It’s no surprise that there is a strong link between unemployment and poor mental health. The job search process is strenuous, rejection is demoralizing, and loss of income has severe consequences for one’s overall livelihood. Unfortunately, the resulting job search depression is a reality many face.
A 2014 study from Gallup revealed that unemployed Americans (12.4%) are more than twice as likely to be treated for depression than full-time workers (5.4%). On top of that, being unemployed for a year more than doubles the risk of depression compared to five weeks of unemployment.
More recently, the CDC assessed the percentage of American adults with anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms during the pandemic. From August 2020 to February 2021, that percentage of adults drastically increased from 36.4% to 41.5%.
Thus, you must be vigilant about caring for your mental health any time you’re looking for a new job.
Some strategies, like daily exercise, have been proven time and time again. But given the complex nature of depression, it is valuable to continue digging deeper into research. Besides, COVID-19 changed the landscape of mental health in America. Reaching back to data from 2019 isn’t a good enough reflection of the world today.
Here’s what the most recent 2021 studies demonstrate about preventing job search depression:
At the end of May, the JAMA Psychiatry journal published new research on the best way to optimize sleep patterns to mitigate the risk of depression. In the study, Harvard researchers examined survey findings and genetic data from 23andMe of 850,000 people.
They found that those who both go to bed and wake up early have less depression. For example, waking up an hour earlier than usual lowers the risk of depression by 23%, and waking up two hours earlier reduces it by 40%.
To reduce your risk of job search depression, practice self-discipline over your sleep patterns. It may be tempting to stay up late and sleep in if you don’t need to report to a job in the morning. But it will serve you better long-term if you make efforts to become an early riser.
Try a sleep tracker to keep an eye on your patterns. Additionally, if you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, set your alarm on the other side of the room. You can also create a responsibility for yourself that must happen at the same time every morning. Walking a dog, watering plants, or joining a family member for breakfast can all help with your motivation.
It is important to note that if your family history and personal background predispose you to have a high risk of depression, changing your sleep patterns should not be the only measure you take to take care of your mental health. Additional professional help and medication may be appropriate.
Hit a wall in your job search? Try leveraging your pandemic skills!
The Journal of Applied Psychology, which is associated with the American Psychology Association, recently published a daily diary study that looked into eating habits. Although the results did not specifically touch on mental disorders, they did reveal findings regarding behavior and emotional stability, which can relate to mental health.
The researchers found that unhealthy eating behavior in the evening leads to both emotional and physical strain the following morning. Some examples include feelings of guilt, stomachache, and diarrhea. These strains then decrease the quality of your performance by the afternoon.
To manage your risk of job search depression, you have to be careful of negative thought patterns. Choices that increase guilt, feelings of incompetence, exhaustion or laziness, and physical discomfort do little to prevent negative thoughts. Therefore, staying mindful of what you eat, how much, and when will improve your afternoon performance in the job hunt and contribute to better self-talk.
Try writing down what nutrients you prioritize, but avoid calorie counting. Although it can help you keep track of your healthy eating habits, it can also contribute to unhealthy mindsets and, potentially, eating disorders. Instead, color-code the food groups to see what kinds of food you do or don’t eat enough.
During the pandemic, Alcohol.org surveyed 3,000 employees to see how lockdown affects their drinking habits. They found that 35% of Americans said they were likely to drink more alcohol while self-isolating. Moreover, 1 in 3 Americans were more likely to drink during work hours while working from home during the lockdown. According to the researchers’ interpretations, these increases were due to alcohol’s emotional numbing and stress relief effects in times of adversity.
Hopefully, the stress you’re under in the job search does not match the crisis levels America faced at the start of the pandemic. But unemployment is still an emotional and stressful situation to be in. And, from Alcohol.org’s results, there is no denying that Americans frequently drink more to cope in those types of circumstances.
If drinking is part of your daily life, you don’t need to abstain completely, fearing that it’ll interfere with your job search. The key is to ensure that you don’t begin to rely on it as a crutch for emotional support. Heavy drinking may make you feel better in the moment, but it will sabotage your ability to wake up early, make healthy choices, and focus on efforts in finding a job. And your resulting inability to perform can fast-track you into depressive symptoms.
Keep in mind that if alcohol or other unhealthy coping mechanisms are consistently your go-to when facing problems, it may be time to ask for help.
Call the American Addiction Center helpline at (866) 650-5648 to be connected with an admissions navigator to discuss options for treatment. The line is available 24/7 at no cost with no obligation to enter treatment.