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Mental Health

Post-Graduation Blues: What to Expect and How to Manage Them

To all my fellow collegiette seniors who already have or are about to graduate, this one’s for you. 

By the time we graduate college, we have been accustomed to spending the majority of our lives as students. We spent most of our lives attending school or receiving some form of education, being assigned homework, taking exams, attending school events and so on. But what happens when we no longer go through this constant cycle of annual or bi-annual school attendance? What happens after we graduate and we get constantly bombarded with questions about our future? What happens when scrolling through Instagram travel photos turns into painfully looking at LinkedIn job acceptance posts? 

I cannot tell you the exact outcome of these circumstances, but what I can tell you is that the possibility of experiencing post-graduation depression is heightened during these times of drastic change in our lives. 

Related article: Why It’s Okay If You Still Have No Idea What You’re Doing After College

Post-Graduation Depression is not formally defined in the medical field, but as a form of depression, it can be generally classified as the feeling of hopelessness, sadness and frustration often caused by the amount of pressure felt from the failure to secure a job after college, the experience of moving to another area, leaving friends and family behind, or being confused about one’s identity and future plans. It is often associated with the experience of having a quarter-life crisis wherein a 20-something-year-old may feel isolated, desolated, inadequate, fearing for failure and having low self-esteem. 

As we approach the end of our time in college, here are signs and symptoms of depression that can help you identify if you or a friend are experiencing post-graduate depression, as told by licensed professional counselor Dr. Sheryl Ziegler to the Washington Post:

  • Loneliness

  • Sadness

  • Decreased motivation

  • Loss of interest in pleasurable things

  • A sense of disorganization

  • General sense of hopelessness

  • Lack of motivation to apply for jobs

  • Lack of connection with friends

  • Excessive alcohol or drug consumption

It is important to remember that even if you may have identified with some or most of the signs and symptoms mentioned above, there are ways to prevent and manage post-graduate depression. There is a range of ways to cope with these feelings after graduation and because one can only decide what they need for themselves, I will give you 5 ways to manage feelings of depression associated with post-graduation depression:

1. Develop a plan to identify your support network and plan ahead of the stressors you predict after graduation

During these times, it is important to have a constant source of support and communication that can be formed into your support network. By identifying your core network of people, you can feel secure, find solace and receive advice and support. As you do so, you should also plan ahead and consider potential stressors after graduation like claiming a job, possibly relocating, managing student loans, scheduling doctor’s appointments, paying for insurance and many more. You can assign mediating activities like exercise, yoga, or meditation to help you pull through these stressors as you go through the waves.

2. Consult with a medical professional 

We ourselves cannot solve all our problems and that’s okay. There are licensed medical professionals who are trained and educated to help people who struggle with their mental health and have the right resources available for them. If you can, getting the right help will immensely help in managing your emotions and addressing your concerns.

3. Create a daily schedule and journal your action plans

By creating a journal and daily schedule with action plans laid out, you are motivating yourself to think of the future and latch onto the goals you’ve created that can help grow your personal and professional self. Start by writing small and easily achievable and measurable goals like not using your phone for 3 hours every day or setting aside time to revise your resume. 

4. Focus on your health and not just your mental health

Your health is the number one priority at all times, but mental health is only one aspect of your overall well-being. During this time, you should begin to recenter your life to care for your overall health and that means getting enough sleep, eating well, and paying attention to your needs.

5. Invest in a new hobby

Try something that you’ve been putting off because of the busy life of college. Maybe you’ve been meaning to try rock climbing, or you’ve been wanting to get certified in a certain skill, but haven’t had the time to because of classes. Now that you have some headspace and time for new hobbies, you can go out by yourself, with friends, family or even complete strangers to complete these hobbies and learn something new.

Related Article: Overcoming Expectations After Graduation 

As the semester comes to a close, remember that this is not the end of a journey, but simply the continuation of a path you’re building for yourself. Whatever you may feel after graduation and whatever you may come across will never be larger than life, and you will most definitely overcome this. If you or someone you know is in need of help or is in a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line at text HELLO to 741741.

Dominique Bernardino

George Mason University '21

Originally from the Philippines, Dominique "Niki" Bernardino is a rising junior pursuing a double degree in Public Relations and Film at George Mason University. When she isn't managing her social media internship or working as a multimedia editor, she enjoys watching sappy rom-coms, listening to k-pop, and exploring the internet.
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