How Underemployment Can Impact Your Quality of Life

One of the things we sometimes neglect to think about when considering a career path is how important employment can be. While you might fight for your job as a way to provide for yourself and your family, there’s more to your work than the money you bring in.

In fact, unemployment and underemployment can have a huge impact on your quality of life. Until you are affected by these issues, you might not realize how important your job is.

Impacts of Underemployment and Unemployment

The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues compiled a list of impacts related to underemployment and unemployment. Some of the ways that these issues can affect people include the following:

  • Poorer mental health: People who are employed at stable jobs have better mental health than those who are unemployed, or even underemployed. Part of this has to do with the stress and anxiety that comes with being unable to make ends meet or feel like you are adequately providing for your family.
  • Relationship stress: Relationships with others can suffer as a result of unemployment and underemployment. Stress on life partners rises when you don’t have the ability to bring in income. Additionally, the feelings that are weighing you down can also affect the way you interact with your life partner, children and others. Your feelings of anxiety and irritability affect the way you treat others, and that can have a profound impact on your relationships.
  • Physical health issues: Not only can your employment situation affect your mental and emotional health, but it can also lead to physical health issues. Research has found links between reduced life expectancy and unemployment and underemployment. Additionally, alcoholism and other addictive behaviors can result from these situations as you try to self-medicate.

These issues can lead to lower life satisfaction, impacting your overall quality of life. While there might be days that you dislike your job, the reality is that if you were unemployed or underemployed, your quality of life might be much worse.

Why We Struggle with Underemployment

Part of the issue stems from the fact that, for many of us, our jobs define us. There is a good chance that a measure of your identity and feelings of self-worth are connected to your career. When you don’t have a job — when you can’t tell others what you do — it impacts your self-esteem.

Additionally, being underemployed can also be problematic. If you know that you are capable of more, and that you “deserve” to earn more money, but you are plodding away in a thankless job that isn’t remotely challenging, it’s easy to become depressed and dissatisfied. And, going back to our penchant as a society to define others by what they do for a living, you might be embarrassed by your job if you are underemployed.

All of this contributes to feelings of inadequacy that can lead to stress and anxiety, poison relationships and even manifest as physical symptoms.

How to Alleviate the Effects of Underemployment and Unemployment

While you do want to look for a new job if you are underemployed or unemployed, that isn’t the only solution to your problem. In fact, if you are struggling with the job search, it can make things worse. You need to engage in other strategies to help you alleviate some of the impacts of your situation.

One of the best things you can do is volunteer. Getting involved with others can help you feel useful and needed and take your mind off your situation. Find out where you can volunteer, whether you help at a food bank or tutor kids who need help with school. When you can feel good about what you do (even if it’s not your job) and are proud of what you can tell others about how you spend your time, it can improve your relationships and your quality of life.

Another strategy is to take care of yourself. Eat right and exercise. Get enough sleep. These are actions that can help you feel more mentally prepared for disappointment as well as help you combat the physical effects of underemployment. Take care of your health, and you will be in a better place altogether.

Spend quality time with your family. Talk to them about some of your struggles, and make it a point to have fun together — without spending money. You need to approach the situation as a team, and you need to make time for the good things in life. Cultivating gratitude and time with your family can help you combat some of the difficult emotional aspects of underemployment.

Finally, consider starting a side business. Being able to work for yourself and move forward can help you. Shift your mindset to acknowledge that your underemployment provides some income to support you while you begin your entrepreneurship journey. Look for ways to start your own business during this challenging time. It will give you something to do — and it might even grow into your new job.

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