Feeling low after graduating? You might be experiencing post-graduate depression

12 Mar 2021

In partnership with SuperFriend 

 

You did it! You really did it. After years of hard work and late nights, you have completed your assessments and are ready to graduate. Elation and euphoria beams within you - no more exams! No more assignments! Now you can finally get that dream job! These feelings remain for days, weeks, maybe even months but then... Ooft. It hits you. A new reality sets in with a whole new set of emotions: anxiety, fear, worry, extreme sadness, and pervasive feelings of loss. Sound familiar? Well, you could be experiencing something called post-graduate depression, and it is more common than you might think.

UNSW’s Student Minds recently surveyed over 300 graduates. 49% of respondents said their mental wellbeing declined after leaving university, while 44% felt their friends were doing better than them, and 40% felt socially isolated.

But what exactly is post-graduate depression, and what can be done about it?

“Although it is not an official diagnosis, post-graduate depression is a term that can be used to describe the struggle many recent graduates face when they emerge out of university life and transition into adult working life,” says SuperFriend Principal Consultant Psychologist, Belinda Hua.

For many, the anticlimax of finishing study can be extreme with alarming new questions all demanding answers. What now? Where do I go from here? “There’s also pressures to land dream jobs, feelings of loss and loneliness after moving on from familiar friends and routines, fear of the unknown and failure, a sudden change of pace, comparing yourself to others - the list goes on”.

Others are faced with the grim reality of heavy debt and the pressure to attain and maintain employment in a COVID-economy.

So how can graduates better manage this? If you or someone you know needs support with post-graduate depression or feel your mental health may be compromised, here are some ideas which may help.

Stay in contact with your uni friends

A problem shared is a problem halved. Your shared experience is a unique bond and many are likely experiencing similar emotions as you. Some graduates find that their high school friends have moved away, started families, or just no longer share the same interests. But your uni friends are more likely to share your path and need to overcome the same obstacles. Stick by them and you will be able to support each other through this huge life transition.

Keep a routine

Humans like structure. We thrive in healthy routines. University is the perfect space to provide positive structure with set timetables, deliverables, and deadlines. When that is ripped away and you find yourself with an abundance of time on your hands with little responsibility, your mental health can be affected. Try and combat this by keeping a simple daily routine. Structure your days and set daily tasks or goals.

Hua adds “It can be as simple as engaging in some daily exercise in the morning, having lunch at 1pm, connecting with a friend in the afternoon, working on a passion project for a few hours, and eating dinner at 6pm. Make sure you schedule things to look forward to as well. Regularly experiencing joyful, pleasurable things throughout your day has been proven to increase your wellbeing.”

Don’t be afraid to fail

You likely won’t be offered every job you apply for. It happens to all of us. Learn to embrace these failures as opportunities to learn. There is also no need to rush where you are going. Use this time to try different things, different jobs, different hobbies. Consider taking a gap year to gain some invaluable life experience.

Be kind to yourself

It’s ok to feel lost. It’s ok to not have all the answers. It’s ok to feel sad or frustrated. If you don’t land your dream role straight off the bat, that’s ok too. Whatever you’re feeling is real and valid. Don’t compound your feelings by ignoring them. It’s important that you seek support during this time if you need to and that you remain kind to yourself.

Prioritise your wellbeing

Stay active and stay connected. Invest in friendships and look after your health. Allow yourself to move on from the past, practice mindfulness, and laugh! These are just some of the ways to prioritise your wellbeing which can steer you through this period.
You might also like to try our wellbeing partner SuperFriend’s confidential, free 15 minute wellbeing check-in for further tips on managing your mental health and wellbeing, including a downloadable self-care action plan.

If you’d like more support please reach out to your GP, or one of these mental health support services.

Mental health support services
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
MensLine 1300 78 99 78
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
QLife 1800 184 527
If life is in immediate danger, please call 000

The opinions expressed and comments provided are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CSC. You should seek your own advice for your personal circumstances.

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