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How to Handle Layoff Anxiety

The fear of being laid off is an overwhelming and gut-wrenching feeling for many people in the workplace today. With many businesses attempting to cut their bottom line so that they can survive in hard times, the answer is almost always to start cuts by laying off employees.

For employees, especially those who have gone through a layoff before, just the words, “we have to make some cuts,” is enough to send them into panic mode. This can result in many things, from poor production to becoming physically ill due to anxiety.

Wondering how you can handle layoff anxiety in a world that has so much uncertainty? Keep reading to find out how.

What is Layoff Anxiety?

Layoff anxiety affects more people in the workplace than you may realize, especially those who have been through one in the past. It is the constant fear and dread that comes from not feeling as though you have job security.

For people who feel that their job is not 100% secure, it can be extremely difficult to feel positive and productive. This is because there is a constant ache in the pit of your stomach that tells you that your job can be eliminated at any time. 

In a world that has seen its ups and downs in recent years, it is often overwhelming to be productive in a job that could end at a moment’s notice. In many cases, this fear is exacerbated when the mumblings of budget cuts begin to float around the workplace.

While starting a new job can be an exciting journey, the fear in the back of your mind can easily take away any joy you may feel. When this happens, most people, instead of feeling joy, feel stressed and sometimes even sick every single day.

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Layoff anxiety can have physical and emotional effects. 

When it comes to layoff anxiety, many emotional effects can occur due to the constant fear of the unknown. For most people, that fear is not only real but can be debilitating at times.

Keep in mind that depending on the individual, the reaction to a possible layoff can affect people in different ways. This is because for some, a layoff may be the kick in the pants they need, while others feel the weight of the layoff more emotionally.

Here are some of the most common emotional effects that layoff anxiety can cause:

Stress and Anxiety 

The stress is often wrapped up in the fear of what comes next. People often worry about how they will feed themselves and their families, pay bills, and keep a roof over their heads. This can cause real feelings of stress and anxiety.

Decreased Self-Esteem 

While in most cases, a layoff is not directly related to job performance, it can still have a negative connotation. This often translates to feelings of not being good enough which wreaks havoc on your self-esteem.


The feeling of shock is often associated with not seeing the layoff coming due to employers not being transparent about budget cuts. Even in situations where your job is not guaranteed, you can feel a sense of shock when a layoff happens to you.


Oftentimes, people who get laid off, even when it is not due to their job performance, feel a deep sense of shame. This can often lead to them not wanting to tell their family or friends about it for fear of being judged.


Whether you saw the layoff coming or not, the action can cause you to feel sad, angry, and stressed, which in turn can lead to depression. In some people, depression can be so intense that they cannot even think about searching for a new job.

Decreased Productivity

Even if you have not gotten the ax yet, the thought and fear of being laid off can be so overwhelming that it begins to affect your productivity. In many cases, this decrease in productivity can lead managers to choose you to cut.

The bottom line is that layoff anxiety can produce many negative feelings and emotions that can be detrimental to the overall psyche. This often leads to the thought of not putting in your best effort for fear of being let go.

Physical Effects of Layoff Anxiety

In addition to the emotional reactions to layoff anxiety, many people often experience physical effects as well. These are often brought on by the constant sense of dread which causes most of the above-listed emotional effects.

When you find yourself under the stress and fear that you may be laid off at any moment, it can cause major effects on your physical well-being. Whether you have been laid off before or not, the mere mention of budget cuts can send you into panic mode, which then leads to physical reactions.

Here are the most common physical effects of layoff anxiety you may experience:

  • Headaches are one of the most common effects individuals experience when they have layoff anxiety. The constant fear and stress day in and day out often lead to headaches that can go from bad to worse.
  • Lack of sleep. When you have this constant dread of going to work the next day due to not knowing what may happen, it often keeps you from getting the sleep you need. Nighttime is typically the time when your body relaxes enough to rest, however, the thoughts and worries from the day and days ahead can be overwhelming.
  • Fatigue is often directly related to the lack of sleep you may be experiencing due to the stress and anxiety you are feeling. It is difficult to get enough rest when you cannot stop thinking about the possibility of losing your job, which can cause fatigue.
  • Nausea often occurs when you stress so much that it disrupts your normal eating habits daily. It is that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that is constantly there day in and day out.
  • Weight loss or gain can also affect many people who have layoff anxiety. This is due to the fear of disrupting your eating patterns which can cause you to either eat more to cope or not eat at all, which can lead to either a gain or loss in body weight.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it shows you the most common physical effects of layoff anxiety that happen to many people. 

