Protecting Your Mental Health During Your Job Search

Does job searching affect our mental health?

Losing your job and being out of work for a significant period of time is classed as both a psychological and financial trauma (Carl Van Horn, PhD, Rutgers university). A large body of research shows unemployment is linked to feelings of anxiety, depression and loss of life-satisfaction. Even when financial strain isn’t a by-product of being made redundant, losing your job can still be detrimental to mental health. Job searching can take it’s toll.

Work provides us with routine, structure, identity, purpose and social interaction. When that is taken away, the effects can be palpable. It is critical that, whilst job searching, you are conscious of protecting your mental health. For those still in employment, support those that are not. 

The all consuming job search

It is far too easy to fall into the trap of feeling inadequate. If you are not at your laptop, searching and applying for jobs, feeling that you are not doing enough. Feeling as though all hours of the day must be spent on your search.

The reality is this is likely to have a detrimental effect. Your anxiety levels will increase; on days when results are limited, you will feel lower or like the never-ending search is hopeless. The fact is, being tied to your job search every waking moment, won’t make more opportunities appear. Whether you log on for three hours or eight, the amount of jobs you find to apply to are likely to be the same. The only difference will be, is how exhausted and less motivated you will feel.

So what is the answer? How can you take care of yourself, when all you can think about is securing your next job?

A vital element is maintaining structure. Creating a sense of routine provides the stability you lack from not being in work. Get up at a decent time and go about your day with a sense of routine. Try blocking the first two hours to focus on job search and applications. Take a break for chores, have lunch, do a final hour of networking via Linked In, or other platforms. Then spend some time on a hobby or social interaction with a friend or family member (socially distanced of course!). 

Exercise is incredibly helpful. Even if you are not a gym bunny. Doing something physical, ideally first thing in the morning really does get the blood flowing. It also helps you to focus. It will also release endorphins that help fight feelings of depression and anxiety.

What can you control?

When you are searching for employment you may feel uncomfortable with the unknown – when will you find your next job? What will it be? Where will it be? How much will you earn? It is therefore best to focus on what you can control – not what you can’t. If you begin to feel stressed or anxious about a particular thing, consider “is this within my control?” if yes, what can you do about it? Otherwise, let it go and consider what is in your control that you can positively impact instead. 

Seeing constant headlines about more companies going bust and more redundancies being made can impact your mood and feelings about your own job search. Do not let these things affect your mind-set – do not give up. If you find yourself slipping into thinking “there’s no point, I will never find a job”, take a day off the search. Try and think of new ways you can positively impact your search. It is not just about applying to advertised jobs. Spend time networking, look for new connections on LinkedIn. Arrange some virtual coffees, attend on online networking event. Switch it up and bring new life to your search. 

Let people know how you feel

Speak to your partner, friends or family for support. Job searching can be a very lonely place so allow others in. Finding a job search partner can be really motivating. Check in with each other, set goals and help one another stick to them. Celebrate successes and pick each other up on more difficult days. If you are feeling low on a regular basis with very little lift in your mood, don’t be afraid to seek professional support.

Celebrate success!

Not everything about your job search will be negative! Find ways to reflect, recognise and celebrate successes – no matter how small. Keep a visible note of what has gone well. This is really helpful for motivating you when you have more challenging days. Start each day reading through your successes. Even if it’s simply that you made a new, useful connection on LinkedIn – it’s a win! Share the steps forward you are making with those closest to you. Finding a new job can take time, so see each day as being one step closer. 

There are positives of being able to take a little time out too. Use the time you have, outside of the few hours of job search activity each day

  • To reconnect with people you often don’t get time to speak to
  • Return to, or take up, a new hobby,
  • Read the books you never normally find time for,
  • Spend an afternoon pampering yourself.

Job search is one part of what you need to do now. However, the rest of this time is for you to make the best of your time out. Take the break you deserve and invest in your mental health. 

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Rebecca can be found via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums. 

Read more about dealing with job loss here:

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