Monday 20 January 2020

Managing Your Wellbeing After Graduation

Having recently graduated, Ross shares seven tips for managing wellbeing after university. 
- Ross Carver-Carter

Constant rejections, living at home and financial worries are just some of the myriad stressors that can begin to take their toll on graduates mental wellbeing. These are some of the ways I handle the struggles of life after Uni.

1. Notice signs of self-destruction 

For me, self-destructive behaviour succeeds stress, which in turn triggers depressive episodes. When I am overwhelmed (often financially), I double down and ignore ominous letters building up at the door, or avoid my bank account like the plague. Naturally, this confounds depression and begets more stressors. Try to be self-aware of when you are slipping into an episode of depression, and tackle the things which illicit stress instead of turning a blind eye; in the long term, it only makes the situation more bearable. Setting aside one day a week for sorting out the administration of adulthood can be extremely beneficial. It’s not fun to do, but nothing beats the peace of mind of having your house in order. Importantly, keep track of what’s going into your account, and what’s coming out. It’s harder to be positive once you’re in the negatives.

2. Small Steps 

Oftentimes, anxiety about job applications and fear of rejections can make the process of applying so daunting that we avoid it altogether. In turn, we often feel guilty about being idle which creates a vicious cycle of inaction and self-loathing; small steps are a good antidote. Don’t expect too much from yourself, but as above, assign time to apply and don’t overdo it. Use these ‘productive days’ effectively to address concerns and try not to let them seep into your day’s off. Creating a space to do this can help you have a healthy detachment between work and leisure, and prevent your bedroom becoming a place of worry. The bedroom can become a base of operation for graduates which has an adverse effect on sleep.

3. Don’t Compare 

Stalking the social media and LinkedIn accounts of old peers is a bitter-sweet pleasure for grads, but it does nothing to help with depression. It can be easy to lose hours scrolling others success, but social media doesn’t convey the nuance of the achievements we view, and only serves to stoke the flames of insecurity and self-doubt. Focus on yourself, work at your own pace and don’t be disheartened by others success, or for that matter, your own setbacks.

4. Setbacks, Not Failure 

Speaking of which, rejections are inevitable for the majority of us, and regardless of how many you get, they never seem to get any easier. Failed applications can feel like a comment on our worth, but more than likely are just a result of a competitive job market demanding experience grads do not—and cannot—yet be expected to have. Treat these as setbacks and avoid fatalism; acknowledge the rejection, seek feedback and move on. Keep improving yourself and be your own benchmark.

5. Self-care and Self-love

This one is important, and it is easy to lose sight of it when we are consumed with anxiety. Sometimes, it really serves to treat yourself, even if that inner voice barks that you don’t deserve it. And this isn’t just face masks and manicures (it’s certainly not retail therapy, though I’m guilty of that), at its most basic level it’s washing the sheets, keeping your room tidy and ensuring that you do not burn out. Nothing is worth your health.

6. Exercise Regularly

This is a tried and tested way to alleviate depression, whatever the cause. It boosts your mood, helps with sleep and contributes to the wellness of body as well as mind. There’s no need to restate the myriad benefits here, but for me, it can be a lifesaver.

7. Do What You Love 

This one is tricky. Some people have it all planned out; a roadmap for the future. Others, myself included, are daunted by people asking what we want to be and are still fumbling our way through applications and vague ideas of course-related roles. Firstly, if you are in a transitionary job, see it as temporary and keep working on a side project—be it blogging, music or some other activity you love. Perhaps you can make a career out of these outlets. Find roles that utilise your strengths and play to your personality, ask around to explore career paths and keep learning in your spare time. It’s okay to not have it figured out yet. And perhaps the job you want isn’t on LinkedIn—Freelancing is an option also. Lastly, although not knowing what to do yet is intimidating, it’s exciting also. Try not to forget that and enjoy the ride.

To hear more about graduates sharing their experience of finishing university and starting work, please check out this video on Graduate Mental Wellbeing. You can find more resources on looking after your mental wellbeing here

I am a Politics and IR graduate navigating the graduate world, one step at a time.

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