Is your job search stressing you out?
Job searching can make even the most resilient person stressful and anxious. It’s the kind of angst that makes job seekers wake up every morning hoping it’s a dream. As you fret about getting called back…whether the position is still open…if the interview went well …the competition…and so on, remember that:
1) Severe stress and anxiety do not make hiring managers call back;
2) You can control your stress while you job hunt;
3) If you don’t choose to control it, you might have a whole other set of problems with your health.
Physicians at Advocate Health Care say this kind of stress can cause your body to react as if you are under a physical attack.
Here’s what happens:
Your brain signals an adrenaline release, telling your heart and lungs to speed it up. It also prepares your muscles for a tough boxing match or a long high-speed chase — with you in front.
Your central nervous system signals your kidneys and other organs to pump additional hormones throughout your body, like cortisol. Cortisol spurts sugar, or glucose, into the blood stream and temporarily pauses the immune system, digestive systems and other bodily functions so you can focus on fighting or running. Doctors say this is not a healthy way to cope long term.
But a lot of job seekers are stressed. In fact, a June 2010 Gallup Wellbeing survey found that nearly one-third of Americans who were unemployed for more than six months had been told by a doctor or nurse that the stress was taking its toll, possibly leading to depression. Seventeen percent of Americans who had been unemployed for one month or less were given the same news by a doctor or nurse.
Unlike a physical attack or a traumatic event, you can’t run from a job search. You can’t fight it, either. You have to deal with it, and experts say the goal is to stay healthy and control stress in the meantime.
In addition to filling out applications and networking, experts say job seekers should focus on taking extra care of their bodies and minds.
Here are three steps you can take to help stay calm during your job search:
Exercise can deplete the stress hormones and replace them with endorphins. These hormones signal your body to turn off the dramatic stress response and relax. The increased blood flow to the brain can actually help you think better as you fill out applications and research for interviews. Daily aerobic exercise increases memory, mental speed and concentration, according to a June 2009 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control Physical Activity Guidelines recommend adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise. So, before you sit down to call recruiters or email hiring managers, go for a brisk 30 minute walk. You can also bike or do aerobics.
Get Healthy Food
There’s a reason why eating savory comfort food or decadent deserts are soothing when we’re frazzled. Research has found that stress induces a craving for calorie-dense foods, according to a July 2007 study in the journal Physiology & Behavior. According to the data, these foods cause the brain to release serotonin, a hormone known for controlling nerve impulses and making us feel more mellow.
But research also shows that stress can weaken the immune system. Emotional eating only makes matters worse.
Doctors say, during a stressful career transition, the body needs additional nutrients from powerhouse foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and nuts to fight off infections, like the common cold, and to help keep chronic conditions like high blood pressure at bay.
The key is to shift stress-induced eating to healthier foods. Try a warm bowl of baked apples and granola or a hearty grilled chicken sandwich.
Get in Touch
A bumpy career transition can lead even the most confident people to struggle with feelings of inadequacy, rejection, sadness and worry. When job seekers feel like the world is passing them by, a common reaction is to withdraw.
Psychologists say tapping into personal and professional networks is not only a key job search strategy, but those connections can also prevent negative thoughts and feelings from festering.
Add coffee dates, meet-ups and networking lunches to your to-do list. Volunteer work can also help job seekers feel more connected to their skills and talents, or maybe even introduce new ones, experts say.
The goal is to control the job search stress, and not let it control you.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.