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How to Manage Job Search Anxiety and Depression

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VidCruiter Editorial Team

Last Modified

Jul 8, 2024
How to manage job search anxiety


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Job search anxiety is an emotional response to the stress of finding a new role. It causes feelings of tension, nervousness, and excessive worry. People may also experience symptoms like restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.

What is Job Search Anxiety?

Job search anxiety is a state of emotional distress caused by a job hunt. Any significant life change can trigger anxiety. But an employment search can be particularly taxing as it involves many stressful situations — from coping with rejection to interview nerves to living with constant uncertainty and the financial stress of unemployment. Additionally, fewer open positions and rising layoffs in certain sectors could make job hunting even more anxiety-inducing in 2024.

All of these pressures can lead to anxiety, which has emotional symptoms like overwhelming feelings of nervousness or worry, as well as physical symptoms like a fast heart rate, sweating, rapid breathing, and fatigue. These symptoms can consume your day and make it difficult for job seekers to perform the necessary activities to secure work.


Job search anxiety is more common than you might think

According to a 2020 survey, 93% of Americans have experienced anxiety about job interviews.

What is Job Search Depression?

Job search depression involves intense feelings of sadness or apathy triggered by looking for a new role or career. Depression symptoms range from mild to severe and can be emotional (e.g., feeling worthless or guilty) and physical (e.g., appetite changes, loss of energy, increased fatigue). These emotional and physical problems impact your ability to function personally and professionally.

Job Search Depression

What are Some Job Search Anxiety Warning Signs?

Feeling nervous before submitting an application or recording a video interview is normal. Anxiety is also a rational response to change, uncertainty, stress, and financial pressures — which seeking employment certainly causes.

However, experiencing the following symptoms persistently, to the point that they’re impacting your ability to live your life and complete tasks, is a sign that your anxiety has become more serious.

Emotional Symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Intense fear of failure
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling on edge

Physical Symptoms

  • Fast heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive issues

What are Some Job Search Depression Warning Signs?

Similar to anxiety, it’s normal to feel sad about being let go or getting rejected. When the following emotional and physical symptoms become overwhelming and debilitating, that is a warning sign that you’re experiencing depression.

Emotional Symptoms

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Physical Symptoms

  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Restlessness (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing)
  • Slowed movements or speech

Unemployment is a significant contributor to depression.

A 2022 review of 9 studies and 4,864 participants found that those who were unemployed had 28% higher depressive symptom scores than employed people.

Unemployment Factors

10 Strategies for Overcoming Anxiety and Depression in the Job Hunt

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms and better cope with job-hunting stress.

Practice Mindfulness

Anxiety disrupts your thoughts with persistent, intrusive worries, making concentrating difficult. Mindfulness techniques like meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises bring your attention back to the present moment so you can focus better.


Take Care of Your Physical Health

Anxiety and depression can cause symptoms like fatigue, irritability, restlessness, and sleeping issues. Exercise can help you manage your nerves, increase energy, and sleep better. Additionally, eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep will give you the energy to better cope with stressful situations.

Physical Health

Create a Support System

Talk to someone you trust, like a friend or family member, about your challenges and experiences. Having someone listen to you and offer emotional support can be a huge relief, providing the encouragement and motivation you need to keep going and manage negative feelings.

Support System

Engage in Flow

Are you waiting to hear back about an opportunity? Do an activity that gets you into a ‘flow state.’ A 2019 study found that engaging in flow-inducing activities like running, painting, and gardening boosted people’s sense of well-being during uncertainty and made waiting easier.

Engage in flow

Maintain a Structured Routine

Work gives us structure, and if you’re unemployed and job hunting, the lack of a routine can disrupt sleep patterns and eating habits and trigger anxiety and depression. Establishing a daily schedule can help you feel more in control and give you a sense of stability during uncertain times. Carve out specific times for researching and applying to roles, networking, self-care, and leisure activities.

Have a routine

Follow the RESET Method

RESET stands for relationships, energy, strengths, experiments, and timeframes and is a framework for managing the anxiety of leaving a position.

Here’s how it works:

R: Relationships - Talk to people in your personal and professional networks to help you figure out your next steps.
E: Energy - What do you care about most, and what do you want to contribute to society? Considering these questions will help you find and nurture your purpose energy.
S: Strengths - Take stock of your strengths and skills and consider how they can help you fulfill your purpose.
E: Experiments - Don’t be afraid to experiment and pursue a different role or industry.
T: Timeframes - Break down your employment goals into smaller, achievable steps (e.g., improving your resume, researching companies, networking) and give yourself timeframes for completion.

RESET Method

Visualize How You Will Show Up

You can’t control the outcome of your job-hunting activities. So, instead, focus on how you want to show up throughout the process. Whether preparing for an interview or your first day of work, imagine yourself having a good experience and bringing your best self to the situation. This practice will help ease your nerves and manage the stress of uncertainty.


Schedule Time to Worry

If you avoid your feelings and worries, they can build up and weigh on you. However, indulging in them too much can disrupt your focus and impact your work. Instead, set aside a specific time to focus on your worries. You can even set a time to keep yourself accountable. This way, you can engage with the negative thoughts without letting them consume you.

Schedule time

Practice Self-Compassion

Setbacks and rejection are common during a job hunt but don’t define you. Be kind and understanding toward yourself if you don’t get the second interview or land the position you want. Instead, think of every step as a practice that will help you improve.

Practice Self Compassion

Consider Alternative Therapies

Self-care is paramount when you’re going through a stressful time like looking for a new role. Alternative therapies like aromatherapy, massage, and reflexology can help you relax and feel better physically, positively impacting your mental state.

Alternative Therapies

Building Resilience as a Job Seeker

Whether you’ve been on the hunt for months or years, an employment search can be incredibly stressful. Uncertainty and setbacks can take a toll on your mental and physical health, but remember to focus on what you can control throughout your candidate journey and be kind to yourself.

Prioritizing self-care, cultivating a community, and fostering a healthy mindset will help you build resilience so you can manage feelings of anxiety and depression and handle whatever your job hunt throws at you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Job Search Anxiety Impact Long-Term Career Prospects?

Prolonged job search anxiety can affect long-term career decisions and outlook. It might lead to impulsive job choices or reluctance to even pursue some opportunities. Identifying and dealing with this anxiety early on can help maintain a clear, focused approach to career development.

Are There Specific Strategies for Reducing Anxiety Before Job Interviews?

Yes, there are many proven strategies to reduce interview anxiety. These include thorough preparation, practicing interview questions, visualizing the interview, and relaxation or breathing exercises. Anything that you find that reduces your nerves and builds confidence should also work.

How Important is Social Support in Managing Job Search Stress?

Social support is crucial to manage your job search stress. Talking to friends, family, or mentors can provide emotional support, practical advice, and different perspectives. Joining job-hunting groups or online forums can also help by giving a sense of community and belonging in this challenging time.

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