CASE STUDY > Post-graduation depression
After graduation, life is meant to be an enchanting smorgasbord of amazing jobs and opportunities. However, you can get trapped by analysis -paralysis with a heavy load of careers advice, helpful (not helpful) suggestions, and the overwhelming complexity of trying to work out what on earth you should be doing for the rest of your life. Understandably, this can lead to what is termed now as post-graduate stress disorder. This can show as depression, or anxiety type symptoms.
Do I have post-graduate stress disorder?
Possibly. You, or someone you care about may be experiencing the following:
Cognitive dissonance, or an uneasy feeling that you can’t shake
Constantly asking yourself ‘am I doing the right thing?’
Procrastination, lethargy and reluctance to start the day
Fantasising about leading an exotic or unrealistic lifestyle
Anxiety or anger if people ask you about your future plans
Feeling like a failure, with a defeatist attitude of “what’s the point”
Excessive exercise or distraction by going out, socialising or over-indulging
Feelings of languishing and wanting to hide from life
Physical pain like a tight throat, stomach ache, constant headaches, irritability
Blame or annoyance at yourself for ‘missing the boat’ or ‘making a bad choice’
Lola's story: The post-graduate descent to the duvet of despair
Lola was destined for great things, with a first from a well-respected university, an upbeat warm personality and a great group of friends and supportive family. The world was her oyster and she worked diligently on her studies to get her well-deserved first. Life started to unravel for her after she graduated, with the pandemic putting up barriers to travel plans and work, let alone any volunteering abroad to springboard a potential career in international relations.
What causes post-graduate stress disorder?
Lola had moved home after 3 years with close friends, the last 6 months or so isolating with just her uni house-mates - all with a shared purpose and aim in life - to get the best grades they could. Moving home was the start of a dip in her self-esteem as she found herself demoted slowly from star graduate with prospects, to chief dog-walker and dish-washer emptier. A dearth of jobs meant casual work was also unavailable. Her life now consisted of a frustrating limbo of languishing through the days, unable to plan her future as covid restrictions and travel advice fluctuated.
How coaching boosted her confidence:
Lola wrote a blog on post graduation blues, sometimes called transition anxiety, or the medical term - post graduation commencement disorder as part of her 6 week coaching programme. The aim was to do things that helped her feel empowered, and to take control of her life with small positive steps. Lola had fallen victim to the 'values-behaviour gap' where her behaviour wasn't reflecting her values. She was a confident young person, fully able to feel empowered and take responsibility for her own life, to live a life according to her values. However, the double whammy of covid and 'post-graduation commencement disorder' was resulting in her behaving very differently, and feeling increasingly bad about herself, her life and her choices every day she stayed in her 'duvet of despair'. Coaching helped her reframe her new choices, to see them as positive experiences showcasing different skills and characteristics. Importantly she gained confidence and a growing sense of hopefullness and control, despite the challenging circumstances she faced. Organising and feeling positive about her options for just the next step brought a sense of perspective to her life after university, and kept depression and anxiety at bay. Just doing something increased her confidence and self-worth.
How to get over post-university blues:
There is understandably a lot of pressure in trying to work out 'the rest of your life'. However, many people take many paths, and your life will most likely be made up of different phases rather than one lifetime career. The portfolio or hybrid career is here to stay. And so is the horizon-expanding choices of travelling, studying more, volunteering or the variety of on-the-job training and work experiences .
Lola didn't realise that lots of people feel the same, and was comparing herself to her friends and colleagues, who seemed to be following a similar path of getting graduate jobs in well-known companies. She started to think positively about different options, and broke it down into manageable chunks each day, and each weel. Coaching helped her focus on the next step to bring a sense of perspective to life after university, and keep any full-blown depression and anxiety at bay. She researched the different pathways to success and realised that employers, business partners and prospective customers would appreciate her stengths in forging a different path. Lola kept an open mind, and actively built up networks to try out new experiences and roles, so she felt like she was moving forward. One of these paid off.
She is now enjoying her life as a freelance content editor for a travel company which gave her some financial stabilty, as well as transferable skills and career experience with people from different cultures - invaluable for any career in international relations.
“ I couldn’t see any light after my degree, but Ella helped me
understand my values and how to take charge of my future”
Coaching is a way to look at your life with a different, more positive perspective. However, if you think you are suffering from depression and anxiety that is causing you real concern, please contact your GP. There are also helplines such as Mind on 0300 123 3393 or Student Minds, a peer support service for students by students.
It's free to text 'Shout 85258' from your mobile and get free mental health text support about anything from the online Shout charity.
If you are really struggling, please text me on 07597157194 and I'll do my best to help get you in contact with someone who you can talk to.
Lola's blog on 5 tips to beat the post-uni void gives a first hand account as a post-graduate finding her way in life.
Try this at home:
Write down 3 best ideas for your life or career that you are constantly thinking about, whatever they are, and even if they are totally different.
Close your eyes. Relax. Breath slowly for 5 deep breaths. Visualise yourself in these alternative futures, and see yourself in a year's time.
Can you see a life, build it in your mind with new friends, somewhere to live, embellish this new lifestyle.
Now visualise yourself in each future, but in 5 years time, and then 10 years time.
Do you want to be that person? How does it feel? Which one of the 3 feels right?
This is just one of models, tools and approaches that can be used in the coaching sessions. Some are from neuro linguistic programming, cognitive behavioural techniques, career coach framework or positive psychology. All are evidence-based and tailored to fit each client.