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3rd Nov, 2021

Rebecca Harris
Rebecca Harris
Job Title
Service Development Executive and Health and Wellbeing Expert, Reed Wellbeing

The NHS defines stress as: "The body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure." Though stress is something we don’t generally enjoy feeling, it can be helpful or motivating, which will ultimately benefit you in your job search.

A recent survey suggests that 81% of jobseekers found the recruitment process stressful, but our tips can help you manage, and even utilise, that stress.

1. Acknowledging your responses to stress

Being aware of your body's response to stress and recognising when you're feeling stressed will help you overcome the stress response and use it to your advantage. It’s a natural human response to have occasionally.

If you can start to acknowledge when you’re stressed, you can anticipate it and understand what triggers it. This is the first step to improving your self-management.

Several aspects of the jobseeking process - a job interview, for example - can cause this fight-or-flight response. We feel the pressure to perform at our best and make a good impression. But, if you tell yourself the situation is a normal part of the recruitment process that you’ve done before and can do again, it will help you relax, and you will perform better.

2. Reframing your thoughts about stress

In 2013, Psychologist Kelly McGonigal presented a TED Talk in which she said: "How you think about stress matters". She cited evidence from a Harvard study showing that if you believe your body's responses to stress, e.g. a racing heart, are your body's way of preparing you for a challenge, it can reduce the negative impact stress can have.

If it feels stressful to update your CV or send an application, reframe the task and adopt the mindset that you’re excited to take the next step in your career. Remember: while we might not be able to control the exact circumstances of the situation, we can control how we respond to it - and how it makes us feel as a result.

3. Creating a sense of control

Feeling in control will help you reduce feelings of anxiety. Identify what you can and can't control about the entire process and focus on what you can do. Taking control of those elements and releasing the worry over the aspects you can’t control, will help to significantly reduce your anxiety. For instance, you can't control your potential employers' responses to your application or interview, but you can ask for feedback a few weeks later and learn from it.

If you still feel anxious, set aside some time to think about your worries and then actively take your mind off it for the rest of the day. Otherwise, you will be wasting energy on your worries, instead of your job search. Nothing is achieved when you worry about what you can’t control.

4. Feeling prepared

The worst that can happen is someone else gets the role you applied for. Applying and failing won't hurt your chances anywhere else and it just means it wasn’t meant to be. You've still made progress simply through gaining experience.

Staying on top of all your applications, offers and interviews will help you feel less stressed because you're focusing on the task at hand and are keeping track of where you are. This can help you feel more prepared and to know you’re doing all you can to be successful with your applications.

If you find yourself repeatedly unsuccessful, you may need to take a step back, reflect, adjust and then carry on. Ensuring your skills are up to date will help you feel more prepared and confident in your ability to take a step up. Try upskilling if you find hiring managers are looking for a certain skill, such as familiarity with a new technology or process that you haven't worked with before. Professionals at every seniority have something new they could learn.

5. Being kind to your body and mind

Maintaining your mental health is just as important as maintaining physical health. Physical exercise reduces the body's level of stress hormones, and stimulates the production of endorphins, which can be natural pain killers and mood elevators.

Scheduling your job search can help to create a positive routine which helps to support good mental health. Looking after your mind and mental health is crucial to managing stress. Focusing on the positives, particularly while searching for your next role, can help build mental resilience and endurance, which is sometimes needed when completing multiple job applications. Through practicing mindfulness, getting quality sleep, having a balanced diet, and socialising, your mental health will improve – and so will your physical health. Listening to what your body needs will help you manage your overall wellbeing.

6. Taking part in an activity that completely absorbs your attention

Giving your mind a break from stressful thoughts can help you to feel rejuvenated, refreshed and more able to cope with stress.

Find an activity that focuses your attention – one that requires concentration to the point that it’s difficult for you to think about anything else. This will make it far less likely for stressful thoughts to enter your mind. Activities that require hand-eye coordination can be especially good, for example, learning to play an instrument, cooking or baking, painting or drawing, or a team sport.

7. Getting out in nature

According to the 2018 study 'Levels of Nature and Stress Response', getting out in nature and spending time in 'green space' can help to reduce stress levels. Taking a walk in your local park and exploring nearby green spaces, even for short period of time, can have benefits. Being outside in nature is known to reduce anxiety and worry, so it can be far more beneficial than walking on a treadmill indoors.

If you can't access local parks or green spaces, bring nature to you by growing potted plants or herbs – this can benefit your mental health and reduce negative feelings of stress.

Your stress is designed to help you, the same as any other bodily response – it's natural and healthy. It can be useful if you can believe it is helping you. Focus on managing stress rather than trying to get rid of it.

Find out how Reed Wellbeing can help you manage stress for you and your team members.