How to Avoid Search Stress During the Holiday Season

he holidays can be stressful, but job hunting often compounds the problem. Well-intentioned friends and family can hover with questions such as, “Hey, Harry, did you get a new job yet?”

As if the external pressures aren’t enough, your own internal thoughts, beliefs and feelings can drive you to distraction.

Stress can be managed once you know what it is and how it shows up. While some days will feel more stressful than others, being able to identify your stressors and learning how to minimize them can make a difference. The following suggestions can help job hunters survive and even thrive during the holidays.

The Family

One sure-fire stressor is the inevitable family-holiday gathering. Some people may choose not to visit family during the holidays because they anticipate stressful situations. If you decide to go, you’ll need to control the situations before they control you, says Virginia Reed, a stress-management coach and president of the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies, a nonprofit education and research organization in New York.

Start by setting goals that are realistic, not based on what you think things or events should be. Know what you can and can’t control.

If you anticipate stress-inducing questions from your relatives or friends, prepare your responses ahead of time. One might sound something like, “Thanks for asking about my search — and I’m moving ahead nicely. As you may know, I’m focused on landing at the right place with the right opportunities. As soon as I get something that excites me, I’ll let you know. By the way, how is your business doing?” You always can try to “fake it ‘til you make it.” Act as if things are moving in the right direction.

If you find yourself getting upset, try to break your negative-thought pattern. Ann Fry, chief fun officer at Humor University, a consulting, coaching and training firm in Austin, Texas, suggests asking yourself, “What would Robin Williams do in the same situation?” The answer usually will produce a smile.

If this strategy fails and you’re still upset, consider taking a time-out. Go for a walk or take a nap. You’ll also find it helpful to confide in a friend who will be supportive and won’t be afraid to tell you the truth.


Professional- and business-related holiday events can present numerous opportunities for networking. View these gatherings as opportunities to let people know about you as a person, not just a title. Discuss your hobbies and other interests. Networking is about making personal connections. Another effective way to do this is to keep conversations focused on others, not on you. This approach also works with dealing with family and friends.

If your self-esteem is flagging, try running an internal “tape” through your mind that says, “I’m a solution to someone’s problem and I’m looking for the best place and company where I can do what I do best.” This thought can help carry you through the stressful season and may boost your view of yourself as well as how others perceive you.

Stress also has a physiological aspect. When you’re stressed, your body is anticipating danger, in the form of rejection or negativity. Your breath may become short and your body may become tense.

You can reduce your stress by shifting to a deeper breathing pattern, taking in breath from the lower abdomen. It might help to practice this slow and deep breathing before or during a party. Do it several times a day, every day, to reap the long-term benefits.

To relax your upper body, raise your shoulders, tighten them and then drop them.

Check your posture and make eye contact at parties. How you hold yourself can impact how you feel and how others see you. Shamed people don’t make eye contact and shameful postures project negativity. If you’re hunched over, you may be restricting your breathing. How does your body look when you feel good? Pull your shoulders down and let your head rise upwards. It’s harder to be negative if you adopt a positive posture.


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