Graduation time — whether you’re graduating from college or high school — is full of questions like, “What’s next?” “Where are you going to college?” “What are you going to study?” “Do you have a job lined up after graduation?” “Are you moving somewhere?”
While these questions are all well-intentioned, you might feel an unspoken pressure to have the right answers, have a detailed plan or at least have some semblance of direction. But the truth is, sometimes you don’t have everything sorted out yet, which often leads to stress. The good news is there are ways to cope with the stress of graduating and be at peace with not having all the answers.
How to handle graduation stress
Graduating is hard enough without the additional stress from outside sources. When graduating from high school, we want to find the right college, the right major and the right friends; it can feel intimidating moving from the smaller realm of high school to the large realm of college.
When graduating college, we can feel woefully unprepared to step into the “real world” and put our degrees to use. Finding and landing a job, maybe moving to a new city or state and really starting out on one’s own are all overwhelming tasks.
But with the right coping methods, you’ll not only be able to navigate the next steps, but you’ll also be able to take them peacefully.
Talk to people who can relate
Feelings of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty can make you feel like you are alone, and they’re not uncommon emotions to feel during this time. One of the best ways of overcoming this sense of loneliness is by reaching out to those who understand.
Talking with your friends who are also graduating can normalize the challenging emotions you are experiencing. Additionally, talk with people who have already graduated and ask their advice — what can they suggest to help you relax more and fear less about the future?
Stay on top of your responsibilities
Stress can derail you, but not staying responsible for your tasks can be detrimental. Failing a class, missing a tuition payment or skipping school can all lead to serious consequences, including failing to graduate.
If your fears, uncertainties and anxieties are getting in the way of your ability to focus on your schoolwork and stay motivated, it’s time to implement some coping skills. Use a planner to keep track of assignments, set reminders for tuition payments and appointments and ask friends to hold you accountable; the more you stay on top of these things, the less stress you’ll feel.
Take care of your body
In times of stress, it can be tempting to hyper-focus on what’s causing you anxiety and forget about everything else. But neglecting your physical needs — like getting enough sleep, exercising, drinking lots of water and eating healthy meals — can actually harm your mental health and worsen your stress in the long run.
To help manage symptoms of stress, make sure you carve out time for exercise, get to bed when you need to and maintain an appropriate diet plan to give your body the support it needs to handle these stressful days.
Ask for help
When it comes to graduation, you are facing a reality that you’ve never faced before. You’ve never had to seek out a career job, or you’ve never needed to pick a degree program until now. No one expects you to know how to do it, nor should you expect it from yourself.
Instead of trying to take all these challenges on alone, reach out to people who can help you navigate the transition, including parents, teachers, older siblings and mentors. There’s nothing wrong with asking the advice of people who’ve done it before, and it could save you a lot of headaches in the long run.
Do something fun
Sitting in front of a computer all day job hunting, resume building or college searching can exhaust you quicker than a five-mile run. Plus, graduation should be an exciting time! It’s a celebration of your success, and of the successes to come. While that can feel overwhelming, at the core of it, it’s a very exciting achievement.
To celebrate, take the time to plan something you enjoy. This could be a whole weekend trip with your senior friends, a shopping spree for a new college or job wardrobe or a vacation with your family to the place of your choosing. No matter what you do, simple or fancy, make sure to take time away from the stress to focus on the excitement and the achievement of graduation.
See a therapist
Working with a therapist is an incredibly useful way of dealing with change. Therapists can help you examine and identify all of the emotions associated with pre-and post-graduation stress, in addition to suggesting coping skills to address these emotions. He or she can also point out resources that will make your transition to college or your first professional job more seamless.
Need additional help managing graduation stress?
Most colleges have counselors onsite for this exact purpose, but if you desire the privacy of an off-campus counselor, consider The Light Program.
To learn more about our programs and resources, contact us by going to our website or giving us a call today at 610-644-6464.