Managing Anxiety During the Job Search

Health Writer

When you have an anxiety disorder, living through a stressful time can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety. Looking for a job is one of those times. Usually the underlying reason that sends you out to interviews is stressful. You might have been laid off and are worried about finances, or maybe you don’t like your current job and dread going to work each day. You might feel you aren’t valued at work, have a boss that is a jerk, or have recently moved. All of these situations can cause you to feel worried or panicky. Add to that the stress of actually looking for work: Checking online job sites, networking, and going on interviews may leave you in a constant sense of anxiety.

The following are tips to help you reduce your anxiety levels when searching for a new job:

Continue your treatment for anxiety. If you are currently receiving treatment for anxiety, make sure you keep up with all your appointments. If you are feeling overwhelmed, talk with your doctor about the possibility of temporarily adjusting your medication, or with your therapist about scheduling some extra sessions to help you better manage your anxiety during the job search.

Structure your job search. If you aren’t currently working, wake up each morning at the same time as you would to go to work, have breakfast, get dressed, and get to work looking for a job. Write a to-do list based on what you want to accomplish. Following a routine each day will help you feel more grounded and focused and might help reduce your level of anxiety.

Plan creative and fun activities into your schedule. You don’t want to take an entire day or two and skip the job search and just have fun; however, you do want to make sure you find ways to relax and enjoy yourself. If you plan to spend the day sending out resumes and making calls, plan to meet friends for dinner after. Spend time each day doing something you enjoy.

Don’t get hung up on one particular job. Suppose you apply or interview for a job that you think is perfect. You might spend your time ruminating that this is the job for you and forgo continuing your search. You waste valuable job search time when you focus on only one job. Send the application or go for the interview, but then move on and keep applying. Should you be offered the job later, that is great, but if not, you squandered your time by not applying to other positions.

Don’t overthink an interview. Once an interview is over, you might think and rethink about everything that happened. You might wonder if there are hidden signals in what the interviewer said or didn’t say. Many times, it is impossible to know what an interviewer is thinking. Some people prefer to interview candidates without giving away any information on the next step of the process. Some are chatty. Keep in mind that you don’t know this person, and therefore you can’t interpret their behavior. Do your best, follow up with a thank-you note, and continue to apply for other positions.

Remember that you are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you. It might not seem that way during an interview, but it is important that you find a job that is right for you. During the interview, you want to show your talents and skills, but you also want to find out about the company and the culture within the company to see if it fits your needs.

Incorporate relaxation strategies into your daily routine. Exercise, go for a walk. Spend time each day meditating, doing yoga, or deep breathing. If you have a hobby that helps you relax, engage in it every day, even if for a short period of time. Staying relaxed will help you manage anxiety, reduce your chances of becoming depressed, and help you stay focused.

Practice what makes you anxious. If you dread the thought of an interview, ask friends or family to help by doing mock interviews with you. Search online for popular interview questions and practice how you would answer each question. While it is impossible to be completely prepared, as each interview is different, it helps to have some idea what to say.

Prepare for rejection. Most people who go through a job search have to face rejection. You aren’t going to get the first and only job you want. You are going to get turned down several times before you find the right job. Don’t take it personally. The decision probably wasn’t against you — it was for someone else. Maybe that person had more experience, or maybe the company promoted someone from within. Maybe an executive’s nephew got the job. Whatever the reason, keep in mind that the decision was made to hire the other person, not to reject you.

It’s easy to feel discouraged, especially if the job search drags on for weeks or months. If you tend to ruminate, you might sit for hours worrying about your finances. You might feel hopeless, believing that you will never find a job. Be on the lookout for red flags that indicate it is time for you to get help with your anxiety. These include feeling helpless or hopeless, insomnia or sleeping too much, eating too much or too little, avoiding social interaction with others, substance abuse, or being irritable for extended periods of time. If you notice these signs, talk with your doctor.

For more information on looking for a job when you have a medical condition:

Job Searching When You Are Depressed - Coping at Work

The Struggles of Finding a Job with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Top 8 Things to Do When Job Hunting With a Chronic Illness

Depressed and Unemployed: The Six Phases of Your Job Search

Finding and Succeeding at Employment With Schizophrenia

Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.