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Six Steps for Managing Job Search Stress

Millions of people have lost jobs in this economy and finding a new one is stressful.

In this column I will address how to manage the stress of a job search.  Anyone who is in this situation, or loves someone who is, might consider these six suggestions:

  • Do not internalize a job loss or job search into your personal identity. Whether you are a new graduate or a semi-retired person whose 401K was cut in half, you are not in this situation because of your personal failure.
  • Remember those things you do well. Looking for work often erodes confidence, lowers self-esteem, and makes people forget how terrific they are at many other things. For example, if your job as a high school principal was terminated but you have always enjoyed fixing up old furniture for resale, now is the time to remember that talent and crank it up a notch. If your hobby is photography, engage in it more fully; it will reduce stress hormones, relax the other part of the brain, and you'll be more on top of your game when your next interview is in front of you.
  • Allow yourself to grieve the loss of the old job so you don't succumb to paralyzing fear searching for a new one. Also, one loss in life often resurrects other losses unconsciously so if you went through the painful death of a loved one, a divorce, or loss of good health, those losses get mixed together with the loss of employment. Also think about what you miss in the old job (besides the income, which I appreciate is important) because knowing what you miss clarifies what you should look for.  For example, if you enjoyed the camaraderie at your old job in a small IT consulting business, working at a company with 100 consultants probably won't do.
  • Initiate positive and proactive things such as volunteering. Helping out someone else keeps us from dwelling on ourselves.  Become active in a church, a temple, a synagogue or your community even if you never did before.  Managing stress often starts with openness to new ideas.  Remember, the Devine plan is generous and thinking spiritually will keep you more hopeful. I also recommend diligent networking and not simply relying on only one type of resource.  By that I mean don't just spend eight hours a day sending out your resumes on Monster.com. You need to have direct contact with people.  If you have a few extra dollars hire a coach to keep you accountable and encouraged.
  • Ask yourself if you are angry and anxious. Ask others if you appear angry or anxious. You need your friends or your mate right now so turn toward them not against them.  If you are angry, commit to working through your anger or managing your anxiety. Unprocessed anger and unacknowledged anxiety can hurt you in an interview and in all relationships. Why? Because your underlying attitude about the old job loss comes across in body language and in your answers during an interview.  When I find I'm stuck in a place of anger or anxiety I try to consider what new door wants to open in me that I may have never known was there before.  I also try to let go of needing to control a situation that is not in my control.  God grant us all serenity here.
  • Consider a health checkup and talk with your doctor about your circumstances; he or she is there to help. You may even benefit from a temporary medication due to serotonin depletion, which sometimes occurs when we're hit with major stress or loss.

In closing, looking for another job invites creative thinking and resourcefulness but those qualities are just some of the great strengths we either have naturally or we can learn. Remember not to internalize your job loss into your personal identity, focus on all the things you do well, let yourself grieve your old job and other losses and accept your feelings right where they are.  You might also want to catch a catnap, too.  Not only can 20 winks help you feel all around better but you won't have a chance to nap once you land that new position!

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