The 4 Things I Did to Manage My Postgraduate Anxiety
I’m 23 years old, and I recently completed my undergraduate degree. Fresh out of school I started the transition towards my new life and a new career. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I found this process extremely difficult.
" I went from having a fresh outlook on my new life to panic."
After I had finished my undergrad, I left my school, my group of friends, and the life that I grew accustomed to over the past four years in Kelowna, and transitioned from living with a roommate to moving back with my parents in Vancouver. I started my job search with a positive attitude; however, it only took a month before everything hit the fan. I went from having a fresh outlook on my new life to panic, as I realized that it wasn’t going to be as easy as I once thought. I applied for numerous jobs, but unfortunately, the interview requests weren’t rolling in.
The structure and the social life I knew so well were gone, both of these elements were completely stripped from me and replaced with fear of the unknown. I didn't leave my house and was constantly sad, and thought that I was a disaster. I didn't even want to talk to my family because they would always ask me how the job hunt was going, and even though they didn’t have any bad intentions, it always made me feel insecure. Negative thoughts ran through my head convincing me that I was a failure because I didn’t have a job yet.
" I thought I was the only one who was having a tough time. I was wrong."
During this time, I thought the anxiety I was experiencing was not the natural process of a new graduate. In my head, I believed other new grads had their lives together and were enjoying their new careers, and I was the only one who was having a tough time. I was wrong.
It has now been a year and a half since the period I discussed above, and things are much better now. Thanks to an amazing counsellor, some self-guided CBT strategies, and the support of my friends, I have a more positive outlook. If you are a recent graduate who can resonate with my story, these are the four things that I did to help me manage my postgraduate anxiety.
1. Talk to a friend
Talking to a friend about the negative thoughts I was ashamed of, helped me put things into perspective. Regardless of what I’m going through, I find talking it out really helps. I choose a person that I love and trust, and talk to her/him about the thoughts I am embarrassed of having so that I can get another perspective on the situation. A theme I experienced with anxiety, to a frustrating degree, was rumination (repetitively obsessing over a thought or problem without completion). I have now learned that an action is needed to stop rumination. For example, if I am having thoughts like “I suck,” or “I am inadequate,” which are cycling in my head all day, I tell my best friend, and I find that even just telling somebody is changing up the process of rumination and putting a dent in its cycle. Just having support and being able to talk to my best friend helped, and still helps so much.
Yes, exercising does help. When I would read mental health articles online, I would resent each resource that advised people to exercise. Honestly, a part of me resents myself right now as I type this, but currently, I go to the gym three times a week, and I feel so much better about myself. When I’m at the gym, I experience social anxiety at times, and I find actually going to the gym can be really hard because I find that my thoughts automatically go to “Everyone is looking at you” and “You look stupid”. Thoughts like these make working out so much worse; however, I go to the gym anyways, knowing that I always feel better after I go. The workout also helps manage anxiety, as we all know.
3. Take time out for myself
Sometimes it’s easy to become so wrapped up with everything that is going on around us, that we forget to take time out for ourselves. For me, my downtime involves a little Netflix, as I find stand-up comedy therapeutic. I actually just recently discovered my new-found love for stand-up comedy. I find that watching things that make me laugh, allows me to connect with the human species. Amy Schumer, Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, Russell Peters, Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, Neal Brennan, Bill Burr, Ali Wong, Trevor Noah, Katherine Ryan, Jen Kirkman, and Jo Koy – to name a few - allow me to remember that I am human, because, in the midst of my anxiety, I can forget that.
4. Let myself off the hook
Deciding to NOT be so hard on myself, and allow myself to have the occasional “freak-out” was a critical turning point for me. I say this because at the time of my crying fits at home while trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life; I was really hard on myself for being worried and scared. Now looking back, I totally think I had the right to feel that way. I used to feel ashamed for being anxious in the first place. I thought I had to be happy all of the time and never worry about anything. I thought everybody else, especially according to Facebook, were living the best lives. Opening up, which naturally occurred with time for me, made me realize that not being okay is okay.
To my fellow graduates, you are not alone in the transition you are going through!
If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, Anxiety Canada has resources to help - https://www.anxietycanada.com/adults/introduction.
Shabnam lives in Vancouver B.C, and is volunteering and working as a consultant for Anxiety Canada. She is passionate about mental health and is aspiring to do her Master's in Counselling in the future.