Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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If you’re depressed and thinking of harming yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline right away at 1-800-273-8255.

Feeling exhausted, stressed and burnt out when you’ve been looking for a job for ages (or what feels like ages) is common. In fact, there’s a term for it: job search depression. This occurs when you’ve been unemployed for a period of time and can’t seem to find your way out of the hole. 

If you’re depressed and can’t find a job, ramping up your job search is probably the last thing you want to do. Instead, it may be time to work on your mental health. Here are our suggestions for ways to cope.

1. Seek help with your mental health.

First things first — if your job search is taking a toll on your mental health, you need to find professional help. Consider speaking with a therapist. Not only will she be able to work with you through your depression and other issues you’re dealing with, but she can also help you deal with cognitive distortions that may be shaping the way you think about your job search and skills and even navigate your job search. Your confidence has likely taken a hit, and that may be affecting your hunt, too. A therapist can help you regain coping skills and think about yourself in a different way.

If you’re having trouble finding a therapist who takes your insurance or any insurance, it’s worth asking about sliding scales so the cost isn’t overwhelming, especially when you’re unemployed and may not have the financial resources to fund your treatment. Consider Talkspace and similar therapeutic communities and spaces, too. This is an often less costly option that many people find helpful.

2. Look for support.

There are other forms of support that are completely free. You might be surprised to find that there are many others who are currently or have been in the same boat as you. Browse online forums on job-search sites and similar resources to connect with others who are depressed and looking for jobs. If you can’t find your topic already posted, start a discussion and ask what others in your position have done to cope. (You can start with Fairygodboss’s thread on the topic.)

Talk to friends and family members about your feelings, too. Even if they haven’t been through a similar experience, it can be helpful to express your frustration and difficulty — and harmful to keep it inside and suffer with it alone.

3. Take a break.

When you’ve recently lost your job or can’t seem to find work no matter how hard you look, it can feel like you need to double down and spend 24 hours a day job searching. This is a one-way ticket to burnout. Instead, give yourself time to rest and recharge. Make sure you take several hours a day to read, watch a movie, work on a project or just relax. You may even need a few days to recharge, so take yourself on a mini staycation

While you’re relaxing, make sure to spend time around other people, rather than just binging Netflix all day. Job searches can be lonely and isolating, and it’s important to spend time with other people to keep yourself from getting even more depressed and lonely.

4. Work on your overall wellness.

Don’t neglect other aspects of your health and wellbeing. When you’re depressed, it’s easy to let things like exercise and nutrition fall by the wayside. But these and other health-related activities can actually improve your mood. Many health professionals recommend daily exercise for people with depression and anxiety for just that reason. Be careful about what you eat, too. Too much sugar and junk food will make you feel even worse. 

Try relaxation exercises, yoga, meditation and mindfulness to help you feel better, too.

5. Volunteer and help others.

It’s common for your self-esteem to take a hit when you can’t find a job. You need to remember that your self-worth doesn’t depend on employment, and finding ways to make yourself feel more useful can help. When you volunteer, you’re making a difference in the lives of other people. Plus, you’ll be around people and avoid succumbing to isolation. 

Moreover, this can also help boost your resume and skill set. Many organizations value people who volunteer and contribute to their communities — not to mention the skills you’ll learn as a volunteer

6. Bolster your skills.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do or learn but have never had the time to? Now is the perfect time to tackle that to-do list. Sign up for a course at a community college or browse online resources, including free ones like Khan Academy. You don’t even have to choose something that’s relevant to your career. In fact, it might help take your mind off of your job search depression to engage in something totally different. Always wanted to learn how to play the guitar? Call the teacher who posted a flyer at a local coffee shop. Want to become a better public speaker? See if you can find a workshop at your community center. Do something for you.

7. Designate times of day for job hunting.

Just as you need to set aside breaks for relaxing, it’s essential to prevent burnout by not overextending yourself. That means avoiding conducting your job search at all hours. Instead, set aside specific times for revising your resume, filling out applications, perusing job boards and preparing for interviews. Make yourself stop when that period of time is over. Even if job searching is your full-time job at the moment, remember that full-time jobs have start and end times. 

8. Go easy on yourself.

This is something many, many people go through. It’s very difficult, but it doesn’t have to consume you. Don’t succumb to negative self-talk — you are not defined by your ability or inability to find a job. 

The most important thing you can do right now is be nice to yourself. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or beat yourself up. Don’t feel like a failure because you’re not a failure. Something didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean it never will. You feel terrible now, but it won’t always be like this. All you can do is all you can do. Just keep reminding yourself that it will work out eventually — and you’ll be stronger for it.

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