Post written by guest blogger, Janette Norrington, PhD, NIH Trainee
Job searches can be stressful and overwhelming; we wonder how long it will take find a position and whether that position will be the right one for us. While some stress is normal and even beneficial, multiple stressors or chronic stress can cause our bodies to be in a constant state of high alert. High levels of stress can lead to poor concentration and cognitive functioning, irritability, professional burnout, and health problems. Fortunately, stress resilience can counter the negative effects of chronic stressors.
Stress resilience is the ability to effectively cope and manage adversity. Job searches require high levels of stress resilience because finding the right job can be a long and arduous process; resilience helps us bounce back and see the prospect for personal development even when faced with rejection and uncertainty. While everyone copes with stress in different ways, resilience can be learned and developed to help manage stress during job searches and other difficult circumstances. Here are some tips to increase your resilience and move through stress as you continue to navigate your job search and career:
- Recognize and counter signs of stress
Our bodies send us signals that we are stressed such as difficulty concentrating, headaches, irritability, and nausea. Recognizing our bodies’ stress responses can help us take action to counter the effects of stress. Sticking to a daily routine, going for a walk, journaling, and practicing mindfulness are a few strategies that may counteract stress responses. Identifying and naming our stress responses and negative thought patterns can help us develop more balanced thinking patterns and effective coping mechanisms to encourage us to look for opportunities in present and future stressors.
- Practice self-care
While a job search may feel all-consuming, it is still essential to prioritize self-care to maintain your health. Make taking care of yourself part of your daily routine and engage in stress-reducing and health-promoting activities, so that you can stay energized. Self-care can be different for everyone, so you have to define what self-care means to you—whether it is exercise, cooking healthy meals, reading a book, talking to friends, watching a favorite TV show, journaling, etc. Self-care practices and effective coping strategies can strengthen your mind and body to effectively manage stress and build resilience while you are dealing with challenges in your job search.
- Build your relationships and connections
During stressful job searches, it is important to build connections and maintain relationships. Developing positive relationships with others can help you build a social community that can provide different kinds of support. Being a support for others and having people in your life who can validate your feelings will help you feel more fulfilled and connected while you manage stress. In addition to social support, you can also build professional connections with peers and mentors that may assist in your job search through networking and career events.
- Embrace healthy thoughts
Two keys to resilience are to embrace healthy thoughts and reframe negative ones. We can celebrate our small wins to develop a positive outlook and challenge our negative thoughts, which will change the way we think about and respond to stress. We can acknowledge difficulties in our job searches but view them as opportunities to learn more about ourselves or to develop new skills. While there are a lot of things out of our control during a job search, we can control how we interpret and respond to stressors through our thoughts and actions. It takes practice to increase our resilience, but we can get better at it over time and learn how to effectively manage stress as we continue to navigate our job searches and careers.
OITE offers a variety of resources that are focused on managing stress and building resilience for NIH trainees. The “Becoming a Resilient Scientist Series” offers monthly webinars and small group discussions that focus on trainees developing resilience and learning to thrive within stressful environments. You can also watch archived Resilient Scientist webinars online, such as Resilience in the Job Search, Work, and Life, through the OITE website. In addition to webinars, OITE offers Resilience Building Drop-in Groups, Wellness Skill-building Groups, Mindfulness Meditation Groups, Wellness Support Groups, and short-term individual wellness advising appointments. If you want more information or resources about stress resilience, please email OITE-Wellness@nih.gov.