I bumped into someone recently who for health reasons had to stop working (temporarily). Money is not too big an issue (husband works full time) and the health problem isn't so serious. I asked her how she was enjoying not working. She replied 'I don't like it, I'm struggling to feel that I have a purpose in life' :0
I was a little surprised. And then realised that for many people work is their calling, their raison d'etre, and to not work is indeed a loss of identity.
When I chose to have time out a few years ago from - well - life really, I very quickly adjusted to being unemployed. I embraced it with both hands and feet and felt all my Christmas's and holidays had come at once - which of course they kinda had. Now that I am back at full time (plus) work, I do wonder - 'what did I do with all that time??'. So here is a reflection of how I filled in a number of months (except for the months I spent traveling)
The bakers dozen tips for what to do when you are temporarily unemployed.
1) STOP. Just stop. Stop feeling the need to be, do, create, etc etc Let it all go. Stop believing that in order to be someone you have to be a 'productive' member of society. Whatever that might mean. Have a few days where you do absolutely nothing and practice letting go of the guilt that this might bring you. You are recovering / being in the moment / practising letting go - whatever label you choose to give it.
2) Rest. Honestly, there are years of untaken naps to catch up on. Go take them!
3) Explore. When I wasn't working I found refuge in a piece of forest that was about 30 mins drive from my home. I started going there twice a week and walking / running a trail there. It was invigorating and incredibly healing. That bush soaked up a lot of sweat and tears. Find somewhere near you that you can 'escape' to for timeout, exercise or to 'regroup' and re-energise.
4) Reconnect. Lost friends. Postcards you didn't send. Letters you wished you'd written. Coffee's you missed out on. Nieces and nephews you've hardly seen. Parents you hardly ever see. Go and spend time with these people. I did this a lot when I wasn't working. It was so good to spend time with family who I otherwise hardly ever see.
5) Meditate. Now is your time to book in that ten day retreat you've never had the time to do. Or go on another more extravagant type of retreat such as Gwingana in Australia. Otherwise, start a meditation practice at home. You have the time!
6) Retreat. (See above). Seven day yoga and massage retreat anyone?? (If you can't afford it - see if there is a space for volunteering, you can still reap some of the benefits.)
7) Find a hobby. Basket weaving, knitting, paper kite making (and flying), flower pressing, woodwork, gardening, bonsai, baking, cooking, photography, egg painting, painting, stamp collecting, jigsaw puzzling... you get the idea. (See this exhaustive list of hobbies here).
8) Spring clean. If you feel you need to do 'something productive'. Even if it's not spring. Those cupboards that you've been complaining about? The dust balls under the bed? The 'junk cupboard' that's too frightening to go near? One wee space at a time.
9) Cook. When I wasn't working, I spent a lot more time making wholesome delicious meals from scratch. I learned to enjoy being in the kitchen, no time pressure, music on, flour in my hair.
10) Plan the rest of your life. Where do you want to be in 2 years? Five years? Ten years? Do some goal setting. Find a life coach (that'll be me) or a counsellor, play around with ideas about your future. Plan trips, retirement, future jobs, future aspirations. There is nothing like planning for a future to help set you up with some sweet goals and steps on how to get there (and yes - you can start a vision board too!).
11) Study. I did a lot of online courses - in all sorts of things from climate change to the gut microbiome. It was a lot of fun, I connected with a lot of people all around the world (and some in my neighbourhood) and learned a lot of stuff - some of which helped shape my future desires for study and education. (See: Coursera or edX for fantastic university bases courses from around the world).
12) Plan a trip - planning trips can take a lot of time and energy. Finding the best deals, the best accommodation, working out where to go, how to get there. Go to the travel agent, pick up some real books and start planning that trip of a lifetime.
13) Journal. Write down your thoughts, your dreams, your book, your story. Write it for your children, your future grandchildren or simply for you to reflect on in years to come.
Go back to number 1) and 2). A lot.
PS. If you don't want to use the word 'unemployed' take a look at this list: 7 Words to Use in Place of "Unemployed"