Who actually needs a paycheck, anyway?

You’re sitting in the waiting room of an office building, listening for your name to be called.

You’re running through potential questions in your mind, desperately trying to remember the answers you practiced. What were you supposed to say when they ask about those years in between jobs? What was that buzzword your recruiter kept saying — synergy? What even is synergy?

You wipe your sweaty palms on your pants hoping the interviewer won’t notice how damp they are when you go to give the handshake (which you also practiced). They usher you into the interview room and all eyes are on you. As you scan the room for a reassuring face, you find yourself overwhelmed with imposter syndrome, your stomach in knots.

Suddenly the idea of being back under the covers watching Netflix seems like a much better life choice than actually interviewing for this job. Who actually needs a paycheck anyway?

Interviewing for a job is never easy. But for people who suffer from anxiety disorders, interviewing for a job is more than stressful. In fact, it can be completely debilitating, preventing some of us from showing up for an interview at all.

So what do you do? This guide will break down the before, during, and after of a job interview, so you can manage your anxiety and even harness it — and with practice, land the job!

Don’t push it away: Anxiety is a sign that you care about the interview and want to do well. Telling yourself not to have anxiety is actually more likely to make you even more anxious.

So “embracing” the stress that bubbles up before your interview, and mentally preparing yourself for it, can actually help reduce the anxiety you feel as a result.

“As ironic as it sounds, interpreting your anxiety as something that will help you to be better prepared can go a long way,” says Dr. Jacinta M. Jiménez, a psychologist and board-certified leadership coach.

In fact, Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal has conducted research to show that embracing stress is more important that reducing it. “Stress isn’t always harmful,” she said in an article for Stanford. “Once you appreciate that going through stress makes you better at it, it can be easier to face each new challenge.”

Rather than being a sign that something is wrong with your life, feeling stressed can actually tell us that we are engaged in activities and relationships that matter to us — which is ultimately a positive thing!

Shifting the dialogue in our brains can help us adapt, and ease the triggers that might escalate our anxiety.

What the heck is ‘eustress’?

If you’re looking to harness “good stress,” there’s a guide worth checking out here.

Conduct a thought audit: The day before your interview, it might be helpful to write down the thoughts that are spinning through your mind. This helps to get your anxious thoughts out of your mind and make them more concrete.

Next, go through each thought and ask yourself, ‘Is this true? Is there actual evidence for this thought?’

Asking yourself these questions can help get you out of your emotional mind and into your logical one, leaving you more centered. And if these thoughts come up during your interview, you’ll be able to address them internally more quickly and refocus.

Extra credit!

If you’re looking for ways to organize your thoughts and unwanted feelings, this exercise can help.

The day of your interview is here. You’ve practiced in the mirror, you’ve prepared yourself for the anxiety. Now it’s show time. If you take care of your physical health the night before and day of, you’re likely to see positive results during the actual interview process!

Practice mindfulness: Increase awareness to the physiological cues in your body when you are feeling anxious. Remember those sweaty palms from before? They can serve as a reminder to ground yourself in the present moment by calming your body.

For example, if you feel a knot in your stomach, tightness in your chest, tension in your neck or shoulders, a clenched jaw, or a racing heart, use that as a reminder to bring your mind’s attention back to the here and now.

Mindfulness? Sounds fake, but OK.

If you’re not sure how to practice mindfulness, try these mindfulness tricks for anxiety.

Take really good care: Get plenty of sleep and be sure to eat a nutritious breakfast that can fuel you for the long term. Consider something low in sugar and carbs to avoid a crash in energy later in the day! In fact, if you can do it, skip the cup of coffee right before the interview. Think of a cup of coffee as a treat for yourself after the interview is over.

Pack an essential oil with you, like lavender, which research suggests may temporarily calm anxiety. Put a few dots on your wrists and pulse points right before you go in. If CBD works to calm you, grab a CBD gummy and have it handy.

Studies show that listening to music prior to a standardized stressor can help the nervous system recover faster, as well as the psychological stress response. Consider crafting a pump-up playlist, or listen to music that helps to soothe you as you drive or commute to the interview.

Try to focus on a positive mantra. You’ve done the work. You deserve this job. Remind yourself of that.

I need anxiety relief. FAST.

Looking for quick coping tools for anxiety? We have a guide for that, too!

Congrats! You made it through the interview. Now breathe deeply because the hard part is over. The next part, waiting, just requires patience, and a lot of compassion for yourself.

Practice radical acceptance: In other words? Know that you will be OK regardless of the outcome. Sometimes the first or even fifth job that comes along isn’t the right fit, but that doesn’t mean the right job isn’t out there for you!

“The more you have an attachment to an outcome, the more likely you’re going to grasp, cling, and strive for that outcome, increasing the chance of your suffering if the outcome doesn’t go your way,” says Joree Rose, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “So go in with confidence and preparation, and let it be OK if you don’t get it.”

Acceptance? Never heard of it.

Not sure how to “radically accept” your anxiety? We’ve got five strategies to try.

Celebrate no matter what: It helps to have a plan to celebrate regardless of how the interview went. Make a plan with a friend to grab dinner or drinks after the interview.

Doing something positive no matter how the experience went can give you something to look forward to, and having a friend available to give you perspective will help mitigate your anxiety. The last thing you want to do is go home alone and have the interview on replay in your head for the entire night!

Don’t overthink your follow-up: Sending a “Thank You” email to whomever interviewed you is great form when it comes to job interviews, but don’t let it add to your stress. There’s no need to overthink the email!

A simple, “Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate the opportunity. It was a pleasure to meet you and I look forward to hearing from you,” will do.

“Instead of critiquing yourself as you go through the process, try to engage and respond to your inner voice in the same way you would talk to a close friend or loved one,” says Dr. Jiménez.

Those who are conducting your interview have all been interviewees at one point, and know how anxiety-producing an interview can be. Chances are, they’ll be sympathetic no matter how your interview went.

Be kind to yourself — if you wouldn’t put down a friend after an interview, why would you put yourself down? Be proud knowing that each time you face your fears, you’re becoming more resilient to them, no matter what the outcome is.


Meagan Drillinger is a travel and wellness writer. Her focus is on making the most out of experiential travel while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Her writing has appeared in Thrillist, Men’s Health, Travel Weekly, and Time Out New York, among others. Visit her blog or Instagram.