In the Meantime, Part 1

This post is part 1 of a 4-part series based on Melissa A. Fallen’s Lost & Found: From Losing Your Pulpit to Finding Your Passion. Look for part 2 next Tuesday.

When you are working, sometimes you find yourself wondering how to squeeze in your whole to-do list each day. You face various demands that pull you in all directions, and at the end of the day you may find yourself completely exhausted. If the pace of your last job was like this regularly and you were dealing with the stress of job-performance issues, the jolt to unemployment can feel like a drastic change of pace. You go from wondering how to get it all done to wondering how to fill the days and hours. Your friends are at work, and the rest of the world seems settled into a routine, but your to-do list might only consist of finding a job. You get to choose if you will fill these days with life-giving or soul-sucking activities.

Over the next 3 weeks we’ll look at a few of the different types of activities you might fill your time with, in addition to job hunting. I use examples from my own time of unemployment after serving as a minister, but I hope you won’t feel that the specifics of my circumstances make the activities we’re covering difficult for you to relate to. I was privileged to only be supporting myself and to be able to live off of a combination of savings, severance pay, and side jobs until I was able to enter a new career. I ate a lot of ramen and sandwiches, but I didn’t go hungry and I was never at risk of homelessness. I don’t expect people who are in those situations, or with families relying on their income, to approach their time while unemployed the way I did. Under different circumstances, I wouldn’t have either. For the purposes of this series, however, I am writing from my own experience, and I hope what I learned will be helpful to you in this new year.

Entertainment

Some of you may be more prone than others to turning to various forms of media for entertainment. You may find yourself lost in social media pages or refining and downloading your latest playlist. You may also check out the latest streaming shows you can binge-watch during your unemployment. While taking some downtime to relax and give your mind a break can be helpful to your overall health, be careful. Staying so connected to social media or binge-watching shows can gradually constrict your world. You can lose touch with the outside world and the vital connections you need to move forward. Consider setting some screentime limits for yourself and finding ways to stay active.

Physical Activity

Regular exercise became great therapy for me. I am part of a group fitness program, so meeting together every morning with a group of people of all different ages and backgrounds who had no connection to my previous employment was a breath of fresh air. I didn’t have to replay the stories. That time also gave me an identity as something more than my previous job. I was the person who ran with them and did push-ups with them, and for that hour, that is really all that mattered. My group also offered yoga twice a week, which was a great stress reliever. Exercise helped work off some of the grief and stress that built up each day.

If you are physically able, find some ways to get or stay active. Gym membership during this time may be cost prohibitive, but walking at a park, hiking a mountain, or canoeing a lake can often cost little to nothing. On a few particularly beautiful days, I would take my beverage of choice—sweet tea!—and go to the park. There I would sit and read a library book or walk around the lake a few times. I found my soul lifted a little more with some warm sunshine, a long walk, and a good book.

I also found that doing manual labor was a great help to me. At one point I helped paint a friend’s house. While I know it was a help to their family, it was also a help for me to feel a sense of accomplishment. At the end of the day, green walls turned yellow and a home took on a new look. I felt a sense of pride in what I had done.

The day after I lost my job, I went over to my parents’ house and washed and detailed my car. I know this may sound like a strange thing to do right after job loss, but I needed to stay active, so the first thing I did was something to take care of myself. I borrowed their vacuum and cleaners and spent the afternoon making my car the cleanest one in the county. I also used this time to declutter and give away a number of things. Sometimes the adrenaline has to go somewhere, so we might as well channel it into activities that are helpful to us.

Being active may look different for you, but find ways to release the energy building up inside of you. Accomplishing things like a clean car or a painted wall or a tidier house can give you positive energy.

Melissa Fallen is a native of Richmond, Virginia, where she has resided most of her life. She spends her free time enjoying the great outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and following her niece’s and nephews’ sports endeavors. She also enjoys coaching high school basketball. Melissa is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and received both her M.Div. and D.Min. from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. After working in both the local church and academia, she is currently serving as the pastor of Glen Allen Baptist Church. Her book Lost & Found: From Losing Your Pulpit to Finding Your Passion is available here.

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