I’ve just graduated university. Now what?

depression symptoms
It's completely normal to feel uncertain or afraid after graduation. Source: Jordan Vonderhaar/AFP

Depression symptoms are often hard to spot when you’re in the thick of it.

You might feel sad and upset because of many reasons, from study stress to strife in your personal relationships. Or perhaps you’re faced with an unexpected hurdle and are feeling uncertain and afraid. 

Before you know it, you’ve adopted thought patterns that are consistently negative, have a more pessimistic outlook on life and are pulling away from your closest friends.

These are classic depression symptoms that you might not notice until it’s too late. 

This is all the more felt during significant life changes. Graduation can be one of them.

While it’s a happy occasion — all that hard work and stress paid off, after all — it might leave you wondering what happens next.

You could even feel fear for what the future will bring, or dejected because you’ve not gotten a job yet when everyone seems to have done so.

You might think you should ignore these feelings of fear and uncertainty because everyone around you is going through the same thing.

Sometimes, this could lead to feelings of inadequacy, or that you’re overreacting. 

But the fact that everyone else is going through the same thing points to the fact that these feelings are very real. In the same way, they have very real consequences. 

Studies have found that young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 have double the rate of depression compared to the general population.

Most of this has to do with a high rate of unemployment, which might only rise with the upcoming recession. This has led to an increase in substance abuse among other harmful effects. 

Navigating life after university is a true struggle that shouldn’t be invalidated. This is commonly referred to as post-uni depression. 

You might feel you’re not as good as your classmates. Here’s what to do about it. Source: Jordan Vonderhaar/AFP

What is post-uni depression?

Dejection and sadness — these are common post-uni depression symptoms.

It’s an understandable reaction; after all, the direction of your life is completely up to you for the first time. 

Without the structured path of school and university, it can be overwhelming to decide what to do next.

It’s even more so when you realise that whatever you choose to do will probably impact the trajectory of your life — making it important to make the right decisions for yourself. 

This pressure can be overwhelming and cause more stress the longer you are without a job.

You might feel like you’re falling behind your classmates as well, who may have secured employment before graduation. 

Either way, it’s important to keep track of your moods and thoughts during this time of uncertainty.

This is to make sure you don’t fall into any unhealthy patterns — and start developing feelings of depression or anxiety. 

Post-uni depression symptoms

Depression can manifest in a variety of ways. But post-uni depression is specific to the effects of life after graduation.

Some common post-uni depression symptoms include: 

  • Feeling guilt, self-loathing, and blaming yourself for being “stuck”
  • Wishing you could return to the past 
  • Cynicism or irritation that your degree didn’t lead to the outcome you envisioned 
  • Finding it difficult to enjoy your hobbies and interests 
  • Feeling hopeless about the future 
  • Losing motivation 
  • Fatigue and difficulty sleeping 
  • Feeling absent-minded or forgetting simple things 

It’s important to keep track of how you’re feeling to ensure you’re able to identify these symptoms should they come up.

This way, you can start to work on how to overcome your post-uni depression — and, most importantly, ensure you feel better. 

There are many ways to effectively manage your stress levels post-graduation. Source: Mandel Ngan/AFP

What to do if you’re suffering from post-uni depression

Post-uni depression might seem like an impossible hurdle to overcome. Your happiness seems dependent on so many things outside of your control.

For example, you might be feeling stressed because you haven’t received any job offers. Until you get one, it doesn’t feel like the stress will fade.

Still, you don’t have to subject yourself to the unforgiving claws of depression in the meantime.

There are ways of managing your stress levels and finding small pockets of happiness, even when things are uncertain. 

Here are some things you could consider doing: 

  • Keep a journal and write down your thoughts when they get too overwhelming
  • Lay out goals that are challenging, but not impossible to achieve
  • Set aside time for job applications
  • Set aside time for relaxation
  • Take up a new skill or hobby
  • Sign up for an online course
  • Arrange to meet up with friends or socialise at least once a week 
  • Make sure you eat and sleep on time 

Above all, remember that everyone is walking their own path. Don’t hold yourself to the standards and timeframes set by everyone else.

With time and persistence, you will get to where you want to be — it just might take a little longer, and that’s okay.