dealing with post-grad depression

If you’re a living, breathing human, chances are you’re probably not very good at coping with transition periods in your life. Let’s face it, no matter how much we’re excited for moving to a new place, getting that new job offer, or simply moving on to a different stage in our lives, we tend to become overwhelmed with change.

As someone who’s seen her undergraduate diploma as her defining goal for about a decade, I’m not at all surprised at the deep-rooted feelings of anxiety and hopelessness that came once I reached this milestone. I think a lot of young adults in my generation work so hard to get to this point, and many of us are left without jobs, let alone job offers in the fields we want to work in. Then, we’re stuck thinking, “well, now what? did I work that hard just to end up here?” We put our carefully worded cover letters out, try and try again, and get more rejections than leads. After a while, it gets to a point where we have to step away for a bit.

Personally, after moving back to my parents’ house, I dealt with the worst depression (and anxiety!) I’ve faced in years. I could not physically get up from bed, my body hurt literally all the time, I could barely eat one meal a day. My anxiety attacks would cause my hands or legs to visibly shake, and or cause me to even throw up. It got so bad, I had to have my mother drive me to a very casual internship interview while I was going through an anxiety attack. Needless to say, seeing my mental and physical health get to that point was the wake-up call to seek help from a therapist again.

Slowly, things are getting better. I want to share with you that post-grad depression is very real, and can have detrimental effects on your physical health, but also in your perception of yourself. If you’re unemployed and feel like you keep coming up short, remember to give yourself credit every day. Even though you might not feel it at this moment, you are worth it and you bring so much to the table. If you’re currently working in your first job out of undergrad and feeling stuck- remind yourself, this is only the first step in your career. This generation has so many opportunities to discover in their careers, opportunities to grow or move to a completely different country. Your first job will often not be your dream job, and your preferences and goals can also change down the line. Take note of the little things that make you feel fulfilled, and think of yourself as a dynamic, ever-changing person (because you are!).

Here are some things that helped me the most!

Draw up a day plan to make better use of your time

I love checking things off my to-do list, but what to do with all this TIME? See this time as a chance to improve things you want to work on! I picked 4 components to focus on, some will have more priority than others and I can choose which one to do that day and still feel like I’m working towards something. The components I chose were: learning, creative, networking, and job applications.

For example, if I wanted to focus on ‘learning’ and ‘creative’ one day, my day might look a little like this: spend one hour on a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses), write one page, and relax and paint for the evening.

(explore Massive Open Online Courses here)

Write to let it out

My godmother gave me some shiny new journals and I’ve been filling them up with thoughts from my day, wishes, goals, and notes from the books I read, or notes from online courses. writing can help you process the cyclical thoughts that nag you throughout the day. It can also give you something to look forward to if you write down some things you want to achieve in your future.

Meditation & mindfulness training

I downloaded the Simple Habit app to try to help refocus myself during difficult days. It’s great because the guided meditation only takes up 5 minutes of your day, plus there’s an S.O.S. option if something arises (long commute/anxiety/tough morning) and you need helpful words.

(download here)

Drink more tea (decrease coffee intake)

I LOVE coffee. It revives me. But sometimes with my anxiety, it’s not helpful to have that jolt of energy when my heart is accelerated and I’m already feeling jittery. So I decided to start my morning with a cup of green tea instead, and maybe drink coffee later on in the day if it wasn’t doing enough for me. It’s also helped that I take a multivitamin with caffeine in it.

Therapy, Therapy, Therapy

I had a mediocre therapist back in high school who only asked about school and college applications, so I was reluctant to try again for the third time. I got very lucky and was recommended to a clinic, and found my therapist to be a good fit. If you choose to receive therapy, remember it’s a two-way street. Therapy should be a safe space for you to openly communicate things that are bothering you, it doesn’t have to be big for it to ‘matter’. Now, there’s also a variety of different apps to chat or text with a therapist. 

(AAMFT Therapist Locator)

S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder) therapy light

I joke about my SAD lamp all the time, but I think there’s something to light exposure that can help people during (literally & figuratively) dark days. Michigan winters can be super gray and gloomy, so turning on the lamp for 30 minutes helps me. I use it especially to wake up to go to my earlier shifts, because waking up to light wakes me up more naturally, and helps my mornings be calm, rather than the disorienting feeling of waking up to an alarm.

I use the Nature Bright Sun Bliss model, but here are more options