For a great number of people, being laid off (or made redundant for my European friends) is once of the scariest things that could happen to them. The uncertainty of how the bills will be paid and the loss of identity that accompanies one’s career makes this life event one of the top five stressors anyone can endure.

It can also be the best thing to ever happen to you.db rack

Think of your friends and colleagues that became victims of an economic slowdown. What do they do with all of this time? They spend time with their kids. They help their spouse around the house. They tackle all those projects that have been sitting in their ambition’s peripheral vision for months. And, they exercise more than ever.

A recent study shows that memberships at local health clubs are one of the last things that people cut back on when they are financially stressed. People that do not belong to a gym consider joining one. Even those newly liberated individuals who would never set foot in a wellness oriented facility invest more time running, doing yoga or home based activities.

Here are some things to think about if you find yourself with some with extra time on your hands to get fit:

  1. You got laid off, not named to the U.S. Olympic team. Please do not go from your 50 hours per week of sedentary office life to trying to run 10 miles every day. This also applies to people who could run 10 miles day at one point of their life. Consult a trainer, start slow, and set a goal of improving 10 percent a week.
  2. If you are going to make a change, make a CHANGE. You have a wonderful opportunity to remake your schedule, establish new priorities and make permanent, healthy lifestyle changes. So, don’t go half way. Review your exercise plan, diet, sleeping habits, alcohol intake, vices and addictions and your wellness goals. Do it all now since you will eventually be back into the daily grind.
  3. Network with the sweaty. Every person you meet is a potential new route to your next career. OK, maybe not the crazy guy with two tone hair and the weightlifting belt in the free weights area, but you never know. There is a direct correlation between high exercise commitment and education level. There also is a correlation between educated level and successful, working people. Introduce yourself to that person you have seen at the gym every day for the past two years. Repeat often.
  4. Make working out part of your job hunting routine. I think it helps people to exercise first and then go straight to a local coffee shop to do a couple of hours of research and contact potential employers. The workout charges you up and puts you in a frame of mind that has been pre-set for accomplishment.
  5. Don’t hide in your fitness routine. Just because you have extra time does not mean you should meander around the club for three hours. You should emphasize discipline and intensity. If the workout that used to take you an hour now lasts 90 minutes, you are avoiding the work you need to be doing to take that next step in your career.
  6. Have a slap down with your fridge. You are going to be home more than you are used to, and those snacks in the fridge are going to try and become your best friend. You don’t need friends like that, and they should not be hanging around your house. Take the time to get rid of foods that you know are bad for you and replace them with healthier choices.

Setbacks in a career happen to everyone. However, not everyone takes advantage of what you can do to make yourself healthier during a lull in your eventual rise to the top. What you do in the weeks that you have your life all to yourself can change your health for the rest of your life.