Stress-busting for success: 6 self-care secrets every job seeker needs
May 01, 2023
From the excitement of discovering new opportunities to the anxiety of waiting for that elusive job offer, the job hunt is full of ups and downs. As Mental Health Awareness Month unfolds, now is the perfect time to remember that self-care plays a pivotal role in managing stress and maintaining mental well-being during the job search process. In an increasingly competitive job market, job seekers often overlook the importance of caring for themselves, focusing solely on their professional goals. However, the key to long-term success and resilience lies in striking a balance between ambition and self-compassion.
To help you incorporate a healthy amount of self-care into your job search, we’re sharing six essential strategies for stressed-out job hunters. Not only will these tips help you stay sane during the job search process, but they’ll also contribute to your overall and long-term well-being. These strategies will lay the groundwork for a healthier, more balanced approach to your professional and personal life. So, strap in and get ready to discover how self-care can transform your job search experience and pave the way to a more fulfilling career.
Self-care strategy 1: Establishing a balanced daily routine
A well-balanced daily routine plays a significant role in managing stress during the job search process. Maintaining a structured schedule helps job seekers stay organized, focused, and in control of their time, thus reducing feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. Donna Sweidan, a career, health, and wellness coach insists that routines are a critical part of life, especially on the job hunt. “It’s really hard to make that transition from having a structure and going to work [or school] every day to having no structure,” she shares. “If you don’t have a routine, it’s easy for the days to pass by quickly and before you know it, you know, multiple months have gone by.”
A balanced routine also ensures that job hunters allocate enough time for self-care, relaxation, and personal interests, which are essential for mental well-being.
Importance of maintaining a structured schedule
Sticking to a structured schedule allows job seekers to effectively manage their time and energy. By allocating specific hours for job search activities, they can avoid procrastination and maintain momentum in their efforts. “You need to recreate a structure for yourself,” says Sweidan. Additionally, having a consistent routine fosters a sense of stability and predictability, which can alleviate feelings of stress and uncertainty.
Sweidan explains that the extra time you have while on the job hunt can allow you to prioritize your mental health in a way that may not have been possible before. “If [the job hunter] didn’t have time to take care of their health while they were working, now they can implement that,” she shares.
Tips for creating a balanced routine
- Prioritize essential tasks: Begin by identifying the most important job search tasks, such as updating your resume, searching for job listings, and networking. Allocate specific time blocks for these activities to ensure you stay on track.
- Schedule breaks and leisure time: Make sure to include regular breaks and leisure activities in your daily routine. Engage in hobbies, exercise, or socialize with friends and family to maintain a healthy work-life balance during your job search.
- Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between job search activities and personal time. Avoid working on job applications during designated relaxation periods, and try to create a dedicated workspace to minimize distractions.
- Be flexible: While maintaining a structured schedule is important, flexibility and adaptability are also key. Be prepared to adjust your routine as needed to accommodate unforeseen circumstances or changes in your job search strategy.
By establishing a balanced daily routine, job seekers can effectively manage their time and energy, reducing stress and promoting overall well-being throughout the job search process.
Self-care strategy 2: Prioritizing physical health
A healthy body is essential for maintaining a healthy mind. By prioritizing physical health during the job search process, job hunters can better manage stress and improve their overall mental well-being. Focusing on exercise, nutrition, and sleep can significantly impact stress levels and help maintain a positive outlook during the job hunt.
Sweidan shares that you can double-up on wins in your job search by combining prioritizing your physical health and giving back to your community. She suggests volunteering at a local animal shelter, for example. Rescue dogs can benefit from being walked, and job seekers can benefit from the exercise and getting out of the house. “Being with animals can be very comforting as well,” Sweidan shares. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol—a stress-related hormone. It sounds like a win-win to us!
Moving your body can help alleviate the stress that comes with the job hunt. Sweidan is a big advocate for yoga and encourages job seekers to give it a go. “Not only does it have a physical element, but it has an emotional mental element as well,” she shares.
To make the most of the benefits of physical movement, job seekers should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week. “There are so many things one can do and they don’t need to cost money,” Sweidan shares. “I like to say walk, hike, dance, downward dog!” These activities can be easily incorporated into a daily routine and provide much-needed stress relief.
Self-care strategy 3: Building a support network
Navigating the job search process can be an isolating and challenging experience, and can sometimes bring with it feelings of shame. Building a strong support network can help relieve stress and provide job seekers with the emotional and practical assistance they need to stay resilient. “It’s really critical that you see that you’re not alone,” Sweidan says. “Get the support you need from others. You cannot do it alone.”
The value of connecting with family and friends
Family and friends play a crucial role in providing emotional support, encouragement, and understanding during the job search process. Regularly connecting with loved ones can help job seekers maintain perspective, share their experiences, and receive advice or guidance. When doing this, Sweidan recommends asking for exactly what you want. “You have to be very specific about your needs, what you’re looking for,” she says.
Schedule time for phone calls, video chats, or in-person meetups with close friends and family members to maintain strong connections and receive the emotional support needed to weather the ups and downs of job hunting. Even if your family and friends can’t provide you with the solutions you’re looking for, Sweidan insists on the fact that sharing your worries will allow you to help them help you.
Finding and participating in support groups
Joining support groups or attending job search workshops can provide valuable opportunities for networking, learning, and emotional support. These groups often consist of individuals going through similar experiences, which can foster a sense of camaraderie and shared understanding. Participating in support groups or workshops can help job seekers learn new job search strategies, improve their skills, and expand their professional network.
