University life is a beautiful, crazy roller-coaster ride. For every indescribable high, there is often an equally challenging low and it’s the people around us that carry us through.
But then the ride comes to an end. You spend at least three years of your life making a new home, creating a new family, building a new routine; then it all comes to an end and you’re expected to start “adulting”.
Life post-university can be a whirlwind of pressure, confusion and anxiety for many young people. For over 16 years, we have been part of an education system and become accustomed to the structure and familiarity that comes with it. Despite this, there is little to no research on the mental health of graduates, post-university. I found only one study from City Mental Health Alliance, that researched graduates on their mental wellbeing. Its study found that out of 300 students interviewed, 49% of them admitted that their mental wellbeing declined after leaving university.
There are a plethora of blogs, videos and resources on how to cope with student life and look after your mental health whilst studying. Sadly, there is little to no information out there on how to navigate life when you are left to your own devices; despite the high percentage of graduates feeling lost. Here are some tips that will hopefully help you navigate out of post-university depression.
? Avoid comparisons
Your LinkedIn and Instagram feeds can quickly become flooded with posts from friends and course mates about their exciting new jobs, fancy flats and seemingly picture-perfect post-university lives. Whatever you do, don’t compare your situation now to that of those around you.
Everyone is on a different timeline and what might be the right path for your friend or course mate, might be a different one for you. It’s also important to bear in mind that the way people portray their lives on social media may not necessarily reflect the truth. Focus on yourself and making the right choices for you.
? Be kind to your mind
Be as kind and as understanding to yourself about how you’re feeling as you would to a friend if they were feeling the same way. You wouldn’t put immense pressure on them, so don’t do it to yourself, either.
Whilst you may be keen to land your dream job and start the rest of your life immediately after graduating, this doesn’t always happen for everyone. And it’s normal to have to go back to a job you used to do before graduating, or work at a job that was not part of your dream goals.
It’s important to set realistic goals. Securing your dream job might be your overall goal, but it’s important to set yourself smaller, controllable aims in the interim. Try to keep it manageable – those daily wins are what will help you to keep your confidence going!
? Establish healthy boundaries
It’s easy to see how leaving the comfort and familiarity of university life can negatively affect your mental health. Many graduates may fall into the trap of having no daily routine and may feel lonelier now more than before.
However you are spending your day post-university, it’s important to establish a healthy work/life balance. Keep a routine, have set hours in which you apply for jobs or future education opportunities and ensure your day is varied to avoid burnout.
Kickstart your day with something such as exercise or mediation – and make sure to set regular breaks. Use what you have learnt at university and set those hours around when you work at your best. If you preferred to study or get your coursework done in the evening, then do your applications then. Set your working hours around your natural body clock and your highest points of energy.
? Ask your university for support
Graduates may feel isolated after leaving university, but there is some support still available. Over the summer and beyond, your university alumni team can help with career advice and networking support.
At a minimum, most universities will offer career support for anything from one to five years after graduation. At some institutions, you can access this support for life! So, if you’re feeling a bit stuck, don’t know what your next move should be, or have realised you’re not on quite the right path – don’t stress! Simply get in touch with your university career service.
If nothing else, you’ll get to talk through your issue with a supportive person who has been there and understands what it’s like. And very likely you’ll get some great advice that will help you think about your situation in a whole new way. Even if you’re technically past the window to receive this support, reach out anyway! If your university’s service can’t help you directly, they’ll point you in the direction of someone who can.
?Talk about how you’re feeling
Remember, you are not alone with these feelings. Staying silent and bottling up your feelings of sadness and anxiety is the worst thing you can do. Have open and honest conversations about how you’re feeling with your friends or family if you are struggling; they’ll be more understanding than you think. And don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or course mates from uni who are likely to be going through a very similar thing as you.
Please remember, if you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, we’ll be here for you whenever you need us. You can call HOPELINEUK from 9AM to midnight, seven days a week, on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope you find these suggestions on navigating life post-graduation beneficial. Don’t forget, it’s perfectly normal to feel blue about your university experience coming to an end. Things are really difficult, especially in the current job market, so be kind to yourself and take as much time as you need.
Finally, a huge congratulations to everyone who has completed their university journey! Despite all the obstacles you have faced during your time at university, and a year like no other, you have made it to the other side – you should all be so proud of this accomplishment. We wish you all the very best of luck!