Thinking About the Future: Handling My Anxiety About Graduating

As someone who is just about 2 months away from graduating college, while also struggling with anxiety, I can confidently say it’s been rough. Anxiety looks and feels different to everyone, but for me, much of my anxiety stems from uncertainty. Uncertainty about a situation or uncertainty about the future. Whatever it may be, if I am unsure of a situation my anxiety skyrockets. This being said, approaching the future and finding a job while in the midst of a pandemic has almost put me into panic mode. I don’t feel like I am ready to graduate and enter the world of adults. I may technically be an adult, but I don’t feel ready to take on the burden that comes along with graduating. It’s a world I haven’t yet experienced. My world thus far, in my 22 years of life, has consisted of school and creating a world around that. Everything is going to be a new unknown and that is where the anxiety strikes. 

My anxiety comes in highs and lows. One minute it strikes and I’m constantly thinking about my unknown situations and what might happen, feeling like I might throw up. Then, ten minutes later my mind is saying, “What were you freaking out about? Everything will be fine. It is what it is.” My mind is constantly battling itself between thoughts like these. So the question is, how am I going to handle this?

  1. 1. Find that one person to be honest with 

    Whether it be a professional, a family member, or a close friend, finding one person to be honest with can help alleviate some feelings of anxiety. However, I will be candid, sometimes it will make you feel worse. You always want to enter a conversation with a positive mindset, but sometimes the conversations can lead to topics that make you feel more stressed or anxious, but being able to talk about it will be better in the long run. Talking with someone you trust can remove some of that ever-so-prevalent burden you might be feeling and it can let you know you’re not alone. For me, knowing that someone might be in a similar position, or have their own worries about the future reminds me that there are so many of us who don’t feel ready. It’s not so out of place for me to feel this sense of anxiety about all of the unknowns.

  2. 2. Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t

    So much of what I focus on and get anxious over are things completely out of my control. This means I need to remind myself that sometimes I just need to roll with the punches. Rather than constantly think about the future, which I have no knowledge about and very little control over, I need to take a step back and look at what I am in control of. When I begin to get into this mindset, I feel my anxiety easing away and even if it’s just a small amount, it makes me feel that much better. The future should be something to be excited about, but for those of us with anxiety, it doesn’t always feel that way. Sometimes it’s just about approaching it from a different point of view.

  3. 3. Accept your mistakes, but don’t doubt yourself

    Another aspect that makes my anxiety so prevalent is that I lack confidence in myself. I don’t often see myself as others do, which is made clear to me when I am praised for something and end up shocked once I hear that praise. I doubt my abilities when I shouldn’t and these doubts make me anxious. I go through so many “what ifs” and lose my confidence because I am unsure of how the situation will turn out and don’t want to make mistakes. But as I tell my students, it’s okay to make mistakes (so I better take my own advice). We learn from our mistakes and we take those and learn how to act or approach a situation differently the next time. So accept the mistakes you make, but don’t let self-doubt lead to unnecessary mistakes. Chances are you are doing well, you just haven’t been able to see yourself in the same light that others do.

  4. 4. Make a playlist

    For me, one of the greatest sources of comfort I can get when I’m dealing with my anxiety is music. More than ever before, I have found songs that bring me a lot of comfort, whether it be in the lyrics or the composition of the song. Certain songs give me an immediate sense of relief and I am grateful for that, even if it’s just a relief that lasts 3 minutes and 24 seconds. Music gets me out of my head and focused on something else. I think everyone should have a playlist with songs that provide comfort. It’s a way to escape from the real world and the anxieties that come with it.

Keep in mind that many of these things are easier said than done. It’s not always easy to change the way we think or how we choose to perceive our situation, so go easy on yourself. Something I heard recently that I like to keep in mind now is that this is my life. I am the one in charge and I am living it for me. If you feel like you’re not ready or that you’re not at the same place as everyone else, that is okay. You’re not living your life for anyone else. This life was made for you. We can’t control everything that comes our way, but we can make the decisions that begin to focus on the lives we’re meant to be living. I know my anxiety isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. But I know that making the smallest changes will make the greatest difference in the end. My anxiety about the future is still there, but I will control what I can and think less of the things I can’t. I don’t want my anxiety living my life for me. I want to be the one living it.