An Introvert’s Guide to Getting Over Unemployment Anxiety
My anxiety has been at an all time high this month. How have you been feeling?
Jomar Delos Santos
My anxiety has been at an all time high this month. How have you been feeling?
You might also be in a similar position — thrust into the
steady unease of a job search with no hope in sight. Tensions are high and creeping thoughts of imposter syndrome can get in the way of a productive day.
Just two days ago, the Bureau of Labour Statistics released an updated report about the unemployment rate in the United States, which has thankfully fallen to about 5.8 million people. Though more and more people are getting jobs, there’s still a staggering 9.3 million people who are unemployed and currently searching for work.
That’s a lot of uncertainty.
After recently transitioning from my last job because of pandemic budget cuts, my gratitude at being able to further my career during one of the world’s most uncertain times grinded to a halt, instead being replaced with debilitating worry.
It was at this time that I had to sit down with myself and firmly say “enough was enough” to pursue a tangible plan of action that directly addresses my snowballing anxieties.
Disclaimer: I hesitate to make defined mental health claims as I am not an expert or formally trained on the subject. I would also hesitate to say my approach is “guaranteed to work” for everyone.
What I can confidently say is these new ways of thinking have made the longest-lasting and sustainable impact on my mental health since I started implementing them at the start of March, 2021.
I personally chose not to go the medication route because my symptoms are very manageable with healthy lifestyle changes. If yours are serious in comparison, please seek out the help of a medical professional.
However, if my situation rings a loud bell for you, I want to share what’s worked for me in the hope that you can finally find some peace of mind.
To build some sort of structure, I’m basing my personal recommendations around Human Givens, a theory of psychotherapy developed in the 1990s by British educators Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrell.
The idea here is that in between the hustle-and-bustle of dystopian modernity, we tend to neglect some, if not most of our emotional needs, leading to an imbalanced lifestyle. This is completely expected and normal. Don’t beat yourself up for losing your footing. Instead, work on improving just a bit everyday. 1% improvements add up over time. Just ask James Clear.
Some of these needs might be easy to forget, as they usually seem unimportant until we finally meet them. But when we do, the difference will be tangible as our minds settle down.
What is the Human Givens model?
The Human Givens model introduces 9 emotional needs that we all need to meet in order to feel a sense of happiness and fulfillment.
2. Autonomy and Control
6. Connection to the Wider Community
8. Competence and Achievement
9. Meaning and Purpose
Let’s find exactly which needs you’ve forgotten to cater to. I’ll provide some personal examples to help explain the function of each need in a real-world context.
To give a bit of background about who I am — I’m an introverted creative who sometimes gets lost in the throws of his social anxiety.
If you’re an ambivert, you might also find some value in my experience.
Extroverts can readily find commonalities in these examples, keeping in mind of course, that your “way” to fulfill the need might be slightly different. And that’s completely ok!
How To Change Your Thinking to Meet Your Emotional Needs
📷📷Photo by Coen Staal on Unsplash
1. Security: A feeling of safety that comes from living in an environment free of fear.
This one’s at the top for a reason. As a Canadian citizen, I’m in a privileged position that grants me livable monetary benefits; giving me the chance to accumulate a decent pool of savings while unemployed.
Most of my own anxiety comes from financial instability, so having a bit of extra coin to invest in growth indexes, cryptocurrency and a solid savings account eliminates a huge chunk of my daily worry.
Killing your ego in favour of moving back home might be another way to remove the unpredictable effects of the market. Especially, if you’re unemployed and uncertain about your living circumstances.
2. Autonomy and Control: The sense that our decisions directly influence the outcomes in our lives.
Lately, I’ve been incredibly discouraged while applying for jobs. One of my friends, a self-made university dropout and marketing consultant gave me the tough love I needed. His message read:
Once you’ve sent your application and completed all the necessary followups, let it go. You’ve done all you can. Now, if you end up getting rejected by the prospective company, dig for feedback and integrate any improvements they suggest (if they’re kind enough to provide them).
