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Darkness After the Diploma: 7 Ways to Overcome Post-College Depression

Darkness after the Diploma: 7 Ways to Overcome Post-College Depression

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Yay! You graduated college!  Diploma in hand ready to go…

Wait, now what?

That exact question is what college graduates struggle to cope with. Post-college depression is an issue often underestimated and not discussed enough. However,post-college depression can lead to many unhealthy behaviors because of the insecurity and disappointment of entering the real world.

For many, college is a time to make friends, socialize and finish school. Your life is a bit of an educational bubble. You are an adult, yet your routines revolve around your class schedules.  There is no need to think about major life decisions, and maybe you brushed things off declaring that you would face those obstacles “after graduation.”

Then graduation happens and the questions swirl. “What am I going to do with my life?” Alternatively, “Will I ever be able to support myself financially?” and even worse “Was this investment worth it?”  Of course, everyone is different. Personally, I have no regrets about going to college, but I do struggle with patience and motivation.

Post-college depression is unlike regular depression. Typically, post-college depression has different symptoms than actual clinical depression. Nonetheless, if left unaddressed, it becomes harder to overcome.

Symptoms of Post-College Depression

  • Addiction:  In college, it may have been normal to go to the occasional crazy party, however after college; some people become addicted to drugs and alcohol to fill the voids in their life. Drinking and drugs become more than just a fun night out. It becomes a full blown addiction.
  • Fear:  After college, many hesitate to take the next step into their career. For example, you may feel the fear that you will fail and not be successful. Because of this fear, you may avoid getting a stable job, buying a house or making major career decisions. Ultimately, fear prevents you from moving forward. Depression can become worse once a person realizes it has been a year or two post-college and little has been accomplished.
  • Loneliness:  It is very common to feel lonely after college.  In college, you may have had a group of classmates you saw on a daily basis. Maybe you were in clubs and loved going to the campus gym. Now college is over, and your life is nowhere near the same. Your classmates are moving away for job opportunities, and life is staring you in the eyes. Feelings of intense loneliness can be overwhelming during this timeframe.
  • Unemployment: The biggest reason for depression after college is the lack of a job. This is a very common symptom. Learning your major was one thing, finding a job in your major is whole other ball field.  When the economy is on a decline, it can feel overwhelming trying to find a financially stable job in your major. After months of trying, depression may set in, and you feel hopeless and like a failure. Hang in there and keep trying. This is a very common symptom and just means it is time to consider all your options, even options you would never have considered before. Opening your mind is crucial during this time.

After college, the structure and stability you’ve grown accustomed to are over. The transition can be a piece of cake for some; however others struggle with functioning after college is over.  Also, college is a time where depression rates peak and leaving college can make pre-existing clinical depression worse.

How to Overcome Post-College Depression

Now that we know all the reasons for post-college depression, the next step is to understand how to overcome it.  Here are seven suggestions to get you on the right path:

  1. Get a Job: I know, easier said than done. However, this is a crucial problem holding you back from feeling secure in your life. If you have not found a way of making income, take the time to figure out how to do so. Your first job out of college may not be in your field, and that is okay. Life may go in another direction from what you studied at first, but the important thing is to keep your mind open to opportunities. Be creative and find something for now.
  2. Meet New People: Losing friends after college can be a bummer. The good news is you can still meet new people outside of campus. Work on your socialization skills during this time. Not only is it perfect for making new friends, but it helps with networking. Putting yourself out there is a significant step in overcoming the post-college blues.
  3. Join Clubs: You can still be in clubs even outside of college. There are plenty of adult groups you can find on social networking websites like Facebook and Meetup. Find a weekly group that focuses on an interest you have. Join a yoga class or volunteer in your community. There is no reason that these activities should stop once you are handed your diploma.
  4. Set Goals: Setting goals is the best way to overcome depression because it gives you a perspective on where your life is headed. Start out by setting small goals and accomplish them. Then set bigger goals and make a schedule on how to work on those goals each day. Goals help you feel a sense of purpose in your life, instead of feeling hopeless.
  5. Check in with Old Friends: Guess what? If you are feeling this low after college, chances are your friends are too. Try talking to old friends. Go out for dinner or coffee with some classmates and talk about the challenges you all are having with life after college. You all are going through the same thing and can help each other deal.
  6. Focus on the Present: Staying in the present is the best thing you can do for yourself. Comparing yourself to others is a recipe for disaster. Someone is always going to be doing better, and vice versa. Think about what you can do in the moment to make yourself happier. Maybe travel for a day or go to the beach. Just because your life is not where you wanted does not mean you cannot enjoy where you are now.
  7. Try Therapy: If your depression is becoming unmanageable, seek help. There is no reason to live life in darkness. People around you may think you are going through a normal phase of post-college life, but you know if your symptoms are becoming severe. There is no shame is seeking help from a professional. Medication may be an option for you if you need it. If you are more into natural routes, try to look up holistic treatment options for depression.  There is no shame in feeling out of control. You are not alone.

