I was laid off recently. It was something that I both wanted – and welcomed. But now that it’s here, I’m struggling a bit. You can read my story here.

When you know that a major change is on the horizon, one which will upend your daily routines – a move, a break-up, an illness, leaving your job – it’s tempting to treat that event like the proverbial jumping off a precipice: there is a before and an after. And it’s knife-edged.

So you throw all of your energy into the “before” – in my case, finishing all those last minute tasks at work, saving files, going out for (lots of!) drinks with colleagues – and consciously put aside thinking about what comes next.

 
 

That’s all normal. After all, change is scary. It’s much easier to make yourself insanely busy with the build-up to the change than to contemplate the abyss of the “after.”

But when the other side of that precipice finally arrives – when “later” becomes “now” – you suddenly discover that you have all this time on your hands and no earthly idea what to do with it. (And yes, for the record, I did take a three-week vacation!)

It isn’t easy to make that adjustment. Here are five strategies that can help you ease into being laid off and make that time both fun and productive.

Tackle a Big Project on Your To Do List

Choosing a large project to focus on doesn’t mean it has to be something onerous or unpleasant. Pick something that you’ve been wanting to do for a while, but simply haven’t had time for. And then take control of that one thing.

I’m finally working my way through Julia Cameron’s brilliant book The Artist’s Way – a 12-week course (I’m doing the book version) that helps you unlock your creativity. I’ve been wanting to tackle this project for at least two years. And guess what? It not only provides a structure for my mornings, I’m also having a fantastic time unleashing my creative self.

Exercise

Something we should all do a lot of is exercise. We all know that exercise is great for various reasons including helping us to sleep better, cope with chronic disease and fend off depression. And that’s especially true for older adults.

However, it’s not just about exercising more regularly. This is an area with which you can experiment. I’ve been swimming for a couple of years now, and I’m still doing it regularly during this transition.

I’m also taking advantage of my membership at my local gym to try out all manner of new classes: Restorative Fitness, Box Fit, even Ballet! Trying something new can be exhilarating as well as a great learning experience.

Read

Reading is something else you can explore. I’ve long been a fan of reading long books in the summer when you have a bit more daylight and (hopefully!) a bit more time. This summer’s list has included the entire set of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan Novels as well as anything and everything by Donna Tartt.

For me, reading fiction expands my feel for voice and style and lets me bring that to my own writing. But it can do more than that. Reading can unlock the wisdom of others and help you to pursue your dreams.

Relax

Relaxing and taking a break from everything seems obvious, right? Even if you’re using some of these techniques to try and structure your down time, the void in your normal routine can be stressful.

I’ve long extolled the virtues of mindfulness in the morning. Lately, though, I’ve been experimenting with muscle relaxation exercises at night. They help me relax myself before I go to sleep so that I treat sleep less as a new playground for my anxiety and more as a respite from it.

Have One Guilty Pleasure

My guilty pleasure is watching Season 4 of Homeland. I know it’s not exactly kinky adult programming, but I’m really enjoying it.

Do you have more free time these days? What do you do with it? Have you ever had a block of “down time” – whether due to getting laid off or something else that changed in your life – and how did you cope? Please share your experiences below!

Delia LloydDelia Lloyd is an American writer based in London. Her writing has appeared in outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times and The Guardian. She blogs about adulthood at realdelia.com and is currently at work on a book about swimming and adulthood. Follow her on Twitter at @realdelia.

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