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How to combat post-university blues

Life after university can be very strange and require a lot of adjustment because of just how much changes in such a short period of time.

A survey of over 300 recent graduates conducted by City Mental Health Alliance, found that 49% of students had their mental well-being decline after leaving university. This just goes to show that the graduate blues are perhaps a lot more commonplace than you might initially think and there are many understandable reasons why this might be happening.

The uncertainty and pressure surrounding the path ahead

For a lot of people, this will be the first time they have been outside of education since they can remember! Through the majority of their life, they have been stepping on a clear-cut path laid out by our education system that takes them all the way up to the ‘ultimate goal’ of university and then suddenly it stops and leaves them with a million possible outcomes but no real certainty and security.

Up until then, people are compartmentalising the stages of their lives into school, college and university and now they are faced with the prospects of having to make really big decisions determining their careers and prosperity for the next 45+ years of their lives.

Understandably this scenario can be daunting and emotionally draining, especially when you then factor in the increasing challenges facing new graduates in the current political and economic climate that can overwhelm and dictate the opportunities available to graduates.

Financial insecurity

It is well-documented that student debt is at an all-time high (the average student has £50,000 debt), jobs are extremely competitive and the marketplace does not offer the same level of job security as it once did. This can result in several students needing to either take out additional loans for basic living or move back home to get themselves on their feet. After years of independence, this may cause friction and distress, especially as students themselves may view this as moving in the wrong direction and further away from their ambitions.

Counselling Directory member, Michael Bryant, told Study International:

Student graduates experience more emotional problems as they struggle with vastly decreased economic and occupational opportunities than those faced by their parents’ generation.

Loss of comfort

Universities tend to be a hub of like-minded individuals who come together and introduce each other to new friendships, cultures, interests, social events and overall it is just a big exciting community that can offer an incredible experience. But then students leave that big hub of life and enter the ‘real world’ where they are then perplexed to find their place in surroundings so unfamiliar and unlike anything before.

This is the place of limbo between when university finishes and adulthood, as we envision it (job, house, marriage, kids), begins. For many graduates, this is a deeply draining time that leaves them feeling lonely and lost, resulting in an increase in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

What can be done about this?

No matter what, there is always a route out of every situation and things will get better.

Talking is key! It is important to understand exactly how you are feeling and how severely your mental health is impacting on your quality of life. You can fill out a depression checklist online and from this, you can decide how to move forward. This could be by talking to people in your life, doctors, counsellors or a helpline.

Additionally, keep up with your university friends, they are most likely also feeling some aspects of this struggle and knowing that you are not alone can provide great comfort and reassurance during this time. 

A helpful tip to remember during times when you may feel overwhelmed is to write all your concerns and feelings down. This can be an excellent release by getting the negative thoughts out of your head and into the world.

Remember to also keep busy and find activities or interests that help lift your mood—even on days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed. Life is never straightforward and rarely do graduates ever land their dream job straight away, so remember to reign that negative voice back in with realism.

Resilience is key, there is a path for you and even if you have to look for alternative ways to get where you want to go, it does not mean you have failed for not arriving there immediately. Who knows, along the way you might even be lead down a path to something far greater than what post-university you was initially planning. Ultimately, what we all need is time to find our way, but whilst doing so, just remember, you’re not alone and this is not uncommon.

If you or anyone you know is having a difficult time and struggling with some of the issues discussed in this article then please reach out to those around you and the services available: MIND offers a free over-the-phone advice service at 0300 123 3393 and Samaritans have a 24/7 free line you can use on 116 123.

Check out the ultimate companion for leaving university, The Graduate Guide 2018

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