One of the biggest surprises that recent college grads face is an overwhelming stress and anxiety about the future. Almost no-one expects is but a large number of young professionals quickly find themselves facing a bleak reality that they weren’t prepared for. Navigating this new field of obstacles can include, lack of employment, the reality of paying back student loans, lack of motivation or direction, and also just the sadness of closing the door on one of the most memorable times of their lives. Transitions can be hard no matter what they are, but graduation is somehow the milestone that marks the end of our youth and entering the world of grown-up responsibilities and drudgery. And for the first time in your life, there isn’t a guaranteed next step. The pressure to meet expectations and to prove yourself can be intense, and failure to meet those expectations leads to the downfall of many.
So how do you manage the stress and anxiety that you may find yourself in? Read on for some great tips for helping to keep these negatives at bay- and continue to move forward after graduation.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
This can be especially tricky if you’re not only afraid of failure, but also of disappointing parents and other family members. It may be difficult for your parents to understand, but a college degree is no longer a one-way-ticket to a good job. After the recession, job growth is still low and wages are down. There’s also been a large shift towards a services-based economy, so most of the job growth that has been made has been for entry level positions in retail, entertainment, or restaurant industries, none of which pay well. The fact that you’re struggling to find a job isn’t a sign of any personal weakness or inherent inability to be hired, it’s most likely because the jobs just aren’t there. More and more, college graduates are being told to give themselves a whole year to find a job in their chosen field, before they begin worrying about it. That may seem daunting, especially if you have student loans to worry about, but recognizing that you (and your parents) may have unrealistic expectations will likely take quite a bit of the burden off you.
Do Something Exciting
You will never again have as little responsibility as you have right now, nor will you likely be in as good health as you are. If you can’t land your dream career, take the opportunity to fulfill a dream, or travel, or any number of other things that can help give you motivation and lift some of the dark cloud of anxiety away from you. Many volunteer opportunities can be found that will allow you to give back and make a difference, as well as travel. If there are volunteer opportunities in your chosen profession, you might build solid business relationships that can help you get noticed. You can also just take the opportunity to enjoy yourself before you get stuck in the daily grind.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s easy to lay around in sweats and eat chips while Netflixing for days on end, but it’s the wrong way to go right now. If you have all this time, use it to focus on your health. Begin an exercise routine, learn to cook healthy meals, and make sure you’re taking good care of your body. College is notorious for a fast-paced, fast-food filled lifestyle, and keeping it up can lead to life-long bad habits. Take the opportunity to get into some good habits now, and you’ll also be combating stress and anxiety in a first-hand by producing those much-clouted endorphins. Getting into these habits now will make them easier to maintain when you do finally land that dream job, and you’ll prevent yourself from suffering for years into the future.
Focus on What You Can Do
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of ruminating on what you aren’t doing, that we lose sight of what we are doing. Learning to keep a journal, or meditate, or do yoga. Anything that will help you focus on the now, and what you have. Use this time wisely to examine your goals for the future, and to go through your things. Decide what you want to keep from your high school and college days, and then get rid of all of the things that don’t have a place in your new adult life. These things can all help you visualize where you want to be, and may help you sort through what you need to do to get there.
Ask for Help If You Need To
Whether it’s your family, or a friend, or even if you need to seek out counseling, it’s important to get the help that you need if you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, and especially if you feel yourself sliding into depression. Downward spirals will continue until you confront them head on, or crash at the bottom. If you feel yourself slipping, make a point to seek professional help. Counselors can help you sort through your problems and set realistic expectations for yourself moving forward. Get the help you need before it becomes a critical problem.
Most Importantly, Realize What You’ve Already Done
No-one gets through life without a few bumps in the road. Overcoming this type of adversity is a normal part of the process of becoming an adult. You’ve already survived your childhood, made it through high-school and now you’ve graduated from college. You’ve already accomplished more in your life than many people will in their entire lifetime, so make certain that you aren’t selling yourself short. Keep focused on your past accomplishments, and things won’t seem quite so bad.
David Grover is a Communications Manager at Timeo, a useful tool for business in the UK. He’s also a freelance career coach, who’s always eager to share his experience. In his free time he enjoys travelling.
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Daniel & David
Dealing with Post-College Graduation Stress and Anxiety