Five Ways that Unemployment Prepared Me for COVID-19 Quarantine

Katherine Snider
4 min readMar 17, 2020

I’ve been unemployed for six months, and I’m pretty sure my prospects for getting hired in the near future just dried up. Companies are wholly consumed with disaster recovery: remote employees, sick employees, laid off employees, evaporating sales, market crash, etc. My resume is less than a blip on anyone’s radar right now.

Having a schedule is reassuringly predictable and normal.

COVID-19 quarantine removes all possibility of in-person interviews anyway. With non-essential errands discouraged and possible risk of having been exposed to the virus, I can’t even get fingerprinted to work as an Enumerator for the 2020 Census.

And yet, other than the emotional stress of a world in more chaos than usual, life hasn’t changed much for me. As soon as I quit my last job, I established a routine that keeps me focused, productive, and sane, and that I’ve found to be applicable during quarantine as well. It’s one I’ve practiced when working from home as well.

If you’re having trouble adjusting to an abrupt lifestyle change because of C19, unemployment, or both, maybe some of my techniques will resonate with you.

Disclaimers: I left my job voluntarily and I’m not in danger of starving or losing my house. I do not have young kids at home. No one in my family is sick.

First, I set my alarm and get up at the same time every day, even on the weekend. My reasoning is optimistic: if I get hired next week, my sleep schedule is already tuned to going in to work. For the same reason, I go to bed around the same time every night, even on the weekend, and even when my husband laments having to stop a movie early. Structuring my days this way reminds me that I’m in charge and that I’m not in limbo, that even without an income in a global crisis, every day has a morning and a night, and tomorrow will always come. Having a schedule is reassuringly predictable and normal.

Second, I drink less caffeine. I love to sip a hot one throughout the morning, but I like to sleep through the night even more. We have lots to keep us lying in bed awake at night staring at the ceiling — why add fuel to the fire.

The benefits of movement and fresh air are subtle but profound.

Third, I don’t read job boards, or the news, in bed. Just don’t. 9–5 M-F is more than enough time for job searching and skills training. Any more than that, and I get burned out, demotivated, and depressed. Pressing harder than necessary reinforces insecurity and increases stress. I don’t get any job offers between 5pm and 9am anyway.

I also haven’t read any news in bed that couldn’t have waited until I got up in the morning, opened the blinds, fed the dog, and made my one cup of coffee. Certainly, I think about the news when I’m in bed, and it’s important to stay up to date now when things are changing so quickly, but not reading the news in bed leaves space to think about other things — about anything or nothing at all. I have gone to bed with the news in hand, and opened my eyes to the news first thing, and it wasn’t good for me or for my family. Setting a boundary for myself has been key.

Fourth, I exercise. If you could see me you’d know I can’t brag about this, but I do practice tai chi, go for walks, and do Classical Stretch workouts on DVD. It is very possible to get into the same rut at home that some of us do at work, sit for 8 hours, and end up feeling stuck. Going to the gym and to tai chi class is off limits now, but I have no reason to stop exercising, so I take breaks and walk around the house and go outside. Gotta do it. The benefits of movement and fresh air are subtle but profound.

Fifth, I watch my spending. I had to cut back on spending when I gave up my income, so avoiding stores now isn’t a shock to me. I’d already come to terms with my needs versus my wants, and learned to use what I have instead of always getting more. Granted, I’ve had more budget flexibility than many, but I’m already in the right mindset if I remain unemployed for a long time, or if we have shortages of goods in my area. I grew up in a home that sometimes used food stamps, and I certainly had to live within a tight budget in my college and early adult years. When this crisis is over, whether in a few months or a few years, I will continue to keep the long view in mind and will keep a standard of living that can weather the inevitable storms to come.

Finally, there have been many perks to being home all the time. Naps. More time with my family. More time with the dog. No traffic. No makeup or uncomfortable shoes. I still attend web conferences, but I can drop off any time without offending a co-worker or a boss. For me, being quarantined has the same perks. I don’t want this to last forever, but it’s not all bad.

Eventually the world will get back to normal and I will go back to work. I start a 6-month online class later this week that will hopefully lead to a new career. Until then, I plan to keep to my schedule, get plenty of sleep, and get moving every day. Nothing earth-shattering, but we’re going for stability now, right?



Katherine Snider

Writer, knitter, reader, tai chi student, mother, wife, friend