Thursday, 23 January 2020

Dealing With Low Mood and Depression After Graduation

Alyssa discusses how graduating from university can lead to low mood and depression. 
- Alyssa

Your graduation from university has been ahead of you for years - and like many of us, it's probably something you looked forward to. Earning your degree and starting your adult life is exciting, but it can also have a flip side - and you might find yourself feeling lost instead of accomplished.

Whether it's uncertainty over what path to follow, stress over finding a job, social isolation or even the confusion of adjusting to a full-time career, life after graduation can be hard. It's not uncommon to feel overwhelmed, anxious and even depressed as you start a new chapter of your life, but most of us feel like we need to put on a show and act like everything is going well. It's normal to experience post-graduation low mood or depression - and we should talk about it.

Why Do You Feel Like This?
For years during university, you've built a routine, gained a group of friends and worked to achieve your goals. Now, things have changed. You're leaving school and starting a different path to your fellow students, and sometimes you don't know what that path is. You might spend more time than you thought searching for a job, or you might land one right away and wonder "is this it?"

You see your peers leading shiny lives on social media, traveling the world, getting engaged or pursuing advanced degrees - and even though you don't necessarily want the lives they have, you can't help but feel inadequate or uncertain about yours. "Aren't I supposed to know what I want by now?" you think. At the same time, you're adjusting to the lifestyle change from university - and it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that this part of your life is over. You might even feel like you're dealing with the five stages of grief.

Combined with the sadness of missing your uni days, schedule and friends, the pressure to get started on the rest of your life can be suffocating and immensely confusing.

Post-Grad Low Mood and Depression: You're Not the Only One
Some studies show that more than 27% of students in university deal with a mental health condition. What we don't address as often, however, is how common depression is after graduation. Research shows millennials have the highest rates of depression and anxiety, and one of their top concerns is their jobs. Anytime you face a major shift, such as leaving college and beginning a career, your well-being can take a dive.

After leaving university, some people find employment, while others don't. Each comes with their own set of stressors. It's hard to adjust to the demands of a 40-hour working week and all that comes with a career. Similarly, applying and interviewing for jobs can seem hopeless, especially when you find yourself with nothing else to do all day. These events aren't unique to any one person. In fact, they're normal, because both positive and negative changes are often challenging to endure, even when they're expected.

Ways to Deal With Post-Grad Low Mood and Depression 
Low mood and depression aren't something you have to deal with alone. You may feel that you don't want to burden others, but there are many resources out there to help you conquer this, because so many people are struggling with the same emotions - they just don't always talk about it.

While low mood is a short-term state of sadness that you may be able to help with habits and social interaction, this can lead to depression, which requires medical intervention. Think about which applies to how you feel right now, and pursue the help that is right for you - remember, no one knows you better than yourself.

Here are a few things to try if you feel a sense of loneliness, anxiety or hopelessness after graduation:
  • Add structure to your daily life: This is important, especially if you find yourself asleep until 3 p.m. You need to transition those routines you built in university to the outside world. Wake up at a specific time every day and practice healthy habits when it comes to eating and exercising. When you get home from work, don't sit down on the couch - head to the gym, meet a friend for dinner or call a loved one for a chat. Even the smallest actions help to boost our moods and relieve stress. 
  • Practice mindfulness: Set aside about 10 minutes every day for this. Meditation allows you to center yourself and take a few moments to breathe. Focus on your overall well-being, which includes self-image. Look in the mirror and list three features you love. This creates a positive mindset and world view. You can also write down what you're grateful for and make a set of goals you want to accomplish. Appreciating what's going on in the moment - both inside your head and around you - is a healthy step towards a mindset you feel better about. 
  • Talk to someone: Don't feel as if your feelings aren't worth talking about - confide in a friend or family member. You might be surprised to hear that they've felt the same way or are even dealing with the same thoughts right now. Expressing your emotions and connecting with others who feel the same can help. 
Above all else, don't be ashamed to consult a healthcare professional. Whether this is your GP or a therapist, they'll work through your emotions with you, provide necessary medical actions and set you on the right path. Post-university graduation depression - and depression in general - isn't something we discuss enough, but it's something that so many of us encounter. Remember, what you're feeling is valid, and you're not alone. Be kind to yourself. 


For further information on graduate wellbeing, please visit the Student Minds website here


Hi, I'm Alyssa, an education and student life blogger with a passion for connecting with students of all kinds. Making positive self-care choices like these has kept me grounded through school and life - and I hope to help other students succeed, stay healthy and make the most of their university experience. Follow along on my blog, Syllabusy

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