There’s no doubt about it – job hunting is stressful enough without having to compete with thousands of other hopeful job hunters in the aftermath of COVID! Research by Seek.com has revealed that the pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of a staggering 45% of the population, whilst 56% of Australians have at least become more mindful of their mental health during this time.
If you were already in need of financial debt help prior to COVID, or if you have emerged from the crisis with debts you didn’t have before, this compounded stress is likely to take an even bigger toll on your peace of mind! Given the amount of time, effort and energy that gets taken up by the process of searching for work, it is so vital to maintain your mental wellbeing to avoid losing your motivation and confidence, and to get back into the workforce and seek debt relief.
In this article we will uncover the basic foundations of human mental health and provide you with some simple and practical tips you can apply to get back into a positive headspace.
Basic Lifestyle Stressors and The Foundations of Positivity and Resilience
According to Petra Skeffington, Associate Member of the Australian Psychological Society, the four basic lifestyle stressors for mental health are:
- Inadequate physical activity,
- Inadequate sleep,
- Vitamin D deficiency from reduced sun exposure,
- Overconsumption of processed foods, and
- Intolerance to dietary staples(2).
Each of these factors impacts the body’s ability to create the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which work together to regulate mood, appetite, and the brain’s pleasure and rewards systems.
Being able to experience optimistic emotions (for instance, satisfaction and joy), regularly connecting with other people, finding meaning and purpose and being engaged with your life, establishing, and accomplishing goals and forming a good routine are some of the hallmarks of optimal mental health and wellbeing.
Through being conscious and aware of the risk factors and qualities of great mental health, you can keep track of your progress, make adjustments, and celebrate your successes (no matter how tiny) throughout the course of your job search.
Practical Things You Can Do to Take Care of Your Mental Health During the Job Hunt
Considering the above, here are some practical suggestions to help you stay sane during unemployment:
- Get Social – It is normal to struggle with feelings of helplessness and isolation when the process of applying for work leaves you vulnerable to rejection. Whilst you might feel burdensome or embarrassed to lean on others for emotional support, engaging with loved ones and close friends is naturally going to boost your sense of contentment. There is no need to talk about work and unemployment if you don’t feel like it – the simple fact that you are connecting with others is all your brain needs to feel good!
- Find Sense of Significance – It is also easy to get caught up in focusing on your shortcomings when you spend so much time analysing your resume, so be sure to spend time doing non-work-related activities that make you feel accomplished and fulfilled. By doing the thing you love to do the most, you will regain your sense of competence and hope for the future, and these positive emotions will help carry you forward in your job hunt.
- Take a Fresh Perspective – Avoid the trap of constantly reverting to thoughts of not being “good enough” if you keep getting rejected - or worse - don’t hear anything at all in spite of submitting numerous applications and follow-ups. It’s normal to have doubts from time to time, and it’s fair enough to notice areas for self-improvement, but continuously engaging in negative thinking won’t help you gain positive momentum! Instead of beating yourself up, consider that the reasons behind why things are not working out are probably not your fault at all! Maybe your potential employer is experiencing a delay, hitch or change in their recruitment process – or maybe they have been overwhelmed with applications that might take some time to sort through. Whatever the setback, concentrate on the positive steps you can take to accomplish your aspirations – whether work-related or not.
- Break Job Hunting into Bite-Sized Goals – Especially if you have lost your job, can’t pay your bills or have been out of work for quite some time, the prospect of getting a job can feel like a mammoth struggle! To combat overwhelming feelings whilst enhancing your mental health at the same time, break your ultimate goal down into sub-goals and set yourself the challenge of completing just one small task a day. The act of completing a mini-goal will help you build momentum, as the positive feedback you will receive from achieving something small will give you the motivation to kick on with your bigger goal! Remember: the journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step.
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- Routine and Balance – Routine is like oxygen – when it’s missing it disrupts your balance. Especially when you lost your job, you will find that all of a sudden you have lots of spare time on your hands, so it’s important to maintain a routine so you can retain a sense of normality and don’t feel like your life is total chaos. For example, if treat your time the same as if you were still at work, you could apportion your job searching efforts to business hours, and schedule in time for mental health maintenance activities such as going for a walk in the morning and evening. If you’re particularly stressed, try tackling the smallest and easiest task during the day, and then designate a no-screen night, eat a light dinner, take an extra-hot shower or bath and go to bed early.
- Stay Nourished – There are a lot of fad diets, diet foods and junk foods out there, but when it comes to nourishing your brain and body, nothing beats a diet full of fresh vegetables and fruits (carbs), good protein and healthy fats. The latest research is starting to debunk the myths that we should have such large servings of high carb, grain-based foods, which elevate the blood sugar and increase inflammation in the body. Fun fact: most of the body’s serotonin is created by your microbiome and is actually stored in the gut! So, by reducing your intake of processed foods and upping your serves of fresh fruit and veg (and yes, we are suggesting you should eat more greens), you can significantly boost your micronutrient and fibre intake, which helps to feed your gut bacteria which in turn will produce more serotonin! Win-win!
By outlining these simple steps, we hope to help you realise that whilst it’s easy to feel overwhelmed during the job hunt, taking care of your mental health is way easier than you think! When you’re feeling the pressure, oftentimes everything feels like a chore, but the reality is that taking care of your mental health doesn’t need to be elaborate - dedicating a small amount of time each day to feeling good is something that you can look forward to!
If you have been unemployed for some time, your debts are becoming unmanageable and your mental health is taking a toll, we would like to offer you an obligation free financial assessment to help you get on top of your finances and start looking forward to a debt-free life. Call us today on 1300 003 328 to find out your financial debt help options!