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5 Steps to Overcoming Mental Health Challenges Faced by College Graduates

A young woman is standing by a set of blue stairs wearing a black graduation gown with a red sash. She is throwing her graduation cap in the air as she smiles.

5 Steps to Overcoming Mental Health Challenges Faced by College Graduates

A young woman is standing by a set of blue stairs wearing a black graduation gown with a red sash. She is throwing her graduation cap in the air as she smiles.

Graduating from college is a significant milestone filled with hope and anticipation for the future. However, this transition can also bring about various mental health challenges for college graduates. The shift from the structured environment of academia to the uncertainties of adulthood can be overwhelming. You may find that you are surprised to feel the way you do; college can cause anxiety and stress that you can’t wait to be rid of. It can be alarming to discover that a whole new set of worries has replaced your academic stresses; I see it often as a therapist in Woodland Hills for anxiety.

Stepping onto this new path is a big transition. When you finished high school and moved on to college, you might have taken your biggest step yet if you left your hometown in order to enroll. The consistency of still being a student – attending classes, taking notes, studying, taking breaks – may have helped you face that change. Now that you have graduated, your life will take on a new format. You might wish to stay in your college town, move back home, or move to a totally new location. If you move home, you might move back with your parents or with a childhood friend. Or you may also be seeking a lifestyle of paying rent and attending work for the first time.

What are Mental Health Challenges that College Graduates Face?

1) Post-Graduation Depression: Post-graduation depression stems from a combination of factors such as the loss of a familiar college routine, separation from friends, uncertainties about the future, and the pressure to succeed in the job market. Graduates may feel a sense of emptiness or sadness during this transitional period.

Financial Stress Entering the workforce often brings financial pressures, especially if you initially have student loans or are adjusting to a lower income. The burden of financial

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responsibilities and expectations to secure a stable job can lead to stress, anxiety, and feelings of insecurity.

3) Identity and Career Uncertainty: Many college graduates face uncertainties and questions about their career path and personal identity after graduation. It can be overwhelming to navigate the professional world, make decisions about long-term goals, and adapt to new work environments.

5 Steps to Overcoming Mental Health Challenges Faced by College Graduates

1) Stay Connected:

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Many of us are tempted to pull away and isolate when we feel overwhelmed, lost, confused, or afraid. We feel embarrassed or worried about “bothering” others. If you are a perfectionist, you may find that you find it especially challenging to admit that you need help. Really, all of us need help sometimes! And pulling away from people isn’t going to help us feel any better. As a psychologist in Woodland Hills, I can tell you isolation and feelings of hopelessness go hand in hand.

It’s crucial to maintain a support system and seek professional help if needed. We offer counseling in Woodland Hills, both in-person and online, to people who want guidance from a neutral and qualified third party. As well as looking out for your mental health through professional services, stay connected with friends, family, and alumni networks. Set realistic expectations for yourself and focus on small, achievable goals. When you are attending classes and working towards your degree, you are surrounded by peers in the same boat as you are. A whole group of you are all in the same struggle, on similar schedules, facing similar deadlines and obstacles. Even if you regard some of these folks as competition for top honors or awards, there is still camaraderie there. Once you have graduated, your paths separate. The cohort you have matriculated amongst disperses. That can feel very unsettling and isolating. You might be job hunting in one city while your close friends or most respected academic colleagues are elsewhere; that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to them to commiserate about the hurdles you’re encountering! In fact, technology makes that easier than ever.

Remaining connected to your friends and family outside of your educational network can also help you remember that you are outside of your academic standing and current transition. You might have spent the past several years putting your education above all other things. You might have been so driven that you can’t imagine a life, a purpose, and/or a value outside of it. Personal relationships help undo that idea.

2) Create a Financial Plan:

No matter what your financial situation is, you are transitioning from being a student to not being one. If you worked your way through school in some capacity, you would be used to getting a paycheck

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and figuring out how to make it work for you. If you have student debt, repaying it will begin upon graduation. If you don’t, you might be in a position where you have disposable income for the first time. I hear a lot about financial concerns and confusion as a therapist in Woodland Hills for college graduates.

No matter what your specific situation, financial literacy is so important, and also not something you can come by honestly and easily. Many people learn the hard way how to live within their means, how to budget, and the cost of not doing so. Depending on your living situation, you might be spending the majority of your income on shelter. If you are able to stay at home beyond post-secondary (as many people are these days), you might feel tempted to have some fun spending. By all means, live a little if you can! But also make sure you are not squandering an opportunity to put money away, pay down debt, and invest in yourself and your future.

Seek advice from financial advisors or professionals to develop healthy financial habits. Consider exploring part-time opportunities, freelancing, or internships to gain experience and supplement your income while job hunting. Remember that financial stability takes time and patience. You will not magically be able to do it all at once. As with all things in life, trial, and error is the name of the game.

You may know your short, mid, and long-term goals, or at least have some idea of them. Having an understanding of what you are trying to spend your money on is a good way to stay focused on the financial plan you create. It allows you to make decisions that aren’t always fun and helps you be adaptable as your life goes through stages. A financial plan is a guideline that aims to steer you in the direction you feel you’d like to go while also preparing for what we understand societally to be inevitable, such as retirement.

