Suffering from Post-Undergrad Stress and Anxiety? Here's What to Do

Author: Zenresume Editorial Team
Updated on March 05, 2021

Two months after graduating from college, Mallory was jobless. She was living in her childhood bedroom in her parents’ house, growing steadily more anxious and depressed.

Mallory’s student loan debt gave a terrifying sense of urgency to her job search.

Her resume was on every job site known to man. She had probably completed a record-breaking number of job applications.

Most of the time, she heard nothing. When she did get an interview, they went nowhere.

Post-Graduate Stress in Practice

Mallory felt bad.

Her motivation suffered. With no structure, she spent too many days in her pajamas. Too many hours passed with mindless scrolling through social media.

And every scroll through social media suggested that nobody else was struggling. Her peers were accepting job offers, traveling the world, and moving to new and exciting places.

Embarrassed, Mallory stopped picking up the phone when her friends called.

She settled into a funk. She felt frustrated, hopeless, socially isolated, and afraid. Her self-esteem faltered.

What Mallory felt isn’t a diagnosable illness, but it is a common phenomenon.

Some call it the “post-graduation blues.” Others refer to it as a new brand of “quarter-life crisis.”

Whatever you call it, if you’re experiencing post-graduation stress and gloom, you’re not alone. Factors contributing to this phenomenon include:

  • major life changes
  • sudden lack of structure
  • social isolation and lack of social support
  • student loan debt anxiety
  • comparing to others
  • uncertainty about the future and feelings of failure.

Personally, I faced this anxiety after graduating from the George Washington University. My job had nothing to do with what I studied in school. I felt like I was getting left behind.

This had to stop. I had to make a change.

For me that very change was to start my own company—Transizion. Today, I help people prepare for college or make the most of their adult careers.

In this article, I’ll share with you the most useful tips to get out of that dark place so many of us seem to inhabit soon after graduation.

And while you can’t control the outcome of your job search, you can take concrete steps to shake off the post-graduation funk and feel better.

This is how you can change your life.

7 Tips to Get Out of the Post-Graduation Funk

Try these seven actionable tips to banish the post-graduation blues.

1. Create a routine

Without classes and without a job, your days seem aimless. Sleeping all afternoon, living in your pajamas, and binging on Netflix and takeaway junk food won’t make you feel better.

Give your life structure and purpose by creating a routine. Set an alarm. Get up, exercise, and get dressed. Spend an hour or two each morning on job applications. Treat your job search as your part-time job.

Get out of the house and soak up some sunshine. Run some errands, grab lunch, or make an effort to see your friends.

Read a book or listen to podcasts. Journal about your goals. Work on an interesting DIY project.

Being productive gives you a renewed sense of energy and limits the time you spend dwelling on negative thoughts. You’ll feel like you’re getting stuff done and will be much happier as a result.

If you still feel like you don’t even know what career can work best for you, get inspired by our guide: How to Choose a Career You’ll Love

2. Prioritize physical health

When you feel better physically, you also feel better mentally. Take good care of yourself:

  • exercise regularly (at least 3–5 times weekly)
  • eat balanced, nutritious meals
  • get at least seven hours of sleep nightly
  • needless to say, don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol.

Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel energized and happy. It also increases production of serotonin and norepinephrine, which can reduce stress and gloom.

So, improving your physical health will naturally improve your mental health too. That’s not only important now. Improving your physical help in your twenties can help you enjoy a more robust brain when you get older.

Of course, when you’re in a funk, this is easier said than done.

You probably don’t feel like exercising. Comforting snacks and convenient fast food are calling your name. And when you’re consumed with worries about the future, sleep is hard to come by.

Start small. Making an unrealistic exercise goal, then failing to reach it, could make you feel even worse.

Do ten minutes of a Pilates or Zumba video on Youtube. Walk around the block a few times with your dog.

Follow the same process with food.

Buy some fresh fruits and veggies that you enjoy. Find some simple, nutritious recipes that interest you. Start your mornings with a smoothie, oatmeal, or some yogurt topped with berries.

Even these small changes will make you feel better, which will motivate you to exercise more and eat more healthy foods.

Plus, taking these steps will help you get a good night’s sleep. (That’s important, because lack of sleep is linked to anxiety and depression.)

