TIPS: How to Reduce Job Search Stress

By Frances Chaves

I recently attended a session at LexisNexis on managing work stress. It was clear that many of the tips provided could be applied to the stress of job-search. The presenter, Megan Reile, had this advice for job seekers: “I think the most important thing when searching for work is a positive outlook. I love the quote from Henry Ford, ‘Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you are right.’ It is so important to keep remain positive. Before jumping to negative conclusions or feeling overwhelmed by past lack of success, try to come to every interview with a fresh outlook. Each day is a new opportunity, a new chance for success. Sometimes, simply stopping to take a deep breath and recognizing that what appears to be a letdown could be a blessing in disguise, can be instrumental in changing one’s day. Whenever one door closes another opens.”

With Megan’s kind permission, I have adapted the material from her presentation to the job-seeker’s situation.

Job search stress

Looking for work is stressful. It engenders the following stressors which reduce productivity, affect health, drain energy and damage relationships:

  • Fear of failure

  • Low self-esteem

  • Lack of trust

  • Loss of collegial community

  • Burnout

Manifestations of excessive stress

Physical signs:

  • Pounding heart

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Sweating

  • Headache

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Skin rashes

  • Trembling or tics

Behavioral signs:

  • Changes in eating habits (eating too much or too little)

  • Drinking more alcohol

  • Pacing, restlessness

  • Increased smoking

  • Teeth grinding and/or nail biting

  • Aggressive driving

Emotional signs:

  • Irritability and impatience

  • Depression

  • Fearfulness

  • Low self-esteem

  • Envy

  • Loss of interest

Mental signs:

  • A tendency to forget

  • Mind racing or going blank

  • Indecisiveness

  • Resisting change

  • Diminished sense of humor

  • Declining productivity

The basic equation of worry

Increased vulnerability + Feeling of decreased power = Increased worry

Take back control of your life

Job search and personal life need to be complementary, not conflicting

  • Job search priorities need to be identified and then balanced with personal concerns.

  • “Whole people” are those whose skills and knowledge overlap in work and life beyond.

  • Flexible and creative approaches to this balance enhance job searcher’s performance and energy for both work and personal life.

  • Evaluate, Plan, Remediate

Chop goals down to size

  • Evaluate

  • Name the problem.

  • Think constructively about the problem.

  • Examine your automatic thoughts. What words do you use to describe yourself?

  • Correct errors in logic.

  • Develop alternative hypotheses.

  • Revise your fundamental assumptions about yourself and your work. Become your own best supporter

  • Never worry alone.

  • Plan ahead

  • Get the facts.

  • Structure your life.

Ways to structure your time:

  • Set goals, then prioritize them

  • Be fair to yourself: make your plan for the week reasonable.

  • Match important activities to the times of your high energy peaks

  • Save the simple, repetitive tasks for your low-energy periods.

  • Be sure to take breaks to restore energy — stand up and stretch, take a short walk, or chat briefly with a colleague.

  • Ask a friend for help!


“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.” Swedish Proverb

  • Remediate

  • Take direct action

  • Let it go. No matter how much you may want to effect a change, there are some problems that can’t be solved by any action on your part. You just have to wait and see how things turn out. Worrying about the matter won’t help.

Letting go of worry:

  • Meditation

  • Listening to music

  • Put worry in your palm and blow it away

  • Close your eyes and imagine worry putting on its coat and walking slowly out the door

The Power of Connectedness

Connections lead to community. Ways to connect:

  • Connect with colleagues – fellow job seekers

  • Seek out others

  • Start by saying hello!

  • Weekly gatherings fulfill a need for connectedness

Connect to a mission 

  • Caring about PSGCNJ’s mission can engender a feeling of connectedness that is similar to being employed

  • Encourage connectedness and recognize others’ accomplishments

NO Time Quick Fix

Get Reassurance from a friend or colleague as a bandage

  • Ask for it, don’t beat around the bush.

  • BUT ask the right person. Some people simply can’t respond — they may be too distant or too honest. Make sure the person you ask knows when to be reassuring and when to provide their honest opinion.

Give reassurance

  • You may be pleasantly surprised at how a little reassurance can go a long way toward turning an anxious person into a more productive one. Say the words, “It’ll be fine.” Give a pat on the back, a little hug, a bit of hope to build some confidence.

Vent a little

  • Just listing your problems out loud can diminish their power to assault your worried mind. The purpose of venting is to ease your mind, giving you the mental space to return to the problems with renewed energy to deal with them as needed.

  • Again, choose the right listener

Self Talk – What you say to yourself contributes directly to your stress

  • Self-talk is typically automatic, familiar, and unconscious

  • Our bodies can’t sort out the experiences we have from the events we imagine and therefore react to imagined situations as if they were really happening.

We talk to ourselves constantly, and if those messages are typically negative or name-calling (“I’m such an idiot!”) we start to believe them.

  • We rarely stop to think about what we say to ourselves, counter our criticisms, or test our assumptions about ourselves.

Identify Mind Traps:

  • Personalizing

  • “Should” statements

  • Overgeneralizations

  • Labeling

  • Jumping to Conclusions

  • Emotional Reasoning

  • Mental Filtering


  • Personalizing: Make yourself prove that you are responsible for the situation

  • “Should” Statements: Use the word “want” instead of “should”

  • Overgeneralizations: Examine the evidence

  • Mental Filtering: Look for mental filtering; look for the positives as well as the negatives

  • Jumping to Conclusions: Get the facts!

  • Labeling: Describe the behavior, not yourself

  • Emotional Reasoning: Step away from emotions, try to see the problem from another’s perspective

Stress’ Effects on the Body

In the short term, it gives you that energy surge and alertness you need to confront a threatening situation. However, prolonged stress puts an unhealthy strain on your body and can:


  • Raise your cholesterol level

  • Cause your arteries to restrict, limiting blood flow to the heart

  • Disrupt your digestive process and result in stomach acid, constipation, diarrhea, ulcers, or even cancer of the bowels

  • Stimulate migraine headaches, asthma attacks, or other allergic reactions

Counteract Stress with:


  • Start by simply moving. Rock and sway. Get up and stretch. Even better, take a walk or climb some stairs. Even those brief physical efforts can help clear your mind of the weight of worry.

Healthy Eating

  • Reduce the level of fat and cholesterol in your diet.

  • Use sugar, salt, and sodium in moderation.

  • Moderate your consumption of alcohol and caffeine

A (Few) Good Night’s Sleep! If you have trouble sleeping:

  • Reduce your intake of coffee, other caffeinated drinks, and alcohol. These substances tend to disrupt your sleep.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Plan the next day’s activities early in the evening, and prepare your morning routine.

  • Make your sleeping environment as quiet and dark as possible.

  • Establish a bedtime routine.

  • Use relaxation techniques to help yourself fall asleep.

  • Avoid Stress Stimulants

Steps for quick stress reduction

  • Stop

  • Breathe

  • Reflect

  • Choose

Tips for Listening Effectively

  • Pay full attention; use body language

  • Give verbal acknowledgement

  • Restate the speaker’s point in your own words

  • Don’t try to solve the problem, just understand

  • Acknowledge the feelings behind the words.

Set Stress Reducing Goals

  • Choose a goal you value

  • Make a formal declaration of your long-term goal, write it down, and post it where you’ll se it daily.

  • Start with specific, achievable short-term goals.

  • Reward yourself for each achievement—large or small.

  • Be kind to yourself!

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