Many of us have been there or are still there, that time after graduation where we’re trying to transition to the “real world.” For years, life has been the same routine of classes, extracurriculars, and the balancing act of holding a job and maintaining a social life. Then suddenly, it’s all gone. No more classes. No more homework. No more club meetings.
Often, we’re either unemployed or underemployed, wondering if we’ll ever get a chance to put our degrees to good use and if we’re a disappointment. We feel self-conscious about our progress in life, and wonder where we went wrong. The days drag on as job applications fall into an electronic abyss. More and more, we find ourselves irritated by Facebook friends and how they flash their great lives.
I’ve been through this too. In fact, I’m still going through it. Right now, I’m underemployed and I’m still on the search for a better job. Earlier on, I hit an all-time low. I became testy at work and my performance began to slip. On my days off, I would hide in my room- filling out job applications. After I was done, I would sleep off the day and then eat whatever junk was in my fridge. My room was a horrible mess. Realizing how horrible I was feeling, I wanted to do better. I knew things weren’t going to change overnight, but I needed to get out of my funk. When I started, it was difficult and still is.
Here are some ways that I am working through my post-grad depression. I hope they can help you too.
1. Go outside and get some fresh air.
Even if it’s just for a little bit, get some sunshine and breathe in some fresh air. If you live in a place where there is great weather year round, don’t take it for granted.
2. Get organized and clean up a bit.
A small act such as cleaning your room can help make a difference in your day. Straighten out your workspace. Pick your clothes up off the floor. Throw away the trash. It’s amazing how much more productive you can be in a clean space.
3. Find someone to talk to.
You’re not alone in this. There are others out there who are going through it, or have gone through it. Find a cheerleader to keep you accountable and who will encourage you. While you may not want to be around people, isolating yourself can have more harmful effects.
4. Take a breather from social media.
Facebook and Instagram are filtered views of people’s lives, and sometimes it can be downright disheartening to see how good everyone else is doing. Often, many of the people on our social media we don’t engage with on a regular basis anyway. Take some time to focus on real relationships outside the internet. You don’t have to completely deactivate your profiles, but do an exercise: Make a commitment to only visit social media once a day, once a week, etc. See how it impacts you.
5. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Everyone is not on the same timeline as you. Related to #4, social media can start a comparison game. Not everyone has a great job right away, marries early, or has children early. Some people don’t find their success right away and that’s perfectly okay.
6. Make a routine. Get some structure in your day.
Start off with job applications in the morning, then take a break. Get some lunch. Go work out. Make some time for friends. During college, where there wasn’t enough time to pack everything into 24 hours, there can a bit of a shock when your schedule is suddenly empty. Reintroducing a schedule to your everyday life can work wonders.
7. Treat your body right.
In times like this, it can be easy to slip into a pattern of bingeing, sleeping too much (or too little), and even neglecting in hygiene. Eating healthy and exercising can help you feel better on the inside. If you decide to stay at home, put some clothes on and clean yourself up.
8. Remember: Employers often reject the opportunity to work with you, not you.
When you aren’t offered a job you really love, it can sting- especially if you did well and clicked with the interviewer. While the potential employer may have rejected the opportunity to work with you, they didn’t reject you as a person. I mean, no one can truly know you in small period of one or two (or three or more) interviews. And often, they can only hire just one person- who is the best fit for their needs. That doesn’t mean you are a bad candidate. Most sensible employers wouldn’t call you in if they didn’t see something there.
9. Embrace your free time and use it to focus on things you care about.
Free time is a gift. Enjoy it while you have it. Take time to focus on things you love to do. Take some time to write, paint, or anything else you enjoy. Doing something you love can also help pass the time when you’re bored.
10. Make a change in scenery.
Job hunting can be a tedious process. Instead of staying at home, possibly go to a library or coffee shop to work on your applications. It can give you a reason to get dressed and leave the house. Or if you just want to get out the house, go somewhere new in town.
11. Keep a list of accomplishments and good things.
Don’t settle into feeling like a failure. You’re not. Think about everything that you have accomplished that you are proud of. Write it down. Also, what are you grateful for? List all the things in your life that make you happy. Another idea is to keep a journal and write down all the good things that happen to you. It may cause you to think differently about your situation. Whenever you’re feeling down, reflect on your list.
12. Surround yourself with positive influences.
Surround yourself with people who encourage you. Read books, watch movies, and listen to podcasts about successful people. Listen to upbeat music. Don’t waste your time with naysayers and don’t waste your time drowning your sorrows with more depressing things.
13. Find something to get excited about.
Even if you don’t have much money, plan something to look forward to- something that will have you excited about the days ahead. Some good ideas are a movie, a museum outing, a fun day with family and friends, or just a day at the beach.
14. Remember: This stage in life is only temporary.
This part of your life isn’t going to last forever. It will be over in time.