Congratulations! You worked hard, persevered, and graduated from college or graduate school. This should be one of the happiest times of your life, right? For many graduates, once the immediate graduation and all is festivities pass, a creeping depression can occur. Post-grad blues, sadness, anxiety – whatever you want to call it, extreme sadness that impairs functioning can occur and is actually quite common. It’s not talked about because there’s a general expectation that this is a happy time, what could a person possibly be depressed about?
In reality, even positive events can be very stressful, like buying a house or having a child – and graduating from college or graduate school is also one of these events. There may be a lot of unknowns with employment or post-grad study or fellowships; there may be anxiety about repaying student loans or imposter syndrome; or you may simply feel adrift after being in school for so long and having the identity of “student.” This is all normal. It may not be comfortable, but it is normal, and there are things you can do to regain your footing so you can confidently step into the next phase of your life.
Don’t play the comparing game.
It’s so easy to look at your cohort and compare your accomplishments and post-grad plans. Don’t do it. Sure, this person might be pursuing a post-doc fellowship, or that person might have a tenure-track job lined up, and the other person might be taking a gap year. But you don’t know how any of that is going to turn out, and their career path might look very different than yours. Just because they have certain plans right now, doesn’t guarantee that that’s how things will turn out in the long run. If you have a job lined up and are suffering from imposter syndrome, take a deep breath. You were hired for a reason, and though it may be hard, believe that you have the tools and experience to do the job well.
Take care of yourself.
It sounds silly, but don’t forget the little things: stay hydrated, eat well, get fresh air, spend time with other people, and try to stay physically active. A healthy diet helps to beat stress (check out our blog post about this), and maintaining connections with others is also beneficial for stress, anxiety, and depression. When we get depressed or anxious, self-care is often something that feels too hard to do, or falls by the wayside because it doesn’t feel important – but it is.
Network, network, network.
Even if you have a job or position lined up, keep networking! When you’re out of school, it can be a little harder to meet people in your field, which is why networking is so important. Join LinkedIn (check out our blog post on how to optimize your profile), join a professional group in your field, join listservs, and remain connected. This can help with jobs, research positions, and so much more.
Face the unknown head-on.
If you don’t have a job lined up, you might be tempted to just not think about that right now – and believe us, we get it. We know that temptation to put off thinking about scary and unknown things. In the long run, however, this is a bad strategy and will only cause more stress later on. Take an honest look at your finances, and budget accordingly. Getting a job in your field can help you pay the bills you have now, even if it’s not a dream job or a job at the level you thought you’d have. It can help provide you with experience and enable you to make contacts. Look at alternate routes to where you want to go. Even though it may not look like you expected, there are ways to navigate post-grad life.
Talk with someone.
If the anxiety or depression post-graduation impacts your life to the point of not being able to function at all, tell your doctor. It might be beneficial to talk with a trained counselor to help you identify some coping skills to relieve your anxiety or depression. Big changes can be hard, and there’s no shame at all in needing some assistance to navigate the new path you’re on.
Did you know that Dissertation Editor can help you post-graduation, as well? We can help you with job interview rehearsal, resumé or CV editing and formatting, and with any internship or fellowship application. Are you hoping to have an article published? Would you like to turn your dissertation or thesis into a book? We can help with editing and formatting that, as well! Contact us today to see how we can help you in your professional life.