Coping strategies

Looking for work is stressful. Lots of things about it, like worrying about money, not hearing back from jobs or being rejected, can really start to affect your mental health.

It’s common to experience anxiety, depression, burnout or even low self-worth while on the job hunt. That’s where coping strategies come in.

Coping strategies are thoughts or behaviours you use to prevent, reduce or manage stress

Below are some coping strategies that can help if you’re struggling with your mental health while being unemployed.

Separate your identity from your job

People sometimes define who they are by their jobs.

When we meet new people, we are often asked, “What do you do for work?” The truth is, who we are (identity) and what we do (to earn a living) are two very different things.

Some people are lucky enough to have their ‘dream job’. But most people have a range of jobs, roles and experiences throughout their lives – some better than others.

None of them define who you are. Who you are is a combination of all the factors in your life that make up you, including your past experiences, your relationships with others, your interests and hobbies, your personality and strengths, etc.


  • Make a list of the top 10 things that make you who you are.
  • Rather than talking about work, ask and tell people about your passions.
  • Explore your identity by starting a new hobby, doing something creative, making new friends or joining a new club.

Redefine ‘success’ and ‘failure’

A lot of people link their self-esteem with their work. When things are going great, they take credit for it. And when things are going bad, they feel useless, worthless or like a failure.

The thing is, no person is ever a ‘success’ or ‘failure’ at life. We all have good times and hard times. And being a ‘success’ usually takes a lot of failures – like being rejected from lots of jobs, making mistakes and learning from them.

Don’t fear failure. It’s true that it can hurt – but it’s the comeback that counts!


  • Break your big goal (finding a job) into smaller, achievable steps, e.g. I will spend 10 minutes looking at today. This can help you have a sense of accomplishment.

  • List some things you are most proud of achieving in your life. These can act as real-life stories of how you solved a problem or overcame adversity for job interview questions (where appropriate).

Pick and choose what ‘advice’ you take

People usually mean well when they say things like, “Hit the pavement and hand out resumes” or “Get networking”.

The reality is that people who aren’t in your situation might find it hard to understand what it’s like to look for work right now (especially for finding your first job).

Unfortunately, a lot of advice is outdated or make people who are searching for a job feel bad or like they aren’t trying hard enough.

Don’t take every piece of advice to heart. Pick and choose who and what you listen to.


  • Talk to other people who are looking for work – you can share ideas and support each other.
  • Get support and advice from your employment service – they help people like you get jobs every day.
  • Consider different options – there are often lots of different ways to achieve your goals. E.g. Maybe you could do some volunteer work for a cause you care about to get a good referee? 

Be kind to yourself

Our society is really unfair in a lot of different ways. Some people have ‘more’ than others do. And it can be easy for those with more to judge those with less.

You can hear a lot of negative things about being unemployed, especially in the media (but also from other people).

Keep in mind that the media often reports things that paint people in a bad light on purpose to get more views. And they usually don’t interview or give voice to real-life young people (like you) who are looking for work.


  • Don’t compare yourself to others – it’s usually not a fair comparison.
  • Limit your exposure to negative media.
  • Get support – especially if you are feeling not good enough, like you’re struggling or coping is hard.

Look after your mental health

When people are unemployed for longer than a few weeks, they can start to feel anxious or depressed.

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to look after yourself. This could include:

  • Socialising. Spend time connecting with people you care about.
  • Take mental health breaks from looking for or worrying about jobsearch. Do things you enjoy.
  • Self-care. This means taking care of your basic needs. A good way to do this is to have a ‘routine’ each day that includes getting out of bed, showering and having regular meals.
  • Learn something new. Our brain gets bored easily as it needs stimulation. Trying something different you’ve always wanted to do can prevent boredom.
  • Exercise. Exercise can help manage anxiety and prevent and treat depression. Plus, it’s good for you!
  • Do things that give you purpose, e.g. helping others. This can help you focus on the big picture. uses cookies to improve our service and website. For the best browsing experience please accept this cookie request. 

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