Anxiety Attacks & Job Interviews

Close to 20 percent of Americans are affected by anxiety disorders each year, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. If you have to undergo an already stressful situation like a job interview, you might suffer from an anxiety attack, also known as a panic attack. Anxiety attacks can strike even if you don't normally suffer from an anxiety disorder. Luckily, you can take certain steps to prevent or calm a panic attack during an interview.

Recognize Anxiety Attack During Interview

Anxiety manifests differently in everyone. Some people might sweat excessively, shake or tremble, or experience a racing heartbeat, explains the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Others feel like the room is shrinking or like they need to escape.

According to WebMD, common symptoms of an anxiety attack include feelings of overwhelming panic, chest pain or heart palpitations, hyperventilation, chills, nausea or cramps. Some people even feel like they're having a heart attack.

In most cases, anxiety attacks subside after 30 minutes. The problem is, 30 minutes might make the difference between needing to cancel your job interview and landing the job of your dreams. Therefore, you should know some ways to plan ahead and handle an anxiety attack during an interview.

Use These Interview Tips

Rehearsing your interview might not prevent all feelings of anxiety, but it might reduce them by helping you feel more confident and prepared. If you have some idea of typical interview questions you might be asked and the responses you want to provide, you won't feel like you're diving into uncharted territory.

You can try focusing on what the interviewer is saying and reducing your need to be perfect. Concentrate on the questions your interviewer is asking but don't feel like you need to provide a flawless response.

Anxiety is often increased by perfectionist tendencies, because you feel like there's no room for error. Everyone makes mistakes or acts nervous during job interviews, and other candidates are probably dealing with the same feelings you are. Try to relax and just be yourself. This way, your natural strengths will shine through.

Consider Self-Help Suggestions

Implementing a few self-help strategies can help calm symptoms of an anxiety attack before your job interview. These include the following:

  • Make sure you get enough sleep the night before your interview. A lack of sleep can increase feelings of anxiety and make you feel more jittery and irritable, warns the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
  • Plan your interview outfit the night before your interview.
  • Try to avoid coffee or caffeinated beverages the morning of your interview because caffeine can also exacerbate anxiety.
  • Arrive 10 minutes early to your interview so you have time to mentally prepare yourself.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises to calm your nerves.

If you experience persistent anxiety attacks, consult your doctor to discuss possible treatment options, such as medication or psychotherapy.

Practice Deep Breathing Exercise

Practicing deep, abdominal breathing can ease symptoms both prior to and during an anxiety attack. Find a quiet place to sit calmly, or sit in your car if there's no other available space where you can be alone for a few minutes. Close your eyes and rest your hands on your abdomen.

Imagine your favorite calm, tranquil environment, such as a beach or another nature setting. Breathe deeply into your abdomen, focusing all of your attention on the inhalation as air fills your belly, then your chest. Hold the breath for a moment, then exhale completely. Practice this technique for a few minutes.

Mentally talk to yourself as you would to a good friend in a similar situation. Focus on your strengths and positive qualities.