For many students graduation can be a moment of immense relief and celebration. While graduation can be an occasion for joy it can also be a time of stressful transitions. Graduation is not a perfect or an immediate indicator of career success while other students struggle to find potential job opportunities. Loss of their peer community can also be disorienting.
Even though a student has worked very hard for it, leaving college can often feel like an unwanted transition. By the time students finish their degree, they have often created social systems that have felt essential to their day to day well being. Having these connections decentralized can have a significant impact. If a student goes home, there can be a certain feeling of resentment towards home and family, since these environments cannot be or live up the beloved and socially stimulating college lifestyle. For those starting jobs immediately, there can be the emotional impact of moving from the university environment to the work environment which they might find to be less flexible and engaging.
Psychologically, what does this mean? The time from ages 18–28 is called “emerging adulthood.” This means growth, maturity, and a slew of exciting new challenges that prepare us for independence and self-sufficiency. But, the flip side of the coin can look like feelings of instability and scary uncertainty. Without grades, easily accessible personal relationships, and clubs/associations as markers of our interests and validation for our identities, it can feel like the ground is falling out from underneath you. Thus, we reach for other status and identity markers, which might be career-related things like prestigious job titles, promotions or income, marriage, traveling, etc.. These career markers seem to pop up immediately as huge, looming social pressures even as graduates try to process the life they have just left behind.
Signs of post-graduation depression can manifest in a variety of ways.
- Fatigue or tiredness even if you feel like you are getting enough sleep
- Poor sleep routine
- Lack of motivation, even to do the simplest things
- Inadvertently isolating oneself
There are ways you can prepare ahead to help with some of your symptoms. If you tend to feel anxiety that hits out of nowhere, and there are mindfulness exercises that help, like breathing or meditation, have those solutions ready to go when those feelings hit! One that is easy to remember is “four by four https://gfycat.com/finishedobesedormouse” or box breathing. If social interaction tends to help with irritability or self-isolating, have a list in your phone of friends to text or call when those symptoms arise. Remember, this might not feel the same but you are using it as a safety raft to get you to the other side of your current transition.
Just because something good is happening it doesn’t mean that some of it doesn’t feel bad. At the same time, if you are in a bad place because you are finding it difficult moving from one moment in your life to another, allow yourself to acknowledge that if you feel bad. Know that Post-graduation depression is both common so you can be prepared and know you’re not alone.
If you’re looking for support as you deal with a big life transition, our clinicians can help. Get in touch with our office today to find a therapist that fits your needs.
Baker Brianna A. Baker Ph.D. Student in Counseling Psychology | Science Storyteller | Digital Content Creator| Ment, Brianna A. “Post-Graduation Depression and Anxiety : You’re Not Alone.” LinkedIn, 23 Apr. 2021, www.linkedin.com/pulse/post-graduation-depression-anxiety-youre-alone-brianna-baker/.
Cote, Joe. “How to Deal with Stress in College.” Www.snhu.edu, Southern New Hampshire University, 10 Dec. 2019, www.snhu.edu/about-us/newsroom/education/student-stress.
Ismayilova, Aytaj. “What Is Post-Graduation Depression and How to Overcome It.” Www.snhu.edu, Southern New Hampshire University, 14 Jan. 2020, www.snhu.edu/about-us/newsroom/health/post-graduate-depression.