There’s absolutely no point in haranguing yourself when you’ve done all you can do.
If you still feel anxiety after sending our your application, you probably:
- Did the bare minimum.
- Didn’t exhaust all your options to reach out.
- Procrastinated and sent applications days (or weeks) after the competitive send window.
Control what you can, like the quality of your applications and resumes. The consistency of your follow-ups and cold emails should also be taken into consideration. Every part of this uncomfortable process is in your hands.
Once you put in the necessary effort, you’ll know because you won’t be harassed by your inner intuition (which usually speaks hard truths).
3. Status: An unconditional feeling of acceptance and belonging, helping you confidently navigate the world.
Still hanging out with those friends who aren’t good for you? You know who they are. The quarantine gave us all an opportunity to set the proverbial reset button on our life, giving us the fresh opportunity to rethink our relationships, including ones we want to strengthen and ones that are clearly unhealthy for us (but likely maintained due to guilt).
Now that we’re close to a point of social reintegration (at least in Canada), it’s time for you to make a clear choice between people that support you and people that drain you.
After all, you can still be friends with those people, just make sure to guard your time. Your energy will abound once you find the tribe that fits your identity.
A professor I studied under gave me some deceptively simple advice about this problem:
If you had puppy, which one of your friends would you trust to take care of it for a day? Those are the friends you should devote your energy and time to.
An incredibly simplified recommendation (I know), but honestly one that’s given me sound direction. Trust and communication are key to you developing a healthy sense of self-esteem and social status.
4. Privacy: Designated spaces that allow us to reflect and work through troubling thoughts.
An absolute must for any introvert. I notice this need is missing from my rotation when my social anxiety spikes. I start to get very irritable.
If you need an hour out in nature to reflect or are the type of person that needs to maintain a daily practice of meditation, take the time for yourself and give your body and mind what it needs.
Privacy in conjunction with time in nature gives me an abundance of energy and tolerance for social situations. I can thank Vancouver and its many amazing green spaces for maintaining my sanity over the 20 plus years that I’ve lived here.
If you want to start a meditation practice and aren’t sure where to begin, I wrote an article about how to establish one last year.
Also, checkout this app called Insight Timer. For the very manageable price of “free” you get access to a catalogue of different teachers who provide calming, guided meditations. A gold mine for easily distracted people like me, who like you, likely need a voice to lead their journey to mental clarity. And no, this isn’t an ad. I was just tired of paying $70 for the same two teachers on Headspace every year.
5. Attention: A mutual social exchange that positively affects the personal development of the giver AND receiver.
The worse thing you can do as an anxious person is bottle yourself up. Reach out to your friends. See how they’re doing. That conversation you’re dreading to have with your mum? Call her and wade in the discomfort. I used to be a proponent of social avoidance when things got messy. That is not the way.
Each time you do it, it’ll get easier. Eventually you’ll have built a healthy support network of confidants that are not only helping you straighten your head, but you’ll be helping them out too. Plus your anxiety about the situation will subside.
It’s easy to think you’re the only person going through mental difficulties when in reality, you’d be surprised to know that many of your friends and family are experiencing the same worries. I know this after reaching out to a friend that I was butting heads with for months.
We came to an impasse and realized it was a product of our worsening mental health. Now we have a pact to make constant improvements and work on being accountable. 2021 baby!
6. Connection to the Wider Community: A sense of collective belonging that arises from shared group identities.
Ok, so this one’s a bit tricky. The internet has only made it easier to access people who think like you and share the same interests. Whether it’s through music, hobbies, food, video games, gardening or whatever you’re into.
But remember, no two communities are made equal. I’m talking about you social media.
For me, too much exposure to Instagram or dating app culture spikes my social anxiety. I know myself. I can’t be swiping through the sea of self-comparison because before long, I’ve crippled my own ability to create and put myself out there. It just doesn’t work for the type of guy I am. Oh well.