3. Limit social media usage

It may be mindless, but constant scrolling on Facebook and Instagram isn’t harmless. It can have a negative impact on your mental health and your confidence.

Excessive social media use is linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety and lower self-esteem. Studies show that it also leads to less life satisfaction and moment-to-moment happiness.

Why? One reason is the “comparison effect.”

Humans are naturally wired to compare themselves to others. It’s a way of evaluating ourselves, ideally to motivate us and foster self-improvement.

But the problem with social media is that we’re comparing our real lives to the carefully curated “highlight reels” of others.

Mallory certainly never posted, “Still no job prospects. Still at Mom and Dad’s house,” on her Facebook page. And if any of her friends were in the same situation, they didn’t share it either.

On social media, you never get the full story. You only see what others want you to see.

If you compare your behind-the-scenes life to the info others choose to share with the world, you’ll feel inferior every time.

In addition, social media makes you feel more socially isolated and can even disrupt your sleep cycle.

If you want to feel happier and more confident, put down the phone. Apps like Forest, Moment, and Offtime can help you limit your usage.

4. Learn how to meditate and do it regularly

I know—meditation might sound like that weird thing only celebrities and people in TV ads do. But it’s so much more than that:

Meditation offers tons of benefits, including reducing stress, improving sleep, controlling anxiety, lowering blood pressure, and increasing emotional health.

It’s a great way to focus on the present and reduce negative thoughts and emotions. Meditation helps you feel relaxed and boosts your mood.

If you’ve never meditated before, it can feel uncomfortable at first. Use an app like Headspace or Insight Timer to learn how. Headspace offers short, guided meditations for beginners, while Insight Timer curates meditations of all kinds for daily use. You can also try the excellent book, Making Space by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Once you’re comfortable meditating, incorporate it into your daily routine. Try meditating at the same time each day, like right after you get up in the morning or before you go to bed.

5. Find something you’re passionate about

When you pursue your passions, it naturally increases your motivation and joy.

It doesn’t matter what your passion is. You may love to volunteer in your community, or maybe you’ve developed a sudden enthusiasm for knitting.

If you don’t have a favorite hobby now, find one. Swim, hike, write, paint, cook, surf, skateboard, dance, take photos, or foster dogs. The possibilities are endless. And yes, it does work like that.

If you’re not good at something right away, just keep trying for a while. With practice, you’ll improve. The more you improve, the more you’ll enjoy the activity.

People don’t just “get” hobbies out of nowhere. You need to find them and master them.

6. Organize your space

It may seem small, but clutter can cause stress and make you feel overwhelmed. A clean space helps you feel much more productive.

Organize your desk, clean your room, and add items that make you feel happy. This could include old family photos, candles, paintings you like, or a colorful new bedspread.

You can even go the Marie Kondo route and throw out anything that doesn’t “spark joy.” Transform your room into a space that feels organized, happy, and peaceful.

7. Seek support

When we’re feeling unhappy or unworthy, we often isolate ourselves from others. The issue is that isolation only makes our problems worse.

Reach out to your friends or family members. Find people in a similar situation—trust me, they exist.

Talk about how you’re feeling instead of bottling it up. Even if your loved ones don’t have any advice, a listening ear and some empathy can go a long way.

If you’re still struggling after trying these tips, talk to a therapist or counselor.

It’s sometimes hard to ask for help, but remember that reaching out to others is a sign of strength, not weakness.

A Happy Ending

These tips are designed to help you regain your post-graduation happiness, confidence, and motivation.

But there’s one great side effect:

When you feel better, you do better.

You may be surprised to find that once you make these positive changes, you’ll be more successful in your job search.

For Mallory, talking to her mom about how she was feeling was a game changer. She decided to stop wallowing and start actively working on her physical and mental health.

It didn’t happen overnight, but Mallory eventually landed a job in the athletic department at her local college. Now, she’s working for a major sports organization in Indianapolis.

For me, Transizion has changed my life and is a growing business that has helped thousands of students, parents, job seekers, and veterans.

As for that post-undergraduate funk? It’s only a distant memory.

So, what do you think?

Have you ever struggled with the post-graduation blues? What helped you fight off the funk? Got any other useful tips that we didn’t cover here?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!



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