How to Deal With Layoff-Related Stress

Woman stressed with possible layoff

Pictured: Woman stressed with possible layoff/Taylor Tieden for BioSpace

Dozens of biopharma layoffs in the past few months have left some employees worried about their jobs, as reflected in the latest Glassdoor Employee Confidence Index. The index measures the share of U.S. full- and part-time employees who report a positive six-month business outlook for their employer. In March, 38.6% of biopharma employees reported a favorable outlook, down from 41.1% in February. 

Of the 24 industries in the report, only three ranked lower than biopharma: retail and wholesale (37.9%), restaurants and food service (37.2%) and personal consumer services (37%). The overall share of employees reporting a positive six-month business outlook was 46.1%, up from 45.2% in February.  

As the report noted, “Employee confidence remains muted as employees remain concerned about job security and their employers’ growth prospects, but the modest improvement in March hopefully presages a turning point in sentiment.” However, the biopharma industry did not experience that modest improvement, and layoffs are continuing

If you’re among the employees worried about losing your job—or are dealing with other layoff-related stress—you may wonder how to cope with your concerns. To explore this issue, we spoke to Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and a board-certified psychiatrist. 

Sources of Layoff-Related Stress

When peers are laid off, employees feel anxious, Duckworth told BioSpace. He added that some people feel relieved they weren’t affected, leading to a sense of guilt. “Why wasn't this me? Why did this happen to that person, not to me?” 

Other stressors Duckworth cited include taking on more duties and worrying about getting laid off in the future, as that could result in lost income and health insurance coverage.  

Even if employees’ companies haven’t had layoffs, they could still experience stress if they see competitors downsize and wonder if their employers could be next. 

Taking Care of Yourself When Others Are Laid Off

To deal with layoff-related stress when people at your company or in your industry lose their jobs, there are three key steps you can take: practice self-care, use employer resources and contact a mental health professional, if needed. 

For self-care activities, Duckworth recommended doing what works for you. 

“If you've been working super hard to keep your job because you have a vibe that something's happening in your organization, you may forget that you like certain things,” he said. “Taking long walks with your dog, cooking for your spouse, coaching your kids’ softball games—those things are involved for you in self-care.” 

For additional self-care ideas, you can check out the National Institute of Mental Health's recommendations, which include eating healthy, regular meals and making sleep a priority.  

If you need mental health support, Duckworth recommended checking if your employer offers resources that could help, such as an employee assistance program (EAP). As part of a company’s benefits package, an EAP typically provides free short-term counseling. 

If you suspect you have symptoms of a specific mental health issue, Duckworth advised using Mental Health America’s screening tools, which include tests for anxiety and depression. The tools can help you determine if you have any warnings signs so you can seek a formal assessment and treatment.  

Should you decide to seek professional help, you can find providers through your health insurance company or primary care doctor. You can also search for therapists and psychiatrists on the Psychology Today website.  

Taking Care of Yourself If You Get Laid Off

Taking care of yourself is especially important if you get laid off. Duckworth noted that losing your job can be a real psychological hit that could make you feel helpless and even embarrassed.  

“There's usually some shame associated with layoffs,” he said. “So, you have to find a way to transcend that. This isn't really about you. This is about capitalism. That's how I think about it. And capitalism goes through cycles that are hard on people.” 

Duckworth noted that in America, it’s no longer the norm for employees to work for one company that takes care of them. In addition, he said, a lot of people are let go over the course of their careers. According to Zippia research, 40% of Americans have been laid off or terminated from a job at least once. 

“The employer and the employee have much more fluidity in how they think about their work experience,” Duckworth said. “So, I'd say try not to take it too personally.” 

If you’re struggling to cope with the stress of losing your job, you can contact a mental health professional for support. In fact, Duckworth recommended that if you have a history of mental health vulnerabilities, such as an anxiety disorder, depression or addiction, you should connect with a provider quickly given layoffs can activate those issues. If you no longer have health insurance or are losing it soon due to being let go, he advised checking into the health insurance options available in your state. You can start by visiting HealthCare.gov.    

Also, don’t forget about self-care activities that served you well in the past.  

“I just want to emphasize, those are all still there for you,” Duckworth said, “and while you're sorting your next role, you will have the time to practice them again.” 

Angela Gabriel is content manager, life sciences careers, at BioSpace. You can reach her at angela.gabriel@biospace.com and follow her on LinkedIn

Interested in more career insights? Subscribe to Career Insider to receive our quarterly life sciences job market reports, career advice and more. 

Back to news