It hangs from the ceiling above your bed while you toss through the night hours. It waits inside the door of every employment office you enter. It dogs your footsteps as you pound the job search pavement. It lounges in an empty chair as you crawl through another desultory interview. It sits on your shoulder while you balance your checkbook's alarmingly diminishing balance.
Its name is anxiety. Composed of fear, self-doubt, guilt, dread, and self-reproach, it ties your stomach in knots, makes sweat ooze from your pores, makes your head hurt, your memory blur, and your concentration dissipate. You can't wash it away, will it away, or beat it away. The only way to contain it is to embrace it, to make it your ally and your friend.
1. Although anxiety can unnerve you and make you feel paralyzed, consider its ability to energize you. Watch it carefully, without emotion or judgment distorting your vision, and you will see it raise the hairs on your neck, excite your thought processes, heighten your senses, stir your imagination and make you keenly aware of being alive. Trace its pathway through your body, coursing through your veins and touching every pore, every organ, every extremity. Instead of fighting it, hold it close it as if it were a natural amphetamine, a pill that makes you feel a little strange but also exhilarated.
2. Learn to recognize when it will come and anticipate its arrival with excitement. Without it, you are flat, beaten, dejected. Wait for it to come, welcome it, and view it as your body's ally to focus yourself on the job search situation. Have your anxiety stay close to you, forcing you to be aware of your surroundings and ready to express your thoughts and feelings to a potential employer with enthusiasm and energy.
3. Talk to your anxiety as with an old friend. Look at it as your best personal source of camaraderie, loyalty, and friendly support. Let it work for you, not against you and you have not only tamed the beast but have created a more enjoyable and positive environment for yourself. Your self-doubts will always linger but they are at a manageable level where you can calmly push them into the background while you concentrate on making a great self-presentation.
After a short amount of practice, you will find yourself almost in a panic before the anxiety arrives because you need that charge of energy to get you going and move you forward. Try it and see if it works for you.
Virginia Bola operated a rehabilitation company for 20 years, developing innovative job search techniques for disabled workers, while serving as a respected Vocational Expert in Administrative, Civil and Workers' Compensation Courts. Author of an interactive and emotionally supportive workbook, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a monthly ezine, The Worker's Edge, she can be reached at http://www.virginiabola.com