Tips to manage your mental health while searching for work

Businessman looking at job search website on a laptop computer. Find jobs button

Searching for work can be a stressful time, especially if you’re facing financial pressures or health concerns. If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed or discouraged on the job hunt, you’re not alone. Many people experience symptoms of depression and anxiety while looking for work. 

Knowing how to look after your mental health while on the job hunt can help you stay positive and motivated. It’s important to reach out for help when you need it. Getting the right support can help you manage the challenges and find a way forward.

Here are 7 tips for looking after your mental health while searching for work.

1. Develop a routine

Having a routine in place can help you feel more in control of your day. It can also help you get started on the things you need to do, even when you feel everything is too hard.

Set aside a time to look for work in your day. Write down your tasks such as updating your resume, writing a cover letter, searching for job opportunities and submitting applications. 

Ticking off each job when you’ve completed it can give you a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Make sure you make time for rest and play during your day. Finding a job with depression can be mentally and emotionally draining – it’s important to step away and recharge from time to time.

2. Look after your physical health

Looking after your physical health can have positive benefits for your mental health.

Eat a nourishing diet with plenty of vegetables, wholegrains and good fats. Avoid foods containing saturated fats and added sugar. Caffeine and alcohol can have a negative impact on mental health for some people.

Stay active and plan physical exercise into your routine. Try doing activities that you find fun – for example, walking with friends, playing group sports or working in the garden.

Try to get a good night’s sleep every night and practise good sleep hygiene. For example, go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, avoid using screens at night and opt for caffeine-free drinks after lunch.

3. Connect with others

Social connection is one of the core pillars of mental wellbeing and loneliness is connected to poor mental health outcomes. That’s why it’s important to make time in your week to connect with friends and family.

Speaking to people you trust about your experiences searching for work may help you feel supported and understood. 

Sometimes the job hunt can be all consuming. Social connection can help distract you from the job search and give your mind a break.

4. Try stress management techniques

Whether you’re unemployed at the moment or unhappy in your current position, searching for work can be a stressful experience.

Try using stress management and relaxation techniques to keep on top of your stress and anxiety. 

  • Mindful breathing – close your eyes and focus on your breath for 5 minutes.
  • Meditation – use a guided meditation app or simply close your eyes and pay attention to what you hear, smell and feel.
  • Journaling – write your thoughts and feelings down or reflect on what you’re grateful for each day.
  • Do activities you love – play with your children or pet, do a puzzle or go for a walk.

5. Create achievable goals

Your overall goal might be to find a job, but sometimes working towards such a large goal can feel overwhelming. Try breaking your big goal down into small, achievable goals instead. This can help you focus on the next steps you need to take and give you a sense of achievement.

Goals should be measurable and time-based. For example, “submit three job applications this week” or “contact two people about being references this afternoon”.

If you’re feeling pessimistic about your job options, consider reassessing your career goals. Try chatting with an employment consultant about job types and career pathways that are a good fit for you. 

An employment consultant may also be able to help you access mental health support, employment training, workplace accommodations and more.

6. Create strategies to stay positive

It can be challenging to stay hopeful on the job hunt, especially if you’ve been looking for work for a long time. You may need to develop some strategies to help you stay positive when things get hard.

When your application gets rejected or you can’t find a suitable job opening, try these strategies:

  • Positive self talk – notice how you speak to yourself and try to replace negative thoughts with an optimistic outlook.
  • Surround yourself with positive people – spend time with people who are positive, optimistic and encouraging.
  • Keep a gratitude journal – think about or write down the things, people and events in your life that you’re thankful for.
  • Focus on what you can control and what the next steps are.

7. Ask for help

Searching for work can be challenging and it’s important to reach out for help if you need it. 

Try talking with your friends and family about the challenges you’re facing. Their fresh perspective and encouragement may help you feel more supported.

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of anxiety or depression, speak to your GP about support options. They may recommend you to a mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

If you’re living with a mental health condition, you may be eligible for employment support finding jobs for people with an injury, illness or disability. A Disability Employment Services provider can help you find suitable job opportunities, access workplace supports and get ongoing support to thrive in the workplace.

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing is always important. During the job search, there can be a range of added pressures and stressors which can impact your mental health. Taking time to understand your mental health needs and reaching out for support can help you stay positive and motivated while you look for work.

David Curry

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