Anyone who has been through the job hunting process, particularly for an extended period of time, will tell you that this can be a very challenging time, both physically and mentally. Job seekers can feel anxious, stressed and overwhelmed. After all, they are facing almost daily uncertainty and real or imagined rejection, as well as financial pressure. The best time to get a new job is when you already have one, but that may be a luxury many people, facing layoffs, downsizing or underemployment, just don’t have.
Techniques used by people who suffer from anxiety disorders — such as getting enough sleep, regular exercise or practicing mindfulness — can also help people who are going through a temporarily stressful and anxious period in their lives. While you’re going through the job hunting process, remember to maintain good eating, sleeping and exercise habits. Good health is vital during this time.
Here are a list of tips to follow to help reduce the stress when you’re looking for work:
Do a set amount of job searching every day so the process feels more manageable and less overwhelming. Keep a checklist of what needs to be done and work your way through the list. Checking off tasks will also help give you a sense of accomplishment, progress and control.
Revise your resume to best highlight your skills, experience and unique talent so you’ll feel more confident. Consider using a professional resume service if you have trouble ‘selling yourself.’ A professional resume and cover letter writer is experienced at presenting clients in the best possible light.
Ask a family member or friend to run you through a role-play interview and give feedback. Consider hiring a coach or taking a class on interviewing skills to help you improve your performance and feel more comfortable. Any practice will help put your mind at ease and give you more confidence.
‘People who are anxious tend to be more pessimistic than average,’ according to Psychology Today. Help to balance your thinking by doing some positive self-talk before a job interview: focus on why you would make a strong candidate for the role, what skills and experience you bring to the table and what you can do for the company, instead of allowing pessimistic thoughts to distort your thinking. ‘Put your stress in perspective and remember that you can’t control everything. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones,’ says Dr Mennin, the Director of Anxiety and Mood Services at Yale University, and a spokesperson for Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
Learn some mindfulness or meditation techniques, and practice them daily. ‘Mindfulness is a great skill for life in general, but when applying for jobs, people can be especially vulnerable to negative self-talk when they experience real or perceived rejection. Being able to notice a feeling without judgment and keep things in perspective can be really useful in a stressful job hunt,’ says Dr Mennin. HeadSpace is a popular app that teaches mindfulness and meditation techniques. One advantage of an app is that you can run through a short practice just before a job interview to reduce stress and gain clarity.
‘Eat well-balanced meals and keep energy-boosting snacks on hand. Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety,‘ says Dr Mennin.
When you’re stressed, your body needs more sleep than usual. A lack of sleep can lead to lower immune system function, fatigue, irritability and can actually reduce your body’s ability to deal with stress. Most adults need at least seven to eight hours sleep to be healthy, but you may need more.
‘Participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, stabilize mood and improve sleep and self-esteem. Exercise daily,’ recommends Dr. Mennin. Breathing exercises, yoga, chi kung, tai chi, and meditation have all been shown to manage stress and anxiety. Check out local schools and classes. If finances are tight, check out online sites that offer video classes for low monthly fees. Some examples are: Gaia.com and Yogaia.com (yoga) or Grokker.com (yoga, meditation and fitness).
Writing can be very cathartic, helping you to identify fears and stress triggers. Keep a journal to write down your thoughts on a daily basis about how you’re feeling and what issues are coming up for you as you go through the process of job hunting. The practice of Morning Pages, made popular by The Artist’s Way book, consists of free writing for 10 or 15 minutes every morning. Free writing is just what it sounds like; writing down whatever you’re thinking and whatever thoughts come into your head without editing or censoring them.
Let people close to you know what you’re going through and ask for help. Can they assist with a mock interview or proofread your resume and offer suggestions? Sometimes, just talking with a friend and sharing your feelings can make you feel calmer and supported. Be sure to check family and friend networks for possible job openings. This way, you may hear of a job by word of mouth before a company starts the hiring process. Companies will often pay employees a bonus for locating new hires and saving recruiting costs.
Maintaining or building a social support network will help alleviate stress. You can get involved in local community activities, volunteer or just join a group or a social activity in your area. Do you have a favorite hobby? Join a group dedicated to that activity. Even better if you can find a group that’s involved in a physical activity, like a walking or cycling group; that way you gain social support as well as motivation to exercise.
*Although many of these coping strategies are effective both for people who are experiencing a temporary stressful condition and people who have anxiety and depression disorders, such disorders are serious conditions and outside the scope of this post. If you feel you may suffer from a disorder, please speak with your doctor or a counselor. For more information about anxiety and depression disorders, visit https://adaa.org.