Overall, if you are struggling with post-college depression, understand that plenty of people struggle with this condition. Post College is a fantastic time because you are growing and learning about yourself. It can also be a struggle. Do not fall into unhealthy coping mechanisms. Talk to someone about your depression and addiction issues. We can help.  Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Resources for Recovering Addicts Who Want to Go Back to School

Resources for Recovering Addicts Who Want to Go Back to School

First of all, I just want to say that getting clean and sober – although tough at times – is a really exciting time for us recovering addicts. The reason I say that is because it’s a time of new beginnings, self-discovery, and possibility.

When we recover from substance abuse and addiction, it’s like a chance to reinvent ourselves and, for many, it’s a chance to pick up where they left off, before the drugs and alcohol took hold. That said, many people in recovery, both young and old, see it as the perfect chance to start a new career, which often means getting some kind of certificate or degree. So, here are some resources for recovering addicts who want to go back to school.

#1. Get your GED

If you haven’t already graduated high school and don’t have a diploma, then you will need to get take the GED, General Education Test, which, once passed, provides you with something that is equivalent to a high school diploma. You will then be able to go on to attend college. There are several resources online that you can sign up for in order to get the resources, study guides, etc. for preparing for the GED, as well as finding out how to go about taking the exam.

#2. Get your transcripts

If you have graduated high school and even attended some college, you will need to get your old transcripts. In order to do that, you will need to look up the school or schools you attended and contacted each to make a request for your transcripts. Keep in mind that often times, there is a fee for getting your transcripts. You might be able to get that waived either by simply requesting it – so what if they say ‘no’ – it’s worth a shot – or else there might be assistance available specifically for recovering addicts who want to go back to school. My advice is to research that online (see #s 5 and 6).

#3. Research schools in your state or that offer programs for the major you wish to pursue

In-state colleges and universities offer reduced tuition for residents so you might want to start there when researching possible schools to attend. If you have an idea of what field of study interests you, I suggest focusing on schools that specifically offer degrees in that area, however, this isn’t always necessary. You also have the option of attending a community college and then transferring to a more desirable school. This is especially an option to consider if a.) You need to bring up your grades in order to attend the school you prefer and/or b.) You want to reduce costs at first as community colleges are more affordable than state schools and private colleges.

#4. Contact an advisor at the college/university that interests you

Reach out to the school and ask for guidance on how to go about applying to their institution as well as what coursework you will need to take. If you are not sure what you want to pursue as a possible future career, I suggest attending a liberal arts college. These institutions specialize in offering a wide range of studies so that you can sample many different things before you commit to just one (or two, as I did).

#5. Apply for scholarships and financial aid

Talking to the school’s advisor might give you some pointers as to scholarships they offer. Also, checking online to see what scholarships are offered by your state or by particular groups, such as Kiwanis Club, Elks Club, Rotary Club, etc. is a good idea. Lastly, there is Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA) that you can apply for. Check online to see if you qualify and for how much.

#6. Research other sources of aid

There are several programs out there that specifically offer assistance to recovering addicts who are seeking higher education. Researching online for resources for recovering addicts who want to go back to school should point you in the right direction.

Good Luck!

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction and you don’t know what to do, take comfort in knowing that help is available and that there is life after addiction. Call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 and speak directly with an Addiction Specialist any time of the day or night with questions and requests for resources. We’re here to help and you are not alone.

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