Stress can seem like a burden—but it’s what gets you closer to your dreams.
When you’re dreaming of a new job, chances are you don’t just yearn to move over a desk or two. You want to find work that really satisfies you, that helps you grow, that connects you to new ideas, new people, new products. But there’s something keeping you stuck in your cubie, and it’s probably not your boss or your financial situation, or even the job market.
It’s your head.
Negative stressful thoughts, the kind that won’t let you sleep well or eat well or take risks, comes from your response to what happens to and around you, and that response usually starts in the form of thoughts and beliefs. Here’s an example: You see a really good job listing, and you get excited. You send a resume or network your way to an informal meeting with someone at the company. And then, maybe the meeting is lackluster, or maybe you realize you forgot to fix a bad typo on your LinkedIn profile, and the negative thoughts explode. I can’t go for this job. I’m not good enough. It always fails (whatever it is). I should just stay where I am. It makes more sense. What I’m doing is fine.
This pattern of stress is a common when you’re striving to change your status quo, but fearful of the unknown. To change it, you have to learn to manage the inevitable stress of job searching (and living). This will put you in a much stronger position to keep on shooting for the corner office, the hot new start-up, the senior associate position, the plum assignment, the stars. Remember these three tenets of stress management to help you stay balanced and confident as you rise.
Tenet #1: Living your life and chasing your ambitions can be thrilling, not stressful.
We have learned to fear stress. With good reason. Chronic stress is a killer, coiled at the root of nearly every diagnosis you can think of. But in truth, part of the problem is that we have framed stress as the Big Bad. Stress by other names is also: excitement, motivation, energy, pressure. And just the right amount will get you to do amazing things.
Your job, then, is not to avoid job-seeking risks that are scary or challenging, but to embrace them. Start by thinking about the common symptoms stress—pounding heart, the jitters, the urge to call your mom. Each is a sign that your body is doing exactly what it should to prepare you for the challenge at hand. Your senses are heightened; your awareness is greater; your need to connect is stronger. Tell yourself: My life can be thrilling. It is right now, and I can accept this challenge!
Tenet #2: Observe your thoughts and question them often.
Thoughts run through your mind every day, like a chatty social media feed. These thoughts blend with emotions; more often than not, you apply some emotional filter to your experiences, and these filters are a big part of what makes you stressed. If you can start to understand the emotions associated with your thoughts, you can begin to control your responses and avoid or escape the resulting stress.
Tenet #3: Get rid of what you don’t need and make room for what you want.
We all have trouble prying our fingers from the stuff we love or know well, even when it doesn’t suit us anymore. But if you’re clinging to old things, whether they’re actual objects or, ahem, your job, it’s keeping you from moving forward into the life you want.
The trickiest clutter to clear is your thinking. To start, take five minutes right now to write down the top three things you want to do, achieve, or have happen in the next six months. How much closer are you to doing them than you were six months ago? What excuse have you been using? Next to each goal, write down all the excuses and thoughts and fears that come up when you consider going for them, such as: I’m too old, I don’t know where to start, or I’m afraid of embarrassing myself. And then? Take those tiny fears and old thoughts and toss them out, along with the unworn boots, the books you’ll never read, and the suits that simply don’t fit you anymore.
Imagine how you could amp up your job search if stress were your fuel, if you made questioning your thoughts a habit, if you had mental room to work toward your ambitions. That’s what managing your stress can do. Try it—you’ll be surprised by where you can go!
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