To find local support groups or workshops, Sweidan recommends consulting community centers, libraries, or online resources such as meetup.com. “You can Google in your local area and you can find professional groups,” she says. Online forums and social media groups can also offer virtual support and connections with other job seekers. “It doesn’t matter whether they’re virtual or in person. Either way, you’ll get to meet people.”
Leveraging professional networks for emotional support
Job seekers should not underestimate the power of their professional networks for emotional support during the job search process. “Being proactive and expanding your network beyond your family and friends is really important,” Sweidan explains. Reconnecting with former colleagues, supervisors, or mentors can offer valuable insights, encouragement, and understanding. These connections can also provide job leads, introductions, or recommendations, which can be instrumental in securing new employment opportunities.
To leverage professional networks for support, job seekers can reach out via email, phone, or social media platforms like LinkedIn. Be open about your job search journey, share your experiences, and express gratitude for any assistance offered.
Self-care strategy 4: Setting realistic expectations and practicing self-compassion
The job search process can be an emotional rollercoaster, with highs and lows that can sometimes lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Eliminating any self-blame, according to Sweidan, is paramount. “If you aren’t kind to yourself and you only see yourself in a negative light, so will everybody else and you won’t be able to sell yourself,” she warns.
Setting realistic expectations and practicing self-compassion can help job seekers manage these emotions and maintain a positive mindset. If you do happen to suffer from depression or fall into a depression while on the job search, Sweidan recommends seeking professional help. “It’s really critical that you see a professional to talk about your negative self-image or whatever negative feelings that you have. Because if that impacts your job search, you’re going to perpetuate your unemployment status. And then it’s just a downward spiral.”
Avoiding the pitfalls of perfectionism
Perfectionism can be a significant barrier to progress during the job search. Holding oneself to impossibly high standards can lead to procrastination, stress, and feelings of failure. Instead of striving for perfection, focus on setting realistic goals and taking consistent, manageable steps toward achieving them. By recognizing that setbacks and disappointments are a natural part of the job search process, job seekers can reduce stress and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
The importance of self-compassion during the job search
Practicing self-compassion means treating yourself with kindness and understanding when faced with setbacks or disappointments. Job seekers should remember that they are not alone in their struggles and that the job search process can be challenging for everyone. “You’re not the first person who is starting from scratch or making a change. It may be hard, but as long as you own the steps of the challenge and you don’t feel like a victim, you’ll be able to overcome that by being proactive, persistent, and consistent,” Sweidan advises. When faced with rejection or frustration, take a step back, acknowledge your feelings, and remind yourself that setbacks are an inevitable part of the journey.
Tips for managing expectations and celebrating small wins
Setting realistic expectations and focusing on small, achievable goals can help job seekers maintain motivation and avoid burnout. Break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps and celebrate the progress made along the way. This approach can help build momentum and create a sense of accomplishment, even when the ultimate goal has not yet been achieved.
Self-care strategy 5: Incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques
Incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your daily routine can be a powerful way to manage stress and maintain mental well-being during the job search process. By taking time to quiet the mind and focus on the present moment, job seekers can cultivate a sense of calm and balance that can help them better navigate the challenges of searching for employment.
The benefits of meditation and deep breathing
Meditation and deep breathing exercises are proven methods for reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Regular meditation practice can help job seekers develop greater self-awareness, improve concentration, and increase emotional resilience. Sweidan recommends an app called Insight Timer that provides a variety of meditation exercises and routines.
Similarly, deep breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing or the 4-7-8 technique, can help calm the nervous system and reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Sweidan recommends a very user-friendly breathing exercise that’s perfect for beginners: box breathing. “It requires you to sit and close your eyes. Breathe in four, hold for four, and breathe out for four,” she explains. Simple but effective, box breathing requires you to focus on the present moment and can help relieve panic and stress.
Self-care strategy 6: Learning a new skill
While upskilling or reskilling may seem like a tedious task, Sweidan is certain that it will positively impact your mental well-being. “Everybody needs to be upskilling constantly today,” she explains. “Skills and tools and everything is changing at a pace that we cannot keep up with.” By leveraging the time you have while looking for a job to learn something new, you can keep your brain active and set yourself up for success when you do land a new role.
In her experience as a career coach, Sweidan has had clients find themselves back on the job market after 10 or more years in one job. “By that point, their skills had gone stagnant,” she shares. Keeping on top of the sought-after skills in your industry will keep you from feeling stuck in the job search.
The impact of self-care strategies on mental health and resilience
Self-care plays a vital role in maintaining mental health and resilience during the job search process. By implementing self-care strategies, job seekers can better manage stress, maintain a positive mindset, and navigate the challenges of finding employment with greater ease and confidence.
The long-term benefits of prioritizing self-care
Prioritizing self-care during the job search not only helps job seekers maintain their mental health in the short term but also provides long-term benefits that extend beyond the job search process. The habits and techniques developed during this time can contribute to ongoing mental well-being, improved work-life balance, and increased resilience in the face of future challenges.
By cultivating self-compassion, mindfulness, and self-awareness, job seekers are better equipped to handle the demands of their future careers and personal lives. The skills and practices learned through prioritizing self-care can create a foundation for a healthier, happier, and more balanced life, both professionally and personally.
Whether you’re feeling stressed while searching for your dream job, or you’re getting to a point in your job search where you just can’t take it anymore, consider bringing some self-care into your life. You’ll thank yourself later!
Check out more content related to Mental Health Awareness Month 2023 here.
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