The Struggle is Real – Tackling Post Grad Depression
Written by Ashleigh Burroughs, APC, , ,
If college marks the “best four years of your life,” then the few years following graduation could easily prove to be some of the most challenging. The transition from college to post-graduate life can be daunting. You may find yourself in a world of confusion and uncertainty, learning to navigate full-time work while also learning how to be a fully functioning adult. Dare I say, this period in life can even trigger deeper feelings of sadness and even depression.
Depression, simply put, is an extended period of extreme sadness that affects your daily functioning (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Beyond extended bouts of sadness, depression symptoms can also include a loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed, a change in eating habits, feelings of worthlessness, and even fatigue, to name a few. Depression can, of course, be experienced at any point in life, but depression immediately following college graduation does not get the attention it deserves.
Those feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and fatigue can take on new meanings when you are in the middle of likely your biggest life transition thus far. Not to mention that the thrill of college days is gone, and life can quickly turn into a revolving door of adult responsibilities and challenges. If you have felt this way, trust me, you are not alone. You have to remember, though, that there are several common concerns for young adults in this season.
Common Post Graduate Concerns
1. Loneliness and Isolation: As college ends, you transition from being steps away from friends at all times to often being cities or states away from the people you connected with in college. The convenience of friendships can disappear in an instant, and it can be tempting to sit in those feelings and allow yourself to be alone. Everyone is working and trying to figure out what they want out of life, and sometimes friendships require more effort than we feel they are worth in the midst of this.
2. Frustration with the mundane: I don’t know about you, but the college I attended (UGA by the way – go dawgs!) always had events and exciting activities for students to participate in. Not to mention that on the weekends you probably had no shortage of parties to attend. Suddenly, after you turn your tassel, your Friday night clothes get replaced by corporate workwear and you have a strict bedtime if you are expected to function properly the next day at work. If you allow it, your life becomes a 9-5 work shift and then a 5-9 after work shift preparing for the next day of your 9-5. The routine can get old fast.
3. Lack of motivation: As frustrating as 11:59 p.m. deadlines were in college, they at least gave us some structure to our lives and tasks. It was easy to stay motivated when you had a designated timeline for basically everything. Most jobs have some kind of structure, but no one prepares you for the free range that you have with your time outside of work. This can easily lead you to feel unmotivated to do much of anything. Your grades are not going to drop from you deciding not to go to the gym for a few months, or not prioritizing time with friends either. You may ask yourself: “Why be motivated to do anything if everything is overwhelming and lacks structure?”
As common as these concerns are, young people often get stuck here. We sit at brunch with our friends every few months and talk about how hard all of these challenges are, but we struggle to get unstuck and actually do something to change it. This is my challenge to you to fight back and make post-grad life work for you. Unsure of where to start? Here are just a few simple ways that you can combat post-grad depression or sadness.
1. Break up mundane routines: To combat this, it is so important to be intentional with incorporating activities throughout the work week that you can look forward to. Something as simple as Tuesday night trivia or Wednesday night yoga in the park can help you to break up your routine and add something different to your week. Everyone needs a passion outside of work to bring them joy and help them regroup. These same hobbies can also be a path to forming new friendships with people who are interested in similar things.
2. Develop a comprehensive self-care routine: Self-care is often depicted as just face masks and massages, but there are so many dimensions to care. When you care for your mental (reading and journaling), spiritual (meditation and prayer), physical (exercise and healthy eating), and social (setting boundaries and consistent friendships) health, to name a few, you are able to have a more extensive routine (Melnyk, 2018). Have fun deciding how you can pour into yourself in a variety of ways. The more intentional your routine is, the more that you can properly handle the stress of this stage of life. I personally love to include a monthly massage into my routine, but I also find it just as helpful to keep an emotions journal that I track and process each week.
3. Seek professional mental health support: There is no shame in seeking help from mental health professionals during this transition phase. This could mean looking for a therapist to process your emotions with, but it could also mean participating in seminars and workshops for young professionals. Mental health resources specific to your stage of life can really speak to you and give you a community of other people struggling with the same thing.
It can be difficult to get any of these solutions implemented into your life, but the extra effort you put in can make the biggest difference in your emotional state. Ultimately, give yourself grace and space during this time: grace in navigating this transition, and space to make mistakes. Remember that your adulthood is in its infancy and it is okay to take things day by day. It can feel like the concerns outweigh the solutions, but know that sometimes all it takes is faithfully implementing one. Prioritize consistency in the small things and celebrate every victory possible along the way!
If you feel stuck and lost in post-grad depression and want to get started with counseling, please reach out to me to schedule your free consultation!
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.) https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
Melnyk, B. M. (2018). Evidence-based tactics for optimizing your health and well-being. 9 dimensions of wellness. https://wellness.osu.edu/sites/default/files/documents/2021/05/9%20Dimensions%20of%20Wellness%20Digital.pdf
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