Tuesday 16 November 2021

How applying for jobs impacts your mental health - and how to manage job search stress

Ginger shares how the job application process can be stressful - and how to take care of your mental health while looking for a job.

- Ginger Abbot

Job hunting can be stressful, to put it mildly. Looking for work is a full-time job of its own, fraught with the dangers of burnout, imposter syndrome, and frustration. Believe me — when I was applying for every job under the sun after my graduation, I certainly felt burnt out and emotionally taxed.

However, you can take steps to prepare yourself for the experience and emerge with success. Here are five ways applying for jobs impacts your mental health, as well as tips for managing job search stress.


Brings Uncertainty

Many mental health struggles stem from encountering uncertainty. Big life transitions, such as looking for a new job, are very likely to spark an inner battle with uncertainty. When change touches your life, it’s normal to have feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.

The first step to addressing these feelings is to pinpoint them. Write down what you’re worried about and why you’re concerned. Next, make a plan to address these concerns with manageable, achievable goals.


Increases Pressure

Job hunting will also reveal the hidden (or not so hidden) pressures in your life. If you are usually hard on yourself, you’ll probably feel a lot of pressure to find the perfect, high-paying job as quickly as possible. That was me — I’m a perfectionist, and I felt incredibly discouraged not only to be applying for low-paying jobs, but not to be hearing back about positions I felt I was overqualified for.

Depending on your personality type, pressure may cause you to shut down or forego opportunities because you feel overwhelmed. The truth is that your job does not define who you are. Neither is your identity defined by your ability to find or get a job. You are whole as a person, no matter what your job is or isn’t.

Letting go of the need to achieve the perfect future can release you to make the most of where you are. You can’t know what will happen tomorrow – but you can choose what you’ll do today. Use your time to invest in yourself, not to spiral with anxiety over the future.


Paralyses Creativity

If you focus entirely on the future rather than the present, you may experience “far-sightedness” in your job hunt. This perspective makes it easy to skip steps that are ultimately very valuable in the job hunting process.

Although you may feel a lot of pressure to find the right job quickly, it’s essential to define “right” and “quickly” for yourself. What does your dream job look like? What work will meet your personal, financial, and lifestyle goals? Are those goals achievable, or do they need adjusting?

Creativity and thoughtfulness can’t thrive under stress, but they’re essential to finding a job you’ll love. Take the time to ask yourself what you’d like to do with your life. It’s never too late to change your career path.


Deepens Depression

High levels of anxiety or chemical imbalances in your body can trigger a depressed state of mind during a job hunt. It’s important not to shame yourself for negative thoughts and emotions – job hunting is hard and can easily become discouraging.

However, perpetuating those dark thoughts won’t help you in the long term. Your feelings may be overwhelming, but there are concrete steps you can take to improve your outlook and regain hope for the future.

Speak kindly to yourself, and write affirming notes to post around your house. Practice gratitude to rewire your brain and experience all the benefits of a positive outlook. Journal your thoughts, and talk to loved ones for compassion and support. If you’re struggling with long-lasting or severe depression, speak with a doctor and therapist for additional tools.


Stresses Your Body

The connection between your mind and body is truly astounding. When you experience mental and emotional stress, your body may react with stomach cramps, hormone imbalance, acne, and a host of other issues.

On the flip side, if you don’t take care of your body, your mind and emotional well-being will suffer. During a job hunt, it’s easy to lose sight of self-care and become wrapped up in your goal. It’s essential to protect yourself by investing in self-care during the job hunt process.

Setting up a routine is a helpful way to practice self-care during this time of transition. Block out time to job search, write cover letters, join networking events, and fill out application forms. Then, block out times to rest, eat nutritious foods, and spend time with loved ones. Your body, mind, and job hunt will all benefit.


Take some time to think about how your search may be affecting your mental health. It’s okay if you’re unhappy with what you find. Use this guide to start crafting a plan for self-care, rejuvenation, and optimism.

I believe in you!

Whether you are looking for support for your own mental health at university or supporting a friend, help is available.

Ginger Abbot is a student life and education writer who is currently enrolled in graduate school part-time. She also serves as Editor-in-Chief for the online learning magazine Classrooms.

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