Job interviews can be one of the most stressful experiences in our lives. In preparation for the interview, you may have done your research and have all the facts and interview responses ready, but once you are in the interview chair things may change: your stomach may tighten or cramp, your palms may get sweaty, your voice may begin to shake, you may feel that you can’t think clearly because your brain is foggy.
In general, when you believe you are in a crucial situation to your well being, your brain can’t distinguish between the need for a good result on an interview from the need to get the energy to run from a tiger in the woods. When relaxed not only does your body feel better but your mind is better able to focus and your thinking brain re-engages. To release stress you can practice a few strategies in advance.
There are three main steps to de-stressing:
1) Movement 2) Breath 3) Quiet
All three are important, but the length of time you spend in each is based on the time you have available to you.
1) Movement Exercises
In the movement exercises we focus on standing yoga postures and joint movements. The standing yoga postures let you feel the ground underneath your feet. This allows you to feel more grounded, stable and confident. The joint mobility movements will assist the release of tightness in your joints and will promote the freeing of mental tensions.
Standing yoga postures: Warrior2, Wide legged forward fold, Chair Pose, Yogic Squat, Yogic Lunge, Tree Pose.
Joint movements: Rotations of all the major joints of the body: Neck, shoulders, wrists, spinal movements, hips, knees, ankles.
You can spend a minimum of 5 minutes in Movement, but If you feel particularly stressed, at least 25 minutes of movement exercises is recommended.
Yogic Breath Practices are a techniques to shift the quality of energy in your body. We will employ a breath technique that engages the relaxation response. In stressful situations your breath tends to be shallower and is more into the upper chest. You can shift this by practicing abdominal breathing. Place one hand on your belly, the other hand on your chest. When you inhale, feel both the abdomen expand and the chest expand. When you exhale, feel the chest and abdomen recede. Encourage a deeper breath into the abdomen so you can feel the belly puff out into your hand. When you can comfortably feel that movement, you can rest your hands to your lap.
Now continuing the abdominal breathing, count how long it takes for an inhalation and how long it takes for an exhalation. If you inhale takes 8 counts and your exhale takes 4 counts, then your breath ratio is 2:1. Now, you will purposely begin to lengthen your exhalation. The way to lengthen the exhalation is to slow down the onset of exhalation. Go for a 1:2 ratio, so that if you take 4 counts to inhale, you would take 8 counts to exhale. If you can’t extend your exhalation, don’t stress about it! Just try for exhalations that take longer than your inhalations. Continue this breath for 5-8 rounds, then simply let go of that breath count and take a few more natural breaths. Notice how you feel.
Find a place where you can be free of distractions.This can be a bench in a park, at home, in a yoga studio or in a place of worship. Find any place where you can step away from your daily activities (turn off your cell phone!). In this quiet moment you will affirm the intrinsic strength and value of your being. Consider this visualization:
Bring your attention to the center of your chest, the area where your heart resides. Feel the energy there as a softly glowing light, like the light of a candle. Breath into it. Feel the warmth of that light. Let this light fill your being. Visualize this light being breathed out from your heart into your whole body: From the top of your head down to your toes, from the heart out into your fingers. from the front of the body to the back of your body. Your whole body brilliant with this light. Feel the power and brightness of this light, and remember that it is always with you, a protective light that will stay with you the whole day. This light is your intrinsic goodness, whatever happens during your day all you need to do is to remember it.
Sit quietly taking note of sounds around you, thoughts that you are having and any emotions that are coming up. If negative thoughts or emotions arise, return your mind to the visualization of your body filled with radiant light. You can spend 5min to 25minutes in this Quiet moment.
So you have prepared for your day through the three steps (MBQ). You may find that these steps work well for you in advance of the interview, but what happens when you encounter nervousness, anxiousness, mental blocks or irritation during the interview? During the interview, pay attention to the onset of nervousness or negative feelings. Notice it fully without judgement. These feelings are not “bad” feelings. Often we try to deny negative emotions or push them away to the back of the mind. They tend not to remain there though! Research has shown that when we identify our feelings and label them, we are better able to cope with them and then to let them go. So during the interview recognize the nervousness or negative feeling, label it by saying to yourself “I am feeling <nervous>”, then bring your awareness back to the positive thoughts and visualization that you cultivated during the Quiet moment. Take a deep abdominal breath and then return to the current situation at hand.