What is the total cost of your non-negotiables, like housing, food, transportation, and debt? How much is left over after that? How can you create a lifestyle now that works for those two numbers? What percentage of that can you put away for a rainy day, somewhere that accrues interest? What would happen if you were to lose work for a month or two? Work toward having the money to cover a break in employment in the bank and build from there.

3) Explore Your Options:

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You might feel pressure to choose your next step and “make the right choice” in doing so. Now that you have graduated, you may think that you’re meant to have all the answers. It can be challenging to feel that you’re not “living up to your potential,” – especially because that can mean many different things to many people. You may have been conditioned to believe that your life begins upon graduation, but the truth is that your life has already been happening and will continue to happen and change and evolve with you. Now is a time to consider how you feel about what you’re doing and make adjustments and plans accordingly.

Seek mentorship and guidance from professionals in your desired field. Engage in informational interviews, internships, or volunteer work to gain exposure and clarity. Reflect on your strengths, passions, and values to make informed career decisions. You might not have a packed resume yet, but you are a unique set of experience and skills that no one else on the planet is identical to. Own who and what you already are instead of focusing on what you haven’t learned yet. Self-confidence is going to carry you much further than a checklist of attributes would without any bravery behind them. Self-esteem is crucial to trying new things; you have to know that you’ll be able to bounce back from missteps and mistakes. Trying new things is how you’ll explore your options authentically and honestly.

Don’t have a network to reach out to for job shadowing? Find connections online. From social media pages and groups to websites and channels devoted to free lectures and guidelines, there is a whole community out there who may be able to guide and inspire you. Pay attention to what the people you look up to are saying and doing. What actions are they taking? What options did they look into when they were in your shoes?

Decide for yourself what mentorship and guidance look like to you. Do you learn best by watching and having your imagination sparked, or do you prefer to be hands-on? What do you most want to get out of mentorship?

4) Socialize:

Work is work, but it can also involve some fun! And why not create opportunities for yourself to enjoy the company of others while pursuing your goals? Make an effort to meet new people and expand your social circle. Join professional or interest-based

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organizations, attend networking events, or participate in community activities. Stay connected with college friends and schedule regular catch-ups.

If you attended post-secondary to qualify for a specific career, chances are high that you are passionate about it in some way. Organizations related to your career may give you an opportunity to really see the fruits of your labor in real time. They can also connect you with people who will be able to give you the scoop about job openings in the future or who you might want to keep an ear out for. If there are no openings for employment right now, you can still get involved as a volunteer and serve the cause you care about.

If your career path is less personal and more practical, socialization can help you to make the experience more human. Connecting with others in your field who can understand the ins and outs of your job, the setbacks, and the victories, can make it more enjoyable to be participating in. Work environments can be a great place to create lasting relationships with people you might not have met otherwise.

5) Be Realistic:

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Set realistic and achievable goals for yourself. Focus on personal growth and progress rather than external validation. Celebrate small victories and milestones along the way. Practice self-compassion and remember that everyone’s path is unique. As an anxiety therapist in Woodland Hills, I see a lot of overwhelming pressure while providing therapy for young adults. This pressure may be long-standing, having begun early on. It may have accumulated over time. Either way, post-graduation is a time when many people seem to lose sight of what is realistic for them at the moment. One reason why is that they feel anxious to know that their hard work has “paid off”; another is that they’re not entirely sure how to measure success in their new chapter.

Sometimes, when we think about being realistic, we tell ourselves that that means we cannot dare to hope and dream in a big way. What it actually means is that we are mindful of our present circumstances and the odds we are working with. For example, we can dream that we will win the lottery, and it will set us up for life; it’s possible but not very likely. Or, we can focus on achieving financial skills for where we are right now and plan to improve them. We can set the goal of being the CEO of a company; we just can’t decide that that will happen tomorrow. Being realistic means connecting with where you are and making conscientious choices that move you in the direction you want to go.

No matter why you attended college, you likely did so in the pursuit of a specific life you envision for yourself. Remember that you have experience under your belt but that you still have so much more time to learn more. You will change your mind thousands of times over the years to come. As long as you are in touch with your highest values and authentic self, you will navigate your changes in a productive way. Don’t forget to take time to rest, to relax, and to have fun amidst all the adult responsibilities you now have. You might move homes, change jobs, or even change careers. Some days will be exhausting. Some will be exhilarating. Stay focused on your own development, and you’ll be alright!

Anxiety Therapy at Embracing You Therapy

Anxiety causes excessive worry, rumination, and overall restlessness. Recent graduates learning to face the world may encounter strong feelings relating to the emotions mentioned above. If you feel like it has been difficult to manage your anxiety alone, our CBT specialists can help you with Anxiety Therapy to find healthier ways to control your thoughts and feelings. Whether it is your first time or you are just returning to therapy, our skilled clinicians in our Woodland Hills office will work on making long-lasting changes.

Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Client Care Coordinator

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