By Meghen Jones
From tales passed down through generations to movies centered around the college experience, your time in college is generally recognized as four of the best years a person can ever experience. If the rumors are true, the ups and downs of college life are truly what mold you into a better person – how else can you explain entering your university as a timid freshman, only to receive that diploma as a whip-smart, dedicated individual with a long list of academic achievements and a deep-seated love for campus involvement?
Despite everything that you have come to achieve, you might have noticed a shift in your mood lately. It is almost as though graduating college has made you ambivalent about your next steps and less-than-willing to move on to crucial post-grad plans, like landing your first adult job or applying to graduate school. Odds are, you’re still incredibly proud of yourself for making it through the past four years of work that required your blood, sweat, and tears, but something is “off” – and you’re having a hard time figuring out what it is.
Believe it or not, what you’re feeling could be classified as post-grad depression. Post-grad depression is a common mental health disorder that occurs between a few days to a year after graduating from college and includes symptoms of anxiety, loneliness, and confusion. While post-grad depression isn’t diagnosable, it’s important that you understand what’s happening and how to overcome it. So, if a seemingly endless bout of pessimism has coincided with graduation day and never really subsided, uCribs will help you find the cure with 5 potential reasons why you’re struggling with post-grad depression and what can be done about it.
Reason #1: Your structure is disappearing.
As we all know, college is impossible to survive without some form of organization to keep your days structured. Back then, striking the perfect balance between priorities and entertainment was a necessity. Your student life was swamped with a mixture of classes, extracurricular activities, internships, and of course, a social life. For four full years, you’ve dedicated yourself to mapping out your busy schedule in your academic planner. Seriously— what would you have done without it? We shudder to think of the alternative, but either way, those days are over.
Since graduation has officially passed, you’ve been left with more free time on your hands. You no longer need an alarm to wake you for class at 8 a.m. or a daily reminder to hit the on-campus fitness center. For all the times that you dreamed about ditching your alarms and doing what you want when you want, you’re now finding that not having a schedule to abide by leaves you feeling disorganized and confused—especially when you haven’t secured a job yet. And, somehow, you can’t bring yourself to do all of those fun activities you swore you’d fill your time with post-graduation, like resuming your love of painting or rekindling your high school friendships. The funk you’re currently in is just too strong.
If you’re hoping to reintroduce structure to your days and tackle unproductivity head-on, consider projects that will make you feel more occupied, like delving into freelance work, attending a summer workshop, or getting certified in something relevant to your field. You could even take introductory coding classes – which will look amazing on your resume! – or do something more relaxing, like learning how to spin pottery. If these suggestions are hard for you to wrap your head around right now, try something extremely simple, such as creating a to-do list of tasks to complete every day! Big or small, each task you check off will leave your feeling accomplished – whether you simply unloaded the dishwasher or finally started that outdoor DIY project.
Reason #2: You have lost your motivation.
Motivation is something that we tend to take for granted even though it’s the starting point for each and every one of our decisions. Do you feel like there’s no purpose for anything anymore? Have you been procrastinating preparations for graduate school, simply because you don’t have the energy to get started? Do you want to try out a new workout regime, but can’t seem to get around to it, no matter how hard you try? These are all signs that you’re experiencing a significant dip in motivation, likely linked to post-grad depression.
It’s normal to lose motivation every now and then, but it turns into a larger problem once your lack of motivation begins to affect your work ethic. In other words, you don’t want your go-getter attitude to turn into total lethargy just days after graduating college. Wasn’t that dedication to your studies what helped you soar through college in the first place? Like maintaining your drive for making the Dean’s List every semester, you must find things that keep you motivated when this post-grad mood makes the possible seem impossible.
When your motivation has hit an all-time low, it can be helpful to reflect on why you enrolled in college in the first place. Most likely, you did it because college was the most logical starting point for breaking into your dream career. So, why not make it a goal to honor that commitment you made to yourself long ago and search for an entry-level job position that builds experience? An entry-level job will help you develop a resourceful skillset, while also pushing you toward being the best version of yourself and supplying your bank account with a steady paycheck. If you ask us, all of these things should give you major motivation to get up every morning. Plus, just think of how satisfying it will be to know that your newfound motivation came from proving yourself capable of tackling any goal.
Reason #3: Your time spent on social media has increased.
