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Dealing with Post-College Graduation Stress and Anxiety

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Article by Rheyanne Weaver

You’ve focused so long on just passing all your classes and the excitement of graduation, but now you’re a college graduate and in the “real world.” What do you do with the stress and anxiety that comes along with an uncertain situation, if you haven’t already snagged a job?

Andy Hogg, a psychologist in private practice in Flagstaff, Ariz., said it’s normal for recent college graduates to feel stressed and anxious.

“It’s a major life transition, and often people have postponed other … life events like marriage until after they graduate from college,” Hogg said. “So frequently graduation is about a job search, change in relationships, change in residence, everything changes.”

For many, graduation is still an exciting time full of achievement and exhilaration. Many graduates will feel fulfilled by their newfound independence. But for those who aren’t as lucky in the job market, there are a few things they can do to eliminate some of the stress and anxiety.

“One of the first things to do is to plan after graduation,” Hogg said. “Many college students simply think about graduating and then they’re going to think about their future life, when they really need to start making transition plans.”

He suggests applying to jobs before graduation, and the best-case scenario is that an internship in college ends up as a full-time job after graduation. For graduates who didn’t think ahead, it’s important to know they’re not alone.

“Probably the most important thing is just to normalize it,” Hogg said. “Feeling stressed during any life transition is completely normal.”

He also said when recent graduates are applying for a job, they should “evaluate and articulate their strengths, and for lots of people that’s uncomfortable.”

Recent graduates need to think of a plan, which is probably the best way to counteract questions from family and friends, like “What are you doing after graduation?”

“The process of searching for a good job often takes three to six months,” Hogg said. “Many times people haven’t thought about it until after they are not in school, unemployed, and then they start coming up with a job search strategy.”

He suggests also picking up the book “What Color is Your Parachute?” by Richard Bolles, which is a guide to help people look effectively for a good job.

There are also many job and career websites for recent graduates to browse through, and Bolles even has a website you can look at (found in the sources section below). Most universities have career services departments, and job fairs and resources for recent graduates, so look first at your university.

If you’re not satisfied with your choice of degree or degrees and you’re stressed about that, you can always find a basic job and then go back to school. There is no point in continuing a career that you already hate.

One college site, www.scholarships.com, posted an article suggesting that sometimes recent graduates have “post-graduation stress disorder.” Although this is not an official diagnosis, Hogg said graduation is a major milestone in life and is a huge transition for many, so stress and anxiety are common. The post suggests after making a plan to also spend money wisely and not out of stress. Debt just adds more stress and anxiety.

An article from The Gateway, a student newspaper at the University of Alberta, focused on a study showing that anger, depression, stress and anxiety are common for recent graduates. The researchers said the best way to cope with this is to get support from family and friends.

Lynn Schiff, a nurse practitioner, wrote on the website www.advanceweb.com, that it’s important to take care of yourself after graduation, including having fun with different hobbies. Consistent exercise routines, which sometimes become difficult in college, can be started again, and you can improve your health. The basic necessities that got you through college shouldn’t be forgotten now: sleep, nutrition, exercise and social support.

Another reporter at The Rotunda, the student newspaper at Longwood University, said to avoid comparing yourself with your friends. You’re different people in separate situations, and comparing yourself will only hurt in many cases. Also, don’t feel horrible about having to move back in with your parents if that’s an option. Just make sure it’s only temporary and that you’re actively searching for a job. Offer to do chores around the house to make up for your rent.

Even though being unemployed can be stressful and make you anxious about your future, it’s important to realize that while you should be actively searching for a job, this is the perfect time to focus on your health because you have time. Always remember to feel good about yourself no matter what. Just because you don’t currently have a job doesn’t make you a lesser person.