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There are many ways to handle layoff anxiety. 

How to Handle Layoff Anxiety

Whether you are experiencing a layoff currently or just have the nagging feeling of an impending one, they can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health. Because of this, you need to find healthy ways to handle your layoff anxiety.

Check out these recommended ways to handle your layoff anxiety:

1. Take a Pause

Whether you have been laid off or are living in fear of the possibility, you need to take a step back and breathe. Both of these situations can cause you to spin out of control if you allow it.

If you have been laid off, taking a pause can help you to gain perspective on what you should do next. Whether you begin the job hunt immediately or not, it is highly recommended that you at least take a day or two to regroup and think about your next move.

If you are living in the fear of a possible layoff, you should also take a step back to evaluate what is happening. Is there a real possibility of layoffs or are you just letting the fear take over? Taking a minute can help you get a better perspective on what is going on.

2. Keep Moving Forward

For many people, losing a job can be detrimental to their well-being and can cause them to completely shut down. It is important, however, to keep your eyes ahead and continue to make forward-moving actions.

Many people who are working actively but live with the anxiety of being laid off often slow their production down. This is mostly due to not wanting to put their best foot forward if they are just going to be laid off. It is also important to keep up with your production so that you do not give your managers a reason to let you go.

3. Have a Back-Up Plan

During times of uncertainty, the workplace can go from feeling secure to not so secure in a matter of days. When this happens, you may find yourself without the source of income that you and your family desperately need.

In recent years, it is not uncommon for most individuals to have a backup plan or a side gig that keeps them moving forward. If you do happen to find yourself being laid off, having this extra income may be your saving grace.

4. Keep Communication Lines Open

For some people, being laid off can cause them to feel shame. This shame comes from the feeling that they actively did something wrong and caused themselves to be let go, even if it is not true.

This feeling of shame can keep you from wanting to self-disclose to your family and friends for fear of their judgment. However, keeping the lines of communication open and honest can help you get the support you need to move forward.

5. Remember Your Self-Care

In times of upheaval, you must take care of yourself both emotionally and physically. This means taking the time to fit into a self-care routine regularly, depending on what suits you best.

Self-care is the one thing that can keep you going during hard times and should be done as much as possible. Your self-care routine can include exercise, eating right, getting enough sleep, meditation, reading, or anything else that gives you joy.

How Does Layoff Anxiety Affect Your Work Production?

When you have the constant fear of being laid off, this can often affect the way you do your job daily. This typically translates into not being as productive as you should be to get your job completely done.

Employers are typically keen on picking up on the signs of lost interest and productivity. If they are currently looking for ways to cut the budget, your lack of production may give them the motivation they need to let you go.

How Can Employers Prevent Layoff Anxiety in Their Employees?

While much of the responsibility of layoff anxiety falls on the employee, there are some things employers can do to either prevent or lessen the fear. In most cases, people need to feel that they are important enough to have transparency in the workplace.

Whether there is a current need to reduce the company budget or not, being open and honest with employees can be beneficial. When employees live in constant fear of layoff anxiety, productivity suffers, and therefore, so does the bottom line.

One of the best things employers can do is to be as transparent as possible when it comes to the possibility of budget cuts. This is especially true when those cuts mean that some jobs are at risk of being eliminated.

Although you may not want to increase the fear in employees by telling them that there are going to be layoffs, some transparency could help. As an employer, you should let them know that you are working to make budget cuts and what you are looking to do, including whether or not layoffs are a part of that.

The bottom line is that while you do not want to invoke more fear into employees, it may be best if you let them know that layoffs are a possibility. While they may still have the anxiety, at least they will not have the shock when it happens to them.

Ready to Keep Layoff Anxiety from Ruling Your Life?

Now that you know some healthy ways that you can handle layoff anxiety, you should have a better grasp on the situation if it happens to you. Keep in mind that the one thing that many people do to reduce their anxiety regularly is to create various routines, such as a morning ritual to keep anxiety at a minimum.

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