By Shelley van der Westhuizenhead of financial well-being strategy & applied research at Alexander Forbes


Your health may not be the first thing you think about after being retrenched, but looking after yourself will give you a better chance of coping.

Scientists emphasise the importance of seven to eight hours of good quality sleep each night for good health, and if you’re feeling stressed or worried, your sleep could be affected, leading to ill health. Dr Matthew Walker, a leading sleep researcher, suggests writing down the things you are worried about before you go to sleep, helping you to put away your worries for the night. If you’re waking up feeling worried during the night, you could try doing this exercise then.

If you’ve been retrenched, you’re not alone. The impact of Covid-19 has extended beyond thousands of deaths; it has also resulted in job losses and permanent business closures. Feeling prepared or taking steps to feel more prepared will help you get through this difficult period. It is important to consider how prepared you feel to face the challenge of being retrenched.

Do you feel adequately prepared?

Do you know that you have people to rely on or are you unsure? Perhaps you’re feeling like you don’t know how you’re going to get through this.

How do you feel about your ability to cope financially?

Do you feel like you’re well prepared or have others to help you or maybe you don’t know if you’ll have enough to live on? Maybe you don’t see how you’re going to survive on the money you have.

How do you feel about your ability to find work?

You may feel like you’re not able to find another job. Perhaps you’re wondering if your skills are relevant. You might think that there’s a good chance of finding work that matches your skills and experience.

How do you feel about your health?

Perhaps it’s been a while since your last health check so you’re not sure you’re healthy, but you feel ok. You may be struggling with your health or be confident that you’re in good health.

How do you feel about your support system?

“What support system?”, you might think. I can only depend on myself. Maybe you’re wondering how people will react to your situation. You might be confident that you have people you can count on in challenging times.

How do you think you’ll cope with this situation?

You might not be able to see a way to get through it. You might be unsure if you’ll be ok. Perhaps you know you’ll be ok in the end.

Take a moment to think about your responses. Do you feel like you’re mostly ready to face the challenge of getting through this period in your life? Perhaps you were unsure about how you felt about most of the questions. Maybe you realise that you’re mostly feeling worried and unprepared.

Remember that being prepared means considering all the areas that affect your ability to cope. This means taking steps to be prepared emotionally, physically and socially as well as preparing yourself to find work and managing your money.

Take time now to make a list of areas you feel prepared in, those you’re uncertain about and things you’re worried about. Use your positive feelings about any strong points to help you cope with things you feel less prepared for. Build your confidence by working on your weaker areas and moving them onto your “I feel prepared” list.

Feeling unprepared

Knowing that you feel unprepared is an important first step. From here you can take steps to do something about it. Go back to the questions which caused you the most anxiety and, if necessary, get help to give you a boost. Help can take the form of:

  • finding good information about your areas of concern
  • getting support from others in a similar situation or from loved ones
  • using any help on offer from your employer during the retrenchment process or professional help.

Once you’re feeling more prepared, you can start on your plan to move forward. A financial adviser can assist with this.

Feeling uncertain?

Being uncertain makes it difficult to move forward effectively. Make it your goal to find answers to the questions you were unsure about. This will help you clear questions off your “I feel uncertain” list. Once you have all the answers, you’ll know if you feel mostly prepared or unprepared.

Feeling prepared?

You’re on your way to being on top of this unfortunate situation – you’re in a good position to make plans to move forward again. If you find yourself struggling, take time to find out why so that you can get the help you need. Maintain and build your confidence by making the most of your strong points.

Once you’ve tested your retrenchment readiness by thinking about these questions, you are ready to start planning to manage your money so that you have enough to live on while you are not working. A financial adviser can assist you to make decisions that are right for you during this time, based on your circumstances.

How you feel about being retrenched has a big impact on how you cope. If you feel prepared, you will be able to do what it takes to get through this time of discomfort. Invest time in building your confidence in each area that’s going to affect your progress. Being retrenched is a temporary setback although it can feel overwhelming. Taking the time to sort through your feelings to get to a state of being more prepared for the challenge you face is an essential step forward.


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