Instead, I’ve found smaller communities where I can share and talk about my passions like dystopian novels, language learning and cryptocurrency. Whether your local regulations allow you to act on this in-person or through an online medium, embrace your community!
You don’t have to follow the greater wave, cause often times, it doesn’t reflect the fluidity of your interests and you inevitably get swept away in an ocean of confusion. Once you connect to your chosen community, you’ll find comfort in expressing the real you.
7. Intimacy: Deep emotional connections intrinsic to fulfilling relationships.
A very subjective emotional need but one that is incredibly important to getting healthy. Tied in with the other needs I spoke about, this one will come up as an aftereffect of receiving healthy attention through connecting with positive people and influences in your life.
Life isn’t all about your professional role, how many jobs you land and how much money you’ve lost while being unemployed. The people who you crossed paths with, who made you rethink and reconsider your beliefs will be the people you remember when this incredible journey ends.
8. Competence and Achievement: A sense of individual ability based on the outcomes of our decisions.
I know I just spoke about gushy connections between people but I’ll take us 6 steps back to Autonomy and Control. To really feel a sense of Competence and Achievement when you aren’t getting job responses requires a certain amount of expectation restructuring.
You likely have a set of markers you’re upset you aren’t hitting and feel immense disappointment as a result. Maybe you’re feeling less and less qualified after each rejection. This is completely normal.
When you start applying for jobs, buy a little journal that you can use to log every company you apply to and keep track of when your application is viewed, responded to and when you land an interview.
When I was worried about not getting feedback after sending dozens of applications with a couple of failed interviews, I was quickly brought down to earth by a friend who informed me it took hundreds of failed applications and over 15 failed interviews to finally land the job of her dreams. So keep going, because you likely aren’t even there yet. I know I’m not.
9. Meaning and Purpose: The overarching purpose or higher calling we attribute to our existence.
I’m going to reaffirm a notion I lightly touched on earlier. I’ll make it as clear as possible.
- Your value doesn’t rely on you having a job.
- Your value isn’t tied to what you do for a living.
- Your value isn’t tied to how much money you make.
- A job rejection doesn’t mean you’ll always be rejected .
- A job rejection doesn’t mean you weren’t qualified; they were likely looking for a specific fit.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I want to remind you to not think in absolutes. This is something I’ve been struggling with; a definite cause for my self-constructed worries. All-or-nothing thinking will get you nowhere, because most of the time correlation doesn’t equal causation.
Put yourself in the shoes of your job interviewer and read your application. Imagine yourself assessing it and putting it away after a rejection and remember that person has nothing against you.
I spent the first month of applying getting discouraged at a lack of responses, but I’m still keeping up at it. It gets easier. Of course I still worry and brood about when I’ll get my next stable job. But if I let one measly rejection define my purpose and give too much meaning to a “loss,” then I’ve essentially thrown in the towel.
Here Our Paths Separate
Reader, I hope you’ve found some value in this longwinded article. Just know that I’m in the same boat as you, and am working just as hard to paddle through uncertain waters. Wherever you are in your journey, just remember that it does get better.
Before I swap Google Chrome tabs to bang out 10 more applications, I’ll leave you with 3 book recommendations that helped reshape and strengthen my current mentality.
1. Feeling Good — David D. Burns. A manual to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that helped me separate my anxieties from reality. Take what serves you from this book. It was crucial to my recovery.
2. Psycho-Cybernetics — by Maxwell Maltz. A self-help guide to self-image written by a plastic surgeon. Absolutely life changing for anyone struggling with social anxiety or self-image issues.
3. Atomic Habits — James Clear. Even when it feels like you aren’t making any progress, Clear teaches you step-by-step how to build positive, lasting habits. This was essential to removing negative habits and making more space for creativity. Now my mind has less and less room for negativity.
I hope yours will too.
Good luck, I’m rooting for you.
Jomar Delos Santos
I write articles to clear your head (and mine).