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Mari Laari | 1.4.2020

How to cope with layoffs?

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The global pandemic situation is now clearly affecting the business of companies and as a result, many companies have had to start co-operation negotiations and layoffs. I have noticed that many companies prefer partial layoffs meaning that the employees are working part time and the rest of the time they are laid off. Depending on the industry layoffs can also be full time.

It is understandable that layoffs cause a lot of concern and stress for employees. For many, in addition to layoffs, the situation involves other changes, such as a complete shift to remote working, the presence of children at home during the day, and changes in daily routines due to various restrictions. For this reason, it is good to understand how we usually react to change and uncertain situations, and what usually helps to deal with them.

How do we typically react to changes

Many people recognize a particular pattern in their own reactions to change. We may initially oppose the change or not think about it if it is only a change that will take place in the future. On the other hand, this phase in a suddenly changed situation can be replaced by paralysis and difficulty in operating in a new situation.

The next step is usually to wake up to the reality, when stronger reactions such as anxiety due to uncertainty, fear of the future, or confusion about an unclear situation usually begin to show. It is good to understand these initial reactions so that we are not confused by the thoughts or feelings produced by our own minds, and we know how to give them enough time.

In a big change situation and uncertainty, it is important to notice what will not change

Each of us responds to uncertainty and change individually. It is good to ask yourself: How do I usually react in such situations of uncertainty? Have I ever been in a situation that is reminding this one somehow (layoff, unemployment, major change) and what has helped me then? These questions can help you to remind yourself about the right tools for you to cope with uncertainty. If you do not find the right tools in your memory, you can try the following.

What helps to adapt to change and insecurity or threat of boredom

In a big change situation and uncertainty, it is important to notice what will not change. At first, we can interpret that everything has changed, but after a moment of reflection, we usually start to notice things that are or might remain unchanged. These include your home, family, friends, eating habits, favorite series on Netflix, favorite music, or a mobile game you use to give yourself breaks from work. And what are the things that can happen, though they may need to be done or supported differently now? These may include physical activity, family rules, sleeping, family time and work routines (if work continues to some extent).

Creating awareness of permanent things in our lives reinforces a sense of control, which is a good tool to protect us against insecurity. You can also strengthen your sense of control by writing down things:
List of things that are in your own hands: What are the things I can decide for myself and what I can influence (although many things come from outside or are still uncertain)
– List of questions and thoughts that go through my mind: An uncertain situation creates many questions in our minds. Just getting things out of your own mind can help put them in the right proportions.

On the other hand, when major concerns arise, it may also be necessary to give yourself permission to worry (eg financial livelihood). It can also be useful to find out if someone can help answer these questions or if they are questions that nobody knows the answer to. Finding information helps to fight uncertainty, and sometimes finding out that there is no information can help as well.

“When your thoughts and feelings have a clear space during the day, they are not constantly trying to conquer your mind “

Time for worrying

The mind may now create negative thoughts and feelings more than it normally does. Our automatic thought may be that we need to get rid of these feelings and thoughts, but it is rarely possible. If we continuously set aside emotions and thoughts it will only delay their processing. When we do it long enough, our mind will begin to have a large pile of unprocessed thoughts and may be uncontrollably released as irritability, anxiety or rage for example. Because of this, there should be room for these feelings and thoughts in the middle of the day.

You can, for example, create a separate moment (30 minutes daily) for these worries. During this moment, you can deliberately dig into all of your worries, fears, and other negative emotions, and observe the thoughts and body sensations they evoke. You can list these thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper and then think if you can do something about the things that are triggering them (and if you can, make a plan of action) or if you should just let go of them (you can use images to help you with this, for example letting go of a helium ball that will rise in the air). This is like regulating the pressure in a boiler. When your thoughts and feelings have a clear space during the day, they are not constantly trying to conquer your mind.

How to act according to your values

People are usually happy and feel good when they live according to their own values. Crisis situations usually challenge this because it also challenges other normal operations. So it’s good to stop and observe if I live the way I really want to. What are the most important things to me? What kind of person do I want to be to myself and others? What are the things I want to do? Do I do these things? Do my daily activities reflect my own values ​​or have I started to live differently in the midst of crisis or change?

If your values ​​include caring for other people, the importance of family, caring for yourself, or maintaining social relationships, be sure to implement these (or whatever your values ​​are) in everyday life also now in this unusual situation. Some things require a new perspective, but when we have the will, we also find ways to include these in our everyday life (for example going out for a walk with a friend over the phone, virtual get togethers with friends of reformulating your family rules.

Through routines, we release energy for other thinking

Stick to your routines whether you have work or not

Many people recognize that they need routines in their daily lives. Through routines, we release energy for other thinking because the routines tell us when, what and how we should act and we don’t have to think about it very much. It is easy to forget your routines while we are laid off or working remotely the whole time. But I recommend that you take them back into everyday life or create new routines to suit the new situation: What time do I wake up in the morning? What is the first thing I do after waking up? Do I go outside during the day and what is a good time for this? When do I eat? When do I perform tasks that require focus and complicated thinking? When do I want to be social? When do I want to relax/rest/unwind and what are my best ways to do this? 


  1. Learn how to tolerate unpleasant emotions and don’t avoid them. This is a good opportunity to learn to know yourself better.
  2. Recognize things that don’t change and things you can affect
  3. Use the free time for things that are important to you, such as health, exercise, relationships, self-development. With a sufficiently small contribution.


Mari Laari

Mari Laari: Toimin Heltissä organisaatiopsykologina ja tarkastelen organisaatioita niiden kaikilla tasoilla. Kehittymisen avaimet voivat olla pienissä muutoksissa näillä eri tasoilla.