Why Self-Care Is Such an Important Job Search Tactic

Here we are.

We're deep into January, a month that people so often start with zest, hope and promise -- and end in frustration or despair, when things don't unfold precisely how we vowed or envisioned they would.

People don't respond to our job applications as fast as we want. Interviews are tougher than expected. We're tired from life's obligations, and struggling to carve time out to look for something new or better.

Maybe you're sad. Maybe you're angry. Maybe you're just flat-out all set at this point. (I know at least a few of you are; I've talked with you.)

If any of this sounds remotely familiar, I urge you to ask yourself this question:

How well am I caring for myself right now?

I"m not asking you to contemplate "How's my job search strategy?" Or, "How much harder could I be trying?" Or, "How bad is my luck here?"

I'm asking, "Scale of 1 to 10, how do I rate myself when it comes to both inner and outer self-care?"

So many of us put ourselves dead last when it comes to nurturing our bodies, our minds and our spirits. We tend to our children, we make sure our friends and family members' needs are all met, we volunteer for stuff we don't want to volunteer for, we attend functions we don't want to attend ... we go and we go and we go ... until there's absolutely nothing left for ourselves.

Or sometimes, we feel like it's plain selfish to put our well-being at the front of the line.

And so we just don't. 

The problem here is this -- When you let stress pile up (and I think we'll all agree that, even under the best of circumstances, job search and career pivots are pretty darned stressful), it will ultimately slow you down, at best. At worst, it'll completely take over your ability to function.

And if you're looking for a new job in 2017, "ability to function" is fairly high on the "must have" list.

Folks, self-care is not decadent. It's not selfish, it's not woo-woo, it's not even a little bit silly.

I can tell you this from personal experience. 

2016 was, in many ways, a fiasco for my family and me. The main highlights:

In February, my husband -- a fit and energetic cyclist -- was diagnosed with severe stress and high blood pressure -- to the point that his doctor suggested he change jobs, immediately.

In June, I was diagnosed with PTSD -- remnants of a decades-old assault that I'd not exactly gotten around to processing and recovering from. (Turns out, you should do this.)

In September, my husband's new-ish employer announced on a Tuesday that his job was moving to Dallas, and if he didn't wish to move, his last day of work would be Friday (we didn't wish to move).

Certainly, these were all (fortunately) overcome-able circumstances. But, when mixed in with the rigors of running a business and caring for an ever-active family, it was at times downright oppressive.

What got us through?

Aside from faith, stubbornness and more than a glass or two of Sauvignon Blanc, it was deliberate self-care -- even when it felt selfish, woo-woo or a little bit silly. I started yoga (kicking and screaming my way all the way to the first class), and now practice 3-4 days a week. I blocked out semi-regular time in my calendar for pleasure reading, listening to music and walking the dog.

I tried green tea (gack, not for me). I paid attention to what I ate.

I even stuck a toe into guided meditation, a practice that I'm just getting started with, so I'll have to report back on how it goes.

I'm not suggesting these things miraculously transformed every stressful situation like some magical wand. We had some true doozies of stretches for a while there. But I will say without hesitation that unapologetic self-care helped make some of those "I can't take one more day of this" moments feel more like, "This rather sucks. I should take a few deep breaths and ease my way through it" moments.

How this relates to you

If you're in the middle of a job search or career pivot, you're going to operate much, much (muuuuccch) more effectively if you've got some semblance of calm, energy, mental clarity and physical stamina. You may not feel like Wonder Woman every day (or Hercules), for certain. This is tough stuff. But, by deliberately (and regularly) creating space for enjoyment, rest and well-being, you'll give yourself a fighting chance.

If you're feeling frustration or burnout already in 2017, consider finding two things this week to say no to, and two things (that are all about you) to say yes to. That's literally all this takes -- a starting point.

Even if it's just little by little, beginning to cultivate a habit of self-care (no matter how weird it feels) may not only be your ticket to sanity now; it also could play a vital role in accelerating the time between today and your first day at a great new job in 2017.

Take it from the gal who now swears by it.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Jessicahtam)