How to Manage Stress and Anxiety During Your Career Transition
Have you heard the saying, “Don’t just sit there, do something?” For most of us, that saying is the wallpaper of our minds during career transition and job search time. Our brains, specifically the amygdala, activate the flight-or-fight response without your initiative. When our brain senses danger, it begins pumping stress hormones so that our body can prepare for this imaginary battle for survival. The career transition is no different.
Recognize When Your Body is in Fight or Flight Mode
The good news is learning how to be the pilot of our brains and how to take over the controls will help us not only during the highly stressful time of career transition but can also be used again and again for various stressful situations that arise over the course of our lifetime.
For those of us who spend most of our time in our brains, learning how to feel our bodies and recognize tension in our shoulders or our back, a racing heartbeat, or an upset stomach takes practice. If you can get to a mirror and look at your facial expression, you can “see” the stress all over it.
Gently Grab Back Your Thoughts and Body
It’s impressive how just slowing down and paying attention to our breath as we inhale, and exhale can calm us down. Notice where you’re holding your shoulders; are they high scrunched up under your ears? Roll your shoulders back and down and breathe. Relax your stomach muscles as best as you can. Look around where you are and name five things that you see. Bring yourself out of hiding by creating a safe space to come into.
Seek to Understand What Anxiety and Stress Are Telling You
As it turns out, we’re not superhuman in this aspect of the career transition time. How can you take maximum good care of yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically? Although a lot during the job search is out of our control, what we do, what we think, and how we treat ourselves and others during this time are all within our control.
Look at your surroundings and take the time to make them as clean, organized, and inviting as you can. Every morning after you wake up, make your bed. It may seem super simple (because it is!) but notice the little pings of happiness you get when you see your made-up bed during the day.
Create an Organized Routine with a Daily and Weekly Action Plan
The most important job you have right now is to find your next job. Creating a routine for each day during the week will help you organize every action. If you’re still working but also looking for a job, making a daily and weekly action plan is doubly important to carve out specific time to act in your job search. For most of us, our next job won’t just magically appear out of thin air; we must engage in the process. If you’re an athlete, you know that training for a marathon (sport, etc.) takes time and consistency.
Work out a weekly action plan with your career strategist that fits your needs. When will you look at job boards (and which ones?) When will you reach out to contacts who you know, and what will be your approach? What companies or organizations do you find interesting that inspire you to research and learn more about them, from Google News to press and updates on the company’s website? How can you find out about companies and organizations focused on products or services that align with your career plans?
Weekly Plan of Action
Your weekly plan of action could look like this:
a.) On Mondays and Thursdays, you will spend an hour or two searching major job boards such as LinkedIn, Indeed, Google for Jobs, etc., because most major job boards post new jobs on Mondays and Thursdays. Setting alerts for jobs is a lazy way to find job postings and will probably wind up adding more time and stress to this part of your process because you’ll either receive the same postings from several major sites and numerous subsites or you’ll receive postings that have nothing to do with your experience and skills.
b.) Every week, plan to put everything you have into applying for five ideal jobs. Find postings that speak to your interests, experience, and career desires. Find a tool such as Jobscan.co that you can use to optimize your resume for applicant tracking systems of the employers you will be submitting your resume. Many employers use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to filter and rank resumes before a human sees them. After you’ve submitted your resume for the job, reach out to 1-3 recruiters, talent acquisition managers and/or HR directors with a note of introduction, and which job you’ve applied for with a question as to how you can learn more about the hiring process.
c.) Be curious about people in the profession you’re interested in and all the places that may possibly have your next job. Think of who you could invite for a short (10–15-minute interview) over a virtual or real cup of Java. Let them know you’ve read their LinkedIn profile, posts, name in the news, etc., and because you’re in career transition, you’re exploring what is of professional interest to you.
Plan Times to Take Breaks and Moments that Have Nothing to Do with Career Transition
Before you get up in the morning, set your alarm 20 minutes earlier than you usually do (and if you’re not working, yes, you need to set a typical workday alarm for your job search job!), either prop up your pillows or get into a comfortable chair and breathe. Allow your thoughts to flow in and out. For the next 20 minutes, the only thing you must do is sit there and listen to your breath.
Plan to take 15-30 minutes in your morning to get a glass of water, stretch, look out the window, and see what’s happening. If possible, plan to take a walk, go for a run, do some sun salutations, or any number of ways to move your body. You could even wear socks, turn the music up, and dance. Move the stress out of your body. At night before you go to sleep, try taking another 20 minutes to sit and listen to your breath. Notice where your body has carried the tension of the day and relax that part of your body.
Apply All the Above Tips and Find Reasons to Laugh
There is evidence that humor has helped many people in stressful, if not dire, circumstances. Find podcasts or videos that are (supposed to be) funny. Keep searching until you find the ones that make you laugh. Find people who notice the humor in life. Sign up for an improv class. Take a laughing yoga class (yes, there really is such a thing!)
Just because this can be one of the most serious times in your life doesn’t mean you have to take yourself too seriously. Although career transition can be stressful, you can learn to be your own best friend, keep calm, and manage stress and anxiety. Relax, it’s only your life we’re talking about here!
Contact Executive Career Partners for more tips on how you can manage stress during your career transition.