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Anxiety can have a significant impact on important moments in your life. It can cause you to believe that the worst possible scenario will always happen, which can leave you feeling demotivated, overly cautious and with low self-esteem.

If you are currently searching for a new job and the thought of going to interviews is filling you with dread, there are ways in which you can control this anxiety.

Lauren Povey, a therapist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford who uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to treat people with anxiety, has outlined CBT strategies that job seekers can use to manage their anxiety and deal with nerves.

What Is CBT?

CBT is a form of therapy that helps people to become aware of their dysfunctional thoughts, and the impact that these thoughts are having on them.

Before an interview, you may have previously thought and believed that “I’m going to be terrible” or “my interviewers are going to hate me.” CBT can help you to recognize that these thoughts, which you convince yourself to be true, are just your opinions and are causing you to feel anxious. It also helps you to see how these thoughts and feelings negatively influence how you behave in the run-up to and during interviews, acting as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

CBT then allows you to challenge these negative thoughts and teaches you how to swap them for something more realistic and positive, so that you can feel driven as opposed to discouraged when heading into future interviews.

Strategy One – Learn to Recognize and Reframe Your Negative Thoughts

You can teach yourself to swap negative thoughts for ones that are more positive and helpful.

You will need to practice this technique to master it. Every evening, focus on any moments during that day when you became anxious. Pinpoint what you thought at the time, how you felt and how you went onto behave. Then look at how you can change the initial thought into something more encouraging.

To help you to complete this exercise, try writing down answers to the following questions:

  • What caused you to become anxious?

Was it when you started to think about an upcoming interview? Was it when you were reading through your portfolio or CV?

  • What did you think at the time?

Were you convinced that you weren’t going to get the job, or that you were going to be the worst interviewee that the company would have seen?

  • What will happen if you continue to think like this?

Could this anxiousness stop you from performing at your best during your interview? Could it prevent you from progressing properly in your career?

  • How could you challenge the initial thoughts you had?

If you are sure you’re doing a lousy job during the interview, remember times when you have performed well in meetings and interviews before. And, if you think you aren’t going to get the job, where is the evidence for this? You meet the job criteria and have the right skills and experience. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been brought in for an interview.

  • What would be a healthier way of thinking about the situation?

It is understandable to think about job interviews as high-pressure situations, but instead of thinking “I’m going to do terribly,” try thinking “this is going to be difficult, but it is an excellent opportunity, and I am a good candidate for the role.”

  • What can you do next time you start to think negatively about yourself?

When you next catch yourself thinking negatively about possible scenarios, make an effort to challenge these thoughts so that you can quell your anxieties. 

Once you have spent time practising this technique, you will be able to pause and redirect yourself away from negative thoughts the moment they arise, so that they don’t go on to impact your feelings and how you act during upcoming interviews.

Strategy Two – Visualize Your Success Rather than Failure

Visualization can help you to put a stop to imagining everything that could go wrong in interviews, as you actively have to picture it going well instead.

By regularly imagining yourself acting poised, confident and professional in future interviews, this can train you to behave this way during actual talks with potential employers.

To help you to do this, try the following:
  • Find a space that is calm, private and quiet, where you can make yourself comfortable. Take a few slow and deep breaths to calm yourself, and close your eyes
  • Take time to set the scene of the interview. What will you be wearing on the day? Who will be in the room? What will the space look like? What can you expect to hear, see and even smell?
  • If you have been worrying about the interviewers asking you a particular question, imagine yourself answering it confidently
  • If you are anxious about the entire process, take the time to walk through the event. Imagine everything from when you enter the building to when you shake the interviewers’ hands as you leave, where you act confidently and professionally throughout
  • Remain in this moment for 5 or 10 minutes

By regularly practising this technique while on your job search, you can calm yourself down before interviews. You can also train yourself to be poised, professional and confident during these meetings, as you focus on what you can achieve as opposed to what could go wrong.

Celebrating Success

Strategy Three

Practice Positive Self-talk 

Do you find that your inner critic becomes very loud before interviews, telling you that you’re incompetent and that you won’t land the job?

Rather than putting yourself down, you should make a conscious effort to practice positive self-talk throughout the interview process. If you think you will struggle to do so at the moment, prepare phrases beforehand which you can then recite when you’re in the high-pressure situation.

  • Before your interview, recite statements like “I will impress the interviewers” or “I am perfect for this ”
  • During the interview, make sure that you stay positive, using short affirmations like “calm and confident” or “stay ”
  • After your interview, make sure you don’t instantly become critical. Instead, tell yourself “I’m proud of what I’ve ”

Even if things don’t quite go to plan, take the time to think about what you did achieve. Any small step that you make can be progress.

When to Get Help for Anxiety

Anxiety can make even the smallest of tasks seem impossible, and can sometimes prevent people from accessing the treatment and help that they need. If you feel like your anxiety is becoming worse, and is having a detrimental effect on your daily life, you need to seek support.

You should visit your doctor to talk about your symptoms and the impact that they are having on you. Your GP will be able to offer you any support that you need and refer you for specialist anxiety treatment so that you can tackle any underlying causes, reduce your symptoms and take steps towards an anxiety-free life. 

Written By
Lauren Povey is a Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, who treats people with anxiety and other mental health conditions at Priory Hospital Chelmsford. Lauren works with people on a one-to-one basis as well as in a group setting, facilitating the CBT groups, anxiety pathway groups, emotion regulation workshops and assertion groups at the hospital.

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