It’s so easy to compare yourself to peers, who have already ventured on to their first post-graduate adventure. Why? Because social media exists. Social media is a gateway into others’ lives, which easily allows us to size-up our friends’ new careers, assume that they’ve secured a high-paying job, and never wake up with anything less than a big smile on their face. Sure, you likely know a few recent grads who’ve already secured digs in the Big Apple or the Windy City, but let’s be real: those glamourous Instagram updates aren’t always what they seem, and a few well-filtered photos certainly aren’t worth throwing away your self-esteem over.
If you find yourself scrolling your days away and sustaining a huge blow to your ego as a result, it’s time that you limit how many hours you’re dedicating to social media. While it’s more than okay to periodically catch up on the latest updates from your friends, you don’t want your social media habits to affect the way you see yourself. Spending too much time on social media will kill your mood because it’s not that difficult to feel like others are doing better than you when you’re feeling depressed. Those feelings of inadequacy combined with your rampant social media use spells out emotional disaster.
Hoping to break the social media cycle? While truly ridding yourself of your favorite platforms is easier said than done, you’ll likely find that temporarily disconnecting from your favorite social platforms will be extremely beneficial to your post-grad depression. Worried about falling out of touch with friends? Instead of obsessively checking Facebook, simply shoot your friends a text or give them a phone call instead. Without social media distracting you from what really matters, you’ll be able to spend more time with loved ones and doing things that you actually enjoy.
Reason #4: You’re feeling lost without your support system of college pals.
Now that it’s time to move on to the next chapter of your life, you’ve probably already made your way to your next destination for the foreseeable future. Maybe, it’s your hometown, where you’ll be planning out your next step at mom and dad’s place, or perhaps, you’ve already hightailed it to another city or town that you can imagine building your new life in. Either way, you’re leaving your college friends behind for an indefinite amount of time – or maybe even forever.
For the past four years, your college buddies have been by your side through late-night study sessions, Spring Break parties, and the tough stuff that accompanies college life, like dating disasters and bad professors. Navigating post-college life without those same friends has probably stirred up a sense of loneliness, being that you’re finally going your separate ways. It’s a day you’ve been dreading for quite some time, ever since you solidified your college friendships.
It’s easy to feel like you’ll never again meet a group of friends as amazing as the ones you had in college. But, your life is only just beginning, and so is your ability to meet new, exciting people. While your adult friendships may never live up to the ones you had in college, remember that as you evolve, your friend groups will shift to accommodate your needs, interests, and location. Instead of looking at this change as a bad thing, view it as a comforting reminder that you can – and will! – build a new support system that challenges you to be your best and has a good time with you in the process.
Reason #5: You feel as if you’re at a complete standstill.
Have you felt like you’ve been in a static position for months? Whether it involves working the same part-time job you had as a student or constantly waiting on a call-back from a potential employer, it’s like you just can’t escape the rut you’re in, no matter what you do. This is what is considered a standstill, or a situation where there is no movement or growth. Being at a standstill makes everything feel as if it’s gone awry… and who really needs that on top of a dozen other confusing and complex emotions?
If your college experience was one for the books, then you probably feel even more frustrated. You might even be second-guessing your entire college experience, since not even securing your degree seems to be enough to jump-start your adult life. On top of that, it feels like luck is on everyone else’s side except yours. How else can you explain your college besties landing incredible jobs, just weeks after walking across the stage to receive their diploma? All you know is that your life hasn’t shaped up the way you intended quite yet, and you can’t stand it.
Setting your life into motion is rather simple if you stick with our advice. Instead of focusing on tasks that only prioritize accomplishments – like getting a job interview – the key is to make plans that give you something exciting to look forward to, amidst all the planning and prodding. For example, if you are an adrenaline junkie, why not sign up for a day of zip lining with friends? You could go to a concert, attend a festival, or embrace your inner child at the local amusement park. As cheesy as it may sound, reconnecting with activities and hobbies that excite you will remind you of all the good things in life and encourage you to keep truckin’ along.
The terrible, no good post-grad depression can weigh you down, once college comes to an end. But, just because this chapter of your book has closed, it does not mean the world is over, or you’ll never have fun or feel fulfilled again. Instead of letting those indescribable feelings get the best of you, work towards developing a positive mindset, setting new goals, and surrounding yourself with family members and friends, who have your best interests at heart. Don’t allow circumstantial emotions to stand in the way of the bright future that lies ahead of you. Once you get past your post-grad depression, you’ll see that you really are a force to be reckoned with!