The experience of finishing your degree can be the best and most liberating at times but it can also bring on a lot of fears and worries about where your life is going.
This was definitely the case for me when I finished my undergraduate psychology degree this year and felt like I suddenly had the sense of the increasing pressures and responsibilities I had as a fully-fledged adult. I, like many others, had been in the education system without any type of break so suddenly not being a student anymore and no longer having the same level of support from the university was a weird and unsettling feeling. As if this isn’t difficult enough, there’s this sense of dread that we’re adults now that need to be independent and get into a job straight away to get anywhere in life and I needed to have a plan for my future ASAP or this whole degree would have been for nothing.
You likely don’t need us to tell you that the stats on postgraduate unemployment and the rising costs of living are grim, particularly compared to other countries. This combined with other factors made it pretty difficult to stay positive and after doing some research I found out I was going through postgraduate anxiety and depression.
What is postgraduate anxiety and depression?
While there is no fixed definition for this specific type of anxiety and depression in postgraduates, sites such as Healthline and South New Hampshire University define postgraduate anxiety and depression as an increase in feelings of sadness or worry associated with leaving university. These feelings can range from very mild feelings to more severe mental health conditions. General indicators and symptoms for this condition include:
- A feeling of a lack of control and/or support over your future
- Perceiving yourself as a failure
- Sleep problems
- Avoidance, this can be social (i.e. refusing to see friends) and task-related (i.e. being unable to write an email).
What can cause this?
This can literally be caused by anything. Some of the main examples include:
- Student loans and financial stress.
- The state of the world.
- Fear of unemployment.
For me specifically, it was depression looking at the state of the world and worry about unemployment and if I’d be able to progress to my postgraduate studies.
How can you reduce the impact and work through post-graduate anxiety and depression?
I was able to cope with this by staying connected with friends and coursemates. These are the people who have been with us throughout the duration of our studies so if anyone knows what I’m going through it’s them. Plus if you’re struggling to find jobs, it would be worth talking to coursemates who want to go into a similar field of work. They may know about ways to get ahead or any opportunities for voluntary and paid work.
It was also useful to talk to the careers service about where I want to be in terms of careers and about any job opportunities. The Career’s Service is definitely sick of seeing me by now but I can vouch that all of the Career’s Advisors are fully qualified and can assist in any area you might struggle in (e.g. CV work, cover letters, placements, internships). It would also be worth getting onto Handshake and if you’ve finished your studies, make sure you change your uni email to your personal email so that you’re able to access the service. It is also important to note that students can access the career’s service up to 5 years after their studies have ended at the university.
Most of all, be kind to yourself. You wouldn’t slate someone close to you for not being able to get a job straight out of uni so don’t be hard on yourself. This isn’t the easiest process to transition from university to the workplace but it is manageable so keep working at it.
For more information about beating post-university depression please see the the links below:
If you are struggling with your mental health please feel free to contact the university’s Counselling and Mental Health service and MIND. A bit of shameless self-promo but we have an app!
This has all the information about stay well at The University of Bradford and the link to it is: https://uobwell.info/
As of yet, the app is still being developed but we hope to have daily reminders and affirmations coming soon.