Graduation is typically portrayed as an exciting milestone and a time for celebration. You imagine throwing your cap in the air to mark the end of an era and the start of a new chapter filled with endless possibilities. You’re told that the world is your oyster, and you can go anywhere and do anything! So, what are you supposed to do when the transition brings about a rollercoaster of negative or unpleasant emotions?
If you have found yourself struggling to navigate the next phase of your life due to feelings of hopelessness and uncertainty, you are not alone. If you or someone you know has recently graduated and is now feeling down, unmotivated, or having trouble performing normal daily functions, it could be due to post-graduation depression.
In this article, we will delve into the depths of post-graduation depression, explore its causes, and provide practical tips from Bloom mental health providers on how to navigate this challenging phase while embracing the journey ahead.
What is Post-Graduation Depression?
Post-graduation depression, also known as post-graduation blues or graduate blues, is a term used to describe the feeling of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness that some individuals experience after completing their degree. While 1 in every 3 college students has reported significant depression or anxiety symptoms, it is important to note that post-graduation depression is not a clinical diagnosis like Major Depressive Disorder, but rather a common emotional response to the significant life changes that occur during this period.
Not everyone experiences depression when they graduate. Even those who do experience it will have varying levels of depression that can be affected by their financial, social, or personal hurdles. Symptoms of post-graduation depression can include:
- Persistent sadness
- Loss of motivation
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Trouble feeling pleasure for things that used to bring you joy
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling worthless or hopeless
- Anger, cynicism, or irritation
- Physical ailments with no obvious cause, such as aches, pains, headaches, or digestive issues
Many graduates suffer in silence about their depression. Culturally, graduation is viewed as a joyful experience, which can make it difficult or shameful for individuals to admit they are struggling to cope with the change.
What Are the Causes of Post-Graduation Depression?
Graduating from college comes with a lot of changes, uncertainties, and challenges. We have explored some most common triggers new graduates face.
Loss of Identity
Throughout your academic journey, your identity becomes closely intertwined with being a student. When graduation arrives, this sense of identity can suddenly be stripped away, leaving you feeling lost or uncertain about who you are and what lies ahead. In college, your sense of self was defined by your activities, social circles, and academics. Graduating can mean leaving the safety net of your campus and reestablishing who you are to yourself.
Uncertainty About the Future and Financial Woes
The transition from the structured environment of education to the uncharted waters of the real world can be overwhelming. The pressure to find a job, establish a career, and make important life decisions can contribute to feelings of anxiety and self-doubt. Along with that, most graduates experience the immediate reality of debt from student loans, which are at an all-time high. The combination of personal debt and the need for a job to pay it off can be incredibly overwhelming.
Comparison and Expectations
Society often places immense pressure on graduates to achieve certain milestones, such as landing a dream job or pursuing advanced degrees. Comparing yourself to others and feeling inadequate if you do not meet these expectations can exacerbate post-graduation depression.
Leaving behind the close-knit community of friends and colleagues that you have built during your academic years can lead to a sense of loneliness. The lack of structured social interactions and the difficulty in making new connections can further contribute to depressive feelings.
Navigating Post-Graduation Depression
We asked our providers at Bloom Health Centers for tips on handling post-graduation depression. Here are some strategies that you can use to get yourself through depressive symptoms.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Recognize that post-graduation depression is a valid emotional response. Allow yourself to feel and process the range of emotions that come with this transition. Talk to friends, or family who can provide support and guidance. A mental health provider can also be a great resource to help you through the transition.
Set Realistic Expectations
Remember that success is subjective, and everyone’s journey is unique. Avoid comparing yourself to others and focus on your own path. Set realistic goals and break them down into smaller, achievable steps. Make sure you celebrate small victories along the way.
Embracing the unknown can be liberating. Instead of viewing uncertainty as a negative, consider it as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. Explore different career paths, take up new hobbies, or engage in volunteer work to gain new experiences and broaden your perspective.
Build a Support System
Seek out support networks and communities that share your interests and goals. Join professional organizations, attend networking events, or participate in online forums to connect with like-minded individuals. Having a support system can provide encouragement, guidance, and potential job opportunities.
Prioritize self-care activities that promote your physical and mental well-being. Exercise regularly, maintain a balanced diet, and get enough sleep. Engage in activities that bring you joy and help you relax, such as reading, painting, or practicing mindfulness and meditation.
While post-graduation depression can be challenging, it is important to remember that it is a temporary phase of transition. By acknowledging your feelings, setting realistic expectations, embracing uncertainty, building a support system, and practicing self-care, you can navigate this period with resilience and optimism. Embrace the journey ahead, knowing that it is filled with new opportunities for growth, self-discovery, and personal fulfillment. Remember, you are not alone in this experience, and with time, you will find your path and flourish in the next chapter of your life.
If your post-graduation depression feels unmanageable, or if it is exacerbating an already existing condition, Bloom Health Centers offers behavioral health services such as psychiatry, therapy, and innovative treatments like TMS and Spravato. Reach out today to book a consultation.