Graduation blues? You're not alone

Your graduation date has been set and the end is finally in sight! Soon you will don your mortarboard, accept your certificate and stride off with the world at your feet. It’s going to feel amazing, right? Well… possibly not.

If graduation is on the horizon, the chances are that the last three years of your life (at least!) will have been pretty structured, revolving around timetables and short-term goals: the next class, the next deadline, the next big event. By your final year, you know exactly what to expect and when. Graduation is your first real step into the big, wide world and it can feel like stepping off a cliff-edge, even for the most laid-back student. Cue the graduation blues.

Graduation anxiety

Feeling anxious about graduation is a completely normal response to change. After all, graduation is often the first time in your life that you’ve experienced real uncertainty about what the future holds. Coupled with the pressure to ace your final exams, score a high-flying job and pay off a mountain of student debt, it’s no surprise that the pressure of all this change can feel overwhelming.

Everyone deals with anxiety in different ways but the most important thing to remember is that, however you feel about the changes in your life, you are definitely not alone.

"And I thought tripping over was all I had to worry about!"

Don't suffer in silence

Omar Sattaur is a counsellor who supports university students. He stresses that the most important thing to do is to "talk to someone, do it early on and don’t wait". If you feel anxious, don’t dismiss your feelings as trivial, says Omar, and definitely don’t bury your head in the sand. Acknowledge how you feel and seek help straight away.

There are lots of options, Omar explains. If you feel comfortable, talk to your parents/guardians or close friends. Often, they will have experienced similar feelings and can offer valuable advice. If your concerns are about your course or grades, approach a tutor or lecturer – they will be able to guide you through academic issues.

Some students feel more comfortable talking to a stranger. If this is you, Omar’s advice is to contact your university counselling service. He explains that most offer individual sessions, group sessions and workshops covering a variety of topics. They can also direct you to online self-help resources that you could use in private for additional support.

Amanda Conway is a university careers consultant and works closely with Omar. She reminds students that the careers service is also there to provide support: “Whether you’re worried about what to do next, want a second opinion on your applications or need help identifying your skills, your careers service will have a wealth of knowledge about the job market that could help you to feel less anxious about putting yourself out there”.

Reach out, speak out and share with others

Maintain balance

Omar also stresses to his students the importance of maintaining balance in your life. Remember all those things that you loved to do before exams got in the way? Sports, music, hobbies... fun?! Students tend to shut these things out when finals are approaching which can lead to them overworking and eventually burning out.

"It’s important to remember that you are more than an academic machine and those things you love doing are what help to keep you happy and sane. However busy you are, schedule in time to do the things you love."

This advice applies whatever stage of life you’re at and whatever transition you’re experiencing. “Your hobbies are the measures that you've put in place since childhood to help to keep yourself stress-free and happy,” Omar explains, “They’re important. Don’t neglect them.”

Whether it's heavy metal or knitting - find your zen again

You've been there before

The nerves and worries you might be having about your graduation are referred to by psychologists as ‘transition anxiety’. Transition is a normal part of life – it just means moving from one stage to another. Take comfort in the fact that you’ve already survived a lot of transition in your life: you’ve moved from primary to secondary school; you’ve switched friendship groups; you might have moved house or school, or even country. You're better at dealing with uncertainty than you think.

So, whether it's graduation you’re worried about, leaving home or changing schools, remember to share your feelings, seek help, keep doing what you love and stay positive. You’ve got this!

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