When you’re depressed, everything — from the most basic activity like getting out of bed to more arduous tasks like paying bills on time — can feel impossibly challenging. Add sudden unemployment, recently graduating from college, or undergoing a major career transition to the mix, and every day can feel like summiting Mount Everest.
As someone with anxiety and depression who has personally experienced various career changes, I understand firsthand how demoralizing the job hunt can be when you’re struggling with your mental health. It’s difficult to put your best foot forward when you’re not feeling like your best self. When you’re feeling down in the dumps, going through the motions of scouring job posts, writing cover letters, and preparing for interviews can be extremely draining.
While it may seem like you’re fighting an uphill battle, there are several ways to help you break out of the funk and get closer to your dream job. Here are some tips I’ve found to be helpful over the years.
Take a break
If you were recently laid off or left a toxic job, take some time for yourself before jumping headfirst into the application process. While not everyone may have the means to escape for a long beach vacation, try to at least take the weekend to rest and recalibrate.
Watch your favorite movie, test out a new recipe, spend time with friends — anything you need to do to truly relax and temporarily put career stress out of mind. This way, you’ll be able to approach the job hunt with a fresh mindset and perspective.
Remember your situation is temporary
Job transitions are a normal part of adult life, and while it may feel like you’ll be jobless forever, it’s important to step back and find some perspective. Try to think about how far you’ve already come and the positive attributes that led you there.
While it’s hard to not dwell on the negatives of the process, think about how you’ve overcome setbacks in the past and use that to your advantage. Sit down and actually write out your strongest skills and the career highlights you’re most proud of, to remember where you really shine.
Realize you’re not alone
Embarking on the job hunt can feel incredibly isolating, especially when it seems like everyone around you is thriving. Social media hasn’t helped matters, when you have multiple apps to constantly compare your personal feats and career achievements to others.
However, most people go through periods of unemployment or career transitions — according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person changes job 12 times in their lifetime. It’s helpful to realize you’re not an anomaly. Stay connected by reaching out to friends and family members that have gone through similar experiences, and can help lead you down the right path.
Set a routine and stick to it
When you’ve left traditional 9-to-5 office life, it can be easy to slide into an pattern of sleeping in late, eating poorly, and becoming a bit of a hermit. Why trudge out to a coffee shop to apply to jobs when you can do so from the comfort of your bed, where, it just so happens, you can seamlessly transition to a Netflix marathon?
In my experience, continuing to get up at a reasonable hour, putting on clothes that aren’t sweatpants and getting out of my apartment helps me feel less melancholic when on the job hunt. If you work better from home, aim to schedule a social outing, networking event, or workout class so you can get out of the house and get some air, even if just for an hour.
Take care of yourself
Eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising is crucial when going through the application process. It can be easy to skimp on these things when you’re undergoing a major transition, but they’ll help you feel strong — both physically and mentally — as you continue along in the job search.
If you’re working with a therapist, keep them apprised of the situation and discuss if it might be advantageous to increase your number of sessions.
Don’t shut down in the face of rejection
When you’re struggling with depression, losing out on a job can feel soul crushing. I don’t handle rejection well, and when it happens I’m quick to spiral out, ruminating on every perceived pitfall, even if I know it’s completely irrational. It can be tempting to just phone it in after rejection, but try to take setbacks as just another a step leading you to the right job.
Employers turn down applicants for a variety of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with your qualifications or worth as a person. Try your best to use this as fuel to keep on pushing.
Find Help if Your Depression Becomes Too Great
Sometimes depression and its symptoms become too much for us to handle on our own. If you try the solutions above, but still notice that depression is a lingering roadblock, consider speaking with a therapist.
Your health always comes first, and working through the root causes of your depression can help you continue to succeed in life, especially in your next role.