keep journaling for at least 1 month
Patience is also necessary when trying something new. Journaling may not revolutionize your life in a week, so it may seem like a waste of time. While journaling is not for everyone, we suggest that you try doing it at least for a whole month before quitting, as most of its benefits are long-term so you may need some time to realize them! If after the first month you still don’t enjoy it, then just stop and take away whatever you have learned during these weeks.
3. Take it step-by-step
We have discussed various ways you can benefit from journaling, including coping with unsettled emotions and job hunting- but there is no need to write about everything every day! You could try questions of self-reflection in the first week and once you feel like that’s done, move onto job hunting – or vice versa. Remember that you are doing this to help yourself and not to stress yourself out!
4. Review what you have written previously
At the end of each week and each month, look through your previous notes. Do you see any recurring patterns? Did your feelings change about anything? Have you achieved any of your goals? Reviewing what you have written can help to identify what your priorities are. For example, if you write, “I wish I could work as a chef even though I am in marketing,” 7 out of 10 days, then it might be time to think about how to become a chef!
5. Experiment with hand-written and digital
We are used to being glued to our keyboards and screens, but it doesn’t mean your journal needs to be digital as well! Writing by hand is somewhat slower and makes very different parts of your brain work, both of which can help to process feelings and ideas. Try journaling in a notebook, where you could even draw small sketches once you run out of words!
Journaling can be incredibly helpful if you feel overwhelmed. We hope our tips will motivate you to try it and help you to thrive!
If you need any further help besides journaling, we offer free coaching to unemployed individuals with a valid working visa in the Netherlands. Our volunteer coaches provide three to five sessions and can do it virtually. Sign up here!