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Coping with no work during the holidays

While most people love the holidays and celebrations, this time of year is stressful for many people and can be even more so for the unemployed.

"People who are unemployed know what it's like to be under stress. The holidays and increased expectations to do more and spend more just add to the stress levels for job seekers," said Elizabeth Hyland, 59, a job coach and author in Charlotte.

K.I.S.S., or Keep It Simple, Santa, is the way to cope, said Hyland, author of "Surviving the Unemployment Roller Coaster: From Stress to Success," a series of practical tips to help people through job loss and transitions.

Hyland, who turned to her new career as an author and job coach after she was laid off as a hospital chaplain, offers seminars to job seekers on ways to find new jobs and meaningful work.

Several of her seminars in the Charlotte area have been co-sponsored by different Presbyterian churches and the Presbytery of Charlotte, including a recent seminar at South Mecklenburg Presbyterian in Ballantyne.

"I advise people to keep all your favorite traditions, but simplify them," said Hyland, who lives in Harrisburg. "Most faith traditions celebrate bringing family and friends together during this time of year; the emphasis is not on spending money."

For those gatherings, whether they are with family and friends or business colleagues, remember to be prepared for the inevitable questions. She advises to stay away from negative people.

"If you're not working now and you're questioned about it, you can tell people that you are choosing to be happy and joyful and count your many blessing at this time of year," said Hyland. "You're healthy, you have food and a roof over your head."

She suggests talking to your family to set expectations for the holidays.

"Be sure to set clear limits," said Hyland. "Talk about what you can and cannot afford to do. Seek out free holiday activities like Christmas tree lightings, holiday concerts or parties with other families and friends."

Just because you have a credit card still available to you doesn't mean it's a good time to use it, said Hyland.

For those inevitable "bah humbug" days, Hyland advises that job seekers acknowledge the stress and "give yourself permission to feel bad that you don't have a job during the holidays."

"Get in touch with what's going on in your head," she said. "Then, find something that makes you feel a little bit better and do it. It may be calling a friend, meeting someone for coffee, going for a walk or volunteering. Lots of people and organizations need help right now, and there's no better way to feel good about yourself than helping others."

Hyland said she spent time during the holidays when she was unemployed writing thank-you notes to those who had been supportive of her during her job search. She also took time to make jewelry that she donated to an organization to give to children who were shopping for Christmas gifts for their parents.

"I thought about how much those children would like choosing a piece of jewelry that they could give their mother on Christmas Day," she said.

One important thing to remember, said Hyland, is to continue to search for jobs during the holidays.

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