Three Tips for the Furloughed
I’ve been furloughed. And laid off.
Many people reading this may agree, you are left with a wild array of emotions and an endless list of questions when it happens to you.
But, as I connected with friends and former colleagues throughout 2020 who were going through it for the first time, I remembered some of the lessons I learned, and a few of the practical steps I took to bring a sense of balance back into my life.
This blog post could easily have included 50 things! I will focus on mental, physical, and fiscal health.
1. Reach Out
Professional golfer Freddie Couples had a great line about phone calls: “I don’t like answering the phone because there might be somebody on the other end.”
While I’m not that extreme, my friends know that I don’t enjoy talking on the phone. Meeting in person is my preference. Being furloughed, there were two reasons why I needed to get over that - fast. First, after the initial burst of “I heard what happened…” or “How are you doing?” calls arrive, it gets really quiet. And second, because of COVID-19, when would we visit people again?
So I made a deal with myself. One phone call a day. That’s it.
And then I was free to send an email or a text.
To hold myself accountable, I created a spreadsheet and everyday wrote down the three people I reached out to. One call. One email. One text. The only rule was it couldn’t be the same person for the same mode of communication.
This did a couple things which I frankly underestimated. There is a real confidence boost when you can look back at a completed task and say, wow, I did that. One month equaled 90 times reaching out to someone! And because of my rule, I was forced to eventually connect with those who I was initially reluctant to. You know who they are. The college friend you forgot to stay in touch with. The co-worker who moved away. I made “new” connections that I thought were gone forever.
2. Exercise Twice a Day
Waiting to hear back about your job or looking for a new one is stressful. But you still need a way to break a sweat and get your mind away from the million thoughts racing through it.
My gym closed (like everyone’s) and so I had to get creative in our new pandemic restricted world. Lying on the floor, I started bench pressing a decorative wine barrel. Stop laughing. Furniture works too - kitchen chairs, bar stools, end tables. Eventually a friend loaned me some dumbbells and my morning weight lifting routine returned to some kind of normalcy.
And then each afternoon, I walked for an hour outside. Once a week I made myself find a different trail or area to explore. New views are refreshing.
There is enough scientific proof that regular exercise is good for you. For me, I just felt better. I got a little lift twice a day.
3. Shop for Health Insurance
Cobra insurance is a convenient but extremely expensive way to continue with the same healthcare plan provided by your former employer. It’s a federal law and a worthwhile safety net, but you can pay up to ten times the amount you did when coverage was taken out of your paycheck.
I signed up years ago after I was laid off from my job. And I can attest - that bill was outrageous! I started shopping around for a better option.
My suggestion is to start with your current provider. I called United Healthcare and inquired about individual plans. Then I called Aetna. I asked my primary care physician for suggestions. Soon, I had a list of plans with much lower prices. Most require copies of recent medical records and a blood test. I picked one and felt like I gave myself a raise! That’s what it’s like when you reduce one of your biggest expenses by hundreds of dollars a month.
Everyone’s situation is different. You may have children or a pre-existing condition. But I’ve spoken to enough people to know that exploring this cost-cutting idea is worth your time.
My dad worked in sales his entire career and he would say this to my sister, brother, and me all the time: “There are three kinds of people in the world. Those who watch things happen. Those who wonder what happened. And those who make things happen.”
I’m not sure who gets credit for the original quote. We just thought it was from him.
Honestly, I was all three types, at different times, when I was unemployed. But every moment when I took the initiative and did something - my world got a little brighter.
Stay positive. Things get better.