You can weather the stress of lengthy unemployment with good self-care.

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Nothing kicks around your self-esteem more than a long job search. Even a couple of weeks of rejection can make a person start to feel like a failure. When those weeks turn into months — well, no one could blame you for being demoralized. You may even begin to question your skills and abilities.

How do you keep on keeping on?

First, before you do anything else, take a few moments to recognize that unemployment truly is one of life’s most stressful situations. A lot of “happy talk” surrounds job hunting. You are encouraged to “radiate positivity.” You are admonished to “not take rejection personally.” These ideas aren’t terrible, but after a while, they can start to make you feel bad about feeling bad.

So let this be said: It’s OK to feel bad. What’s not OK is to let this feeling rule you or your behavior.

In many ways, you can deal with job-hunt stress the way you do other kinds of stress. Exercising, eating right, meditating, praying, listening to music, surrounding yourself with loving and positive people, spending time in nature, getting enough rest, engaging in a passionate hobby, and rewarding yourself for “good behavior” are all excellent tools for keeping your spirits up and giving yourself the mental and physical energy to carry on. Definitely try any or all of those.

Karen Burns, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs
Karen Burns, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs

Other self-care tips are more specific to the task at hand. Some job hunters find it helpful to get up early every day and dress as if they are going to work. Keeping to a regular schedule, setting goals and maintaining a written list of action items can also be helpful. Many people join job clubs, where they can share resources, networking tips and moral support.

An extremely powerful way to stay positive is to help those who are worse off than you. Volunteer some of your time at the charity of your choice, or teach a free course in your specialty. The physical and emotional benefits of “feeling useful” will come back to you tenfold. You may even make some useful contacts.

Your life may be in limbo while you’re hunting for a new job, but you don’t have to be. The right self-care can help get you through it.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at