How to deal with retrenchment during Covid-19


Losing your job or more specifically, being retrenched during Covid-19 isn’t something you can control, unfortunately.

What you can control, however, is how you respond to the sudden loss of income.

Apart from feeling distressed, being retrenched might leave you wondering how you will pay your bills or even feed your family.


This – as you can imagine – is bound to take its toll on your physical and mental health.

We know that everyone responds differently to stressful situations, and that’s okay – we’re here to help, but first, let’s look at all the possible responses people may have to their retrenchment.

Contact the Mental Health Information Line at 0800 567 567 should you need help during this difficult time.

How this can affect you

Note that stress can manifest itself in the form of thoughts, feelings, behaviour, and physical health problems.


Initially, you will feel shocked but as time passes, you may also experience emotions ranging from embarrassment, anger, sadness, loneliness, frustration, and helplessness.

You might also find yourself crying often and, in some cases, experience frequent nightmares.


Continuously worrying about the loss of income as well as what the future holds often leads to forgetfulness, confusion, not being able to pay attention, and a loss of interest in things that once made you happy.

You could also start thinking about possible worst-case scenarios because of your retrenchment.


An increase in stress levels often leads to behavioural changes as well.

This could be in the form of Increased smoking, drinking or drug use, eating and sleeping more than usual or less than usual, or having problems with your relationships.

This is unfortunately not an effective way to deal with stress and often leads to long-term problems.

Physician Health

Prolonged bouts of stress can lead to the following symptoms:

An increased heart rate, sweaty hands, tightness in the chest and muscles, frequent headaches, upset stomach, difficulty breathing, dizziness, skin problems such as acne and/or rashes, constant fatigue yet not being able to sleep, and a general lack of energy could all be signs that the stress of losing your job is affecting your health.

Consider visiting your doctor and ask about possible treatment methods.

Healthy coping methods

Knowing how to deal with the stress of losing your job will make a big difference in your health and lifestyle.

You know yourself better than anyone so if you can anticipate how you will respond to the retrenchment, you will be better able to do something about it.

Here are some tips to help you manage your emotions and stress levels during this time.


Exercise is an excellent stress reliever. Make sure that you exercise at least three times a week for 40 - 60 minutes at a time.

You can go for a walk, swim, play a sport or whatever else you like.

Eat Healthily

If you do not eat properly, you will feel tired and not able to cope. See to it that you eat regularly and include meat dishes, plenty of vegetables and fruit, starches like mealie pap, dairy products like milk and cheese. Drink at least eight glasses of water per day.

See also: Immune-boosting recipes during Covid-19

Rest and sleep 

See to it that you get enough sleep. According to Sleep Foundation, this is how much sleep the following age groups need to function properly during the day.

  • School-aged children (6 to 13y): 9 to 11 hours
  • Teenagers (14 to 17y): 8 to 10 hours
  • Younger adults (18 to 25y): 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26 to 64): 7 to 9 hours

Treat yourself 

Treat yourself by watching your favourite tv shows, eating your favourite dishes, or getting in touch with friends or family. This is an especially IMPORTANT coping method.

Also, remember that treats don’t need to cost money: Have a hot bath, go on a picnic, take a nap - do whatever you regard as special.

Have a plan 

Make lists of the things you have to do for every day and make sure you have specific plans on how to work through the list.  

Organise tasks from most to least important, make sure job-hunting is at the top of the list, and tackle the tasks one at a time.

Creating these lists will help you to take control of your situation.

Talk to someone

Talking to other people can help you cope with your current situation and the emotions that accompany it; never isolate yourself.

Accept your current reality as temporary

Another challenge you face when dealing with retrenchment is accepting the situation.

Put the past behind you and accept that nothing will change what has happened to you.

You can, however, choose what will happen in the future. Remember, life is about changes. Living your life is coping with the changes.

Turn the negative into something good 

Lastly, as difficult as it may be, try to see the benefits of retrenchment.

Use the opportunity to move on to bigger and better things. Learn a new skill that is relevant and in-demand in the current job market.

If you have a professional or sought-after trade skill, consider teaching part-time at a local college. There are also entrepreneurship options.

In the end, remember that being unemployed isn’t permanent. There are job opportunities out there, but you will need to put in the effort to find one that suits you best.

The most important is to get active and do something about your future career.

We can help. Browse through the Careers Portal website to find your dream job 


Contact a Career Counsellor at the Department of Employment and Labour in your area to help you plan your next steps.