Post-Graduation Depression and Anxiety: Yes, It’s a Thing

If you’re a college senior, graduation is
an exciting time. You’re at the finish line! All that hard work is about to pay off with
a diploma and a bright, shiny new future. Time to celebrate! So what happens when the celebrations are
over? Things can get a little less shiny. For many graduates, the reality of life after
school is more complicated than they expected. In the best case, you’ll easily adjust to
whatever life sends your way. Worst case, you could be facing what might
be your first bout of clinical depression or anxiety. And actually, it’s not surprising. Depression and anxiety are often triggered
by stressors. A stressor is any external event, good or
bad, that causes stress. If you’re susceptible to depression or anxiety,
even a small stressor can trigger them. And graduation is always accompanied by some
big stressors. And they’re not always what you would think. Most people assume that a graduate who lands
a good job is going to have smooth sailing ahead. But even if (and that’s a big “if”) you snag
that perfect job, there are plenty of other stressors that you’re dealing with. Here they are, in no particular order, along
with suggestions for what might help to alleviate their impact. Big changes. Change is good. Without change, we’d still be single-celled
organisms. But it also can be scary, especially for people
who aren’t naturally adaptable. Adjusting to a major life change like graduation
takes time, even if you’ve been eager for the change and have a reasonably well-paying
job that relieves you of financial strain. Not only is your living and employment situation
changing, but your whole identity is changing, for the first time in your entire life. Goodbye, student. Hello, 9 to 5 worker. Adjusting to this shift may be the hardest
thing you’ve ever done. What will help: Keep in mind that one reason
this particular change can be so hard is that you’re losing a lot in a short period of time. You’re losing your living situation in most
cases, your friends, and the life that you’re used to. It’s normal and healthy to mourn it. Don’t let the mourning go on too long, though. You don’t want to live in the past. After a while, you should be focusing on your
present. If you feel like you’re really stuck emotionally,
you might want to see a therapist to talk things through. Financial burdens. Many college graduates are being told by their
families, either gently or in no uncertain terms, that they’re financially on their
own now. Time to leave the nest, little birdie. So now you are responsible for room and board,
health and auto insurance and all the other expenses you never had to think about. And many students graduating from college
have student loans. Often the first payment is due anywhere between
two weeks to a month after graduation. This can be a big shock to someone who’s
just managed to come up with three months of rent for their new apartment and is already
trying to figure out how to make $5.00 stretch for a week’s worth of meals. For some college graduates, it’s really starting
to sink in that they are in debt for tens of thousands of dollars, which could stand
in the way of a decent standard of living for a very long period of time. Some are even becoming suicidal because of
this burden, and this issue is likely one of the reasons for the rise in reported anxiety
disorders. What will help: Sometimes just making a budget
and seeing what you can spend every month (or year, or whatever timeline you want to
use) can help you feel like you have more control over your debt. Also, start tracking your expenses, at least
for a while, so you can get a clear picture of what you actually spend. You might be surprised. If you’re employed full-time, consider getting
a part-time job. This is the best time to do that, before you
have a family – assuming you have a decent amount of free time. If you’re really struggling financially, you
might be able to lower your payments, which will help in the short term. Just be careful of student loan scams, and
check out the links we’ve put below. Lack of Routine. If you’re job-hunting, for the first time
in a long time, you don’t have any structure imposed upon you. For the most part, there’s nowhere that you
have to be at a specific time. Having your days completely open may sound
great. But the reality is that most people don’t
respond well, in the long-term, to a complete lack of routine unless they’re really good
at setting up their own and sticking to it. What will help: First of all, create your
own work schedule. Treat job-hunting like a job. Work Monday through Friday, with set hours. You won’t be able to fill up all of those
hours, so either get a part-time job, an internship or a volunteer opportunity. Try to find these in the field you’re interested
in, especially the last two. If you’re working for free, it’s easier to
persuade people to “hire” you for an internship or volunteering than it is for a full-time
job with pay and benefits. Every bit of relevant experience helps. Loss of support system. The end of school inevitably means an end
to your current support system of friends, and possibly also family, if you’re moving
a distance away. It takes a while to build up a new support
system, and it’s almost never as easy as it was in college. If you’re working, you’re finding that work
environments are just not as conducive to meeting people you can emotionally connect
with, or in providing somewhere to connect, as college. So just when the support system is needed
to deal with all this change and scary new responsibility, it’s gone. For people who have some trouble making new
connections and building a support network, this can be a lonely time. Depression will turn the loneliness into isolation. What will help: We all need human connection. You have to create a new support network. You need to put yourself out there in your
free time. Explore your neighborhood and try to meet
people in venues you’re comfortable in. Follow your passion, no matter what it is. If you love to read, join the book club at
the local library or bookstore. Love animals? Volunteer at the local animal shelter. New Responsibilities. When you’re in college, a lot of decisions,
both big ones and the day-to-day ones, are taken off your hands. Once you graduate and are in charge of your
own life, it’s all up to you. Sure, it’s liberating to make all your own
decisions, but it can also be scary. All of a sudden you have to decide where to
work, where to live, how you’re going to get to work, what time to get up in the morning,
etc. Everything from the little decisions to the
big ones, and it’s all on you. Again, liberating – but also enough to send
some people into anxiety or depression, or both. What will help: Again, you might want to talk
to a therapist. You can get some coping strategies if you’re
really struggling, and seeing a big impact on your mental health. Regressing. You might be moving back home, which – let’s
face it – can really feel like a big step backward. And finding a new normal with your parents
is stressful. In many families, this situation can work
if the ground-rules are agreed upon up front and boundaries are established. What will help: Don’t feel like this means
you’re a failure. People in their twenties and thirties are
moving back home in ever-increasing numbers. The high cost of living has a lot to do with
it. In some cases, it’s to save money for the
down payment on a house or a financial cushion in case of emergencies or to get ahead on
student loans and it makes solid financial sense. The best way to ease tension is to show that
you’re a responsible adult and not just looking for a free ride. This is the time to step up. You should be contributing to the household
expenses in some way if it’s financially feasible, doing a large part of the housework and, if
you’re job-searching, making it clear that you’re serious. Again, treat job-searching like a 9-5 job
and either get a part-time job or an internship or volunteering position. Finally, don’t forget to prioritize self-care:
nutritious meals, exercise, plenty of sleep and de-stressing. It’s totally normal to be blue for a few
days after a major life change. But if the normal adjustment period after
graduation finds you slipping into clinical depression or anxiety, you need to stop it
in its tracks. Go to your family doctor or health clinic,
get diagnosed and get treatment. We hope that this video has been helpful. We’ve put a lot of links below so you can
explore further on some of the solutions we talked about.

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