With graduation only a couples weeks away, many of you seniors are starting to hit the panic button about your post-college plans. If you don’t know what you’re doing yet, graduation can definitely be daunting to think about.
During this stressful time, it’s important to make sure you have some tricks to calm your nerves. Check out our guide for relieving post-graduation stress now!
1. Confront the future
If no one has hired you yet, you’re probably starting to feel like you’re never going to get a job. But it’s essential that you keep trying! Feeling a little bit discouraged is normal, but refusing to send out any more applications altogether is not the way to go. You might not have a job, but you’ll feel much more productive if you know that you’re doing everything possible to get one.
“As a soon-to-be-graduate, I'm a little terrified that I don't know what's coming next,” says Rachel from Butler University. “To combat that, I remind myself that I am doing everything I can to find work after graduation. I'm networking, I'm consistently applying to jobs, and I'm sending out requests for informational interviews.”
One good idea is to make a plan of action that maps out what you’re going to be doing for the next few months. Having an idea of what you want to accomplish can help organize your thoughts and lower your anxiety.
“I’ve always known I want to live in New York City after college,” says Nicole from the University of North Carolina. “I’ve created a plan applying to jobs in the city and simultaneously looking for apartments.”
Start out by deciding where you would like to be at the end of the time period you’re planning for. Then create specific goals and steps that you need to take to get there and come up with concrete milestones that measure your success rate. Finally, put a timeline on everything, and use your day planner or smartphone to keep track of your deadlines.
No one is going to come knocking on your door to hand you your dream job, you’re going to have to make that happen on your own. You never know when the phone call you’re making, the e-mail you’re sending, or the networking event you’re attending is going to be the one that lands you an opportunity, so the key is to be doing something every day to reach your goals.
2. Keep things in perspective
It’s no secret that the job market that college graduates are facing is a tough one right now. It’s good to remember that while it may seem like you’re the only person who doesn’t have anything lined up yet, many other post-grads are feeling exactly the same way.
You might feel like some of your peers were immediately hired to do their dream job and you have absolutely no idea how to make that happen for yourself. Considering alternative routes to get to where you want to be rather than trying to jump right into it is a great way to take away some of the tension from your situation. Getting a job that’s in a field related to what you actually want to do can be a big stepping stone towards your final destination.
For example, if you want to eventually end up working in public relations or advertising, you can start by looking for a job anywhere in the communications field. Getting a job writing for any publication would be a step in the right direction and would allow you to make contacts that could possibly help you get the job you’re actually striving toward.
“My professors keep telling me that if I don’t get my dream job right away it’s still helpful to get a job that will put my foot in the door and can help me work my way up,” explains Nicole.
Creating a budget is another good way to keep your mind focused on what you need to be doing rather than just sitting around worrying. Having a budget will ensure that you know what you can and can’t spend money on.
Realistically budgeting can be difficult if you’ve never done it before, so using a site such as CashCourse can be extremely helpful. Along with other financial advice, it gives you tips on how to create a budget and how to adjust your budget as your income increases or decreases. It even has an online worksheet you can fill out that’s specifically intended to help you budget for life after college.
3. Practice daily stress reducers
Even if you’re working in the right direction toward getting a job, there are probably still going to be times when you feel overwhelmed by what’s going on in your life. Practicing daily stress relievers can be a great remedy for this.
One option for daily anxiety management is practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction.
“I am a big proponent of practicing mindfulness which incorporates a couple of different things: mediation, yoga, walking meditation, etc.” says Dr. Karen Bluth, a Post Doctoral Fellow in the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina. “It’s a combination of meditative techniques and research has shown that it’s really effective for reducing stress.”
Andy, a collegiette from the University of North Carolina, says that yoga, an aspect of mindfulness-based stress reduction, helps her relax.
“Yoga definitely has a meditative aspect to it and the asanas - or poses - are very refreshing in the morning or after a long day of studying or job-searching,” she explains. “Going to yoga is a great break because I always have more energy afterwards, and it really clears my mind! It has great health effects too. Inversions [a type of yoga positions] are great for blood flow and help relieve anxiety and stress.”
Dr. Bluth says that these practices can be most effective during times in your life when you’re feeling more stressful than usual, e.g., post-graduation.
“These techniques are effective for any kind of anxiety really and certainly at times in your life when you’re more anxious is probably when they’re most useful,” she says.
She also details how one common mindfulness-based stress reduction skill can be perfected.
“An example of a typical practice would be a breathing technique,” explains Dr. Bluth. “You sit in a comfortable position and bring attention and awareness to your breath. You breathe normally, but as you inhale and exhale you bring your attention to your breath and you notice how your breath feels. Usually in a very short amount of time you’ll realize that you’re not thinking about your breath anymore and that your mind has wandered. When you notice that, you make a mental note of it and then bring your attention back to your breath. You’re training your mind to be in the present moment. When you’re in the present moment, you respond to things in a way that is more conscious and more aware.”
Dr. Bluth strongly recommends taking a class on mindfulness-based stress reduction if you are still having trouble controlling your daily anxiety about post-college life.
4. Stay happy and healthy
Another huge aspect of keeping your stress levels at a minimum is making sure you’re taking care of yourself. Eating well, working out, and getting enough sleep are essential factors in determining how good you feel and how anxious you are.
While you do need to be working to accomplish your goals, you also need to be enjoying your life and doing things that make you happy.
“Most importantly, I'm taking time for the things I enjoy: ice cream dates, late night walks around campus, and reading for pleasure,” says Rachel. “Laughter is a great tension reliever, so I've started reading Mindy Kaling's book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). It's witty and true to life--perfect reading for a stressed out collegiette!”
You can’t live in a bubble where your every thought revolves around getting a job. After all, you’re about to be a college graduate and deserve to pat yourself on the back and give yourself a break. Go out and spend time with your friends and family to celebrate everything you’ve accomplished over the past four years.
“I stress about this all the time, almost every day,” says Jasmin from the University of the Sunshine Coast. “The best advice I give myself is 'just think about the now' and only think a little bit about the future. It's so hard to do but if you don't live in the 'now' many moments can slip away or even just seeing your friends and family - those moments can slip away, too.”
Your friends and family are a great support team during this time of transition in your life. They’ll be able to give you not only emotional backup, but also advice about what to do next. Talking to them can be a great outlet for stress and will leave you feeling much better afterwards.
“My family keeps telling me to relax because a lot of graduates don't have a job lined up right away,” says Nicole. “I’ve finally realized it’s ok if I take a couple of months off while I live at home and apply places.”
It’s normal to be somewhat stressed about what you’re going to be doing after college, but driving yourself crazy over it isn’t going to help anything. Following these tips will help to keep you calm while still staying on the path to get to where you want to be. Good luck almost graduated collegiettes!