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The Relationship Between Anxiety and Graduation

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Robin shares her experience with feeling the pressures and anxieties of knowing what comes next after graduation.

– Robin Sera

Anxiety and Post-Graduation are two things that go hand-in-hand. Questions such as ‘what do you want to do when you leave?’ and ‘what’s next?’ seem to be thrown at you from all directions and you don’t always necessarily have the answers. It can be a highly stressful time, especially when it feels like everyone around you expects you to have your entire life planned out when you have only just left education. 
I am someone who has always struggled with anxiety and depression, and I found that they both grew worse as my graduation date came closer and closer. I had no idea how to tell my family that, when I looked to my future beyond June 2021, all I saw was an empty blank space. When I felt I should have mapped out a career plan and solid goals for the next few years. I began to feel the pressure of knowing what I wanted to do next which began to heavily weigh down on my chest. I started struggling with sleep, leaving the house, and not talking about anything university-related, all of which made any pre-existing issues worse.  
What would my family think if I left university and had no plans set in stone for the future? What if I came back home and got stuck doing something that I hated for the foreseeable future? And worst of all, what if the three years of my degree had been wasted on someone who was never going to use it?  The feeling of being a disappointment to family, friends back home began to feel crushing. I found myself having daily panic attacks at the smallest of things, whether that be text messages from my parents or sending in rushed job applications to anything I could find on job-searching sites.  
I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about what I was going through, worried that they would find me even more of a failure. It seemed everyone else around me had everything figured out perfectly fine.  That was, until one day I called my mum and just completely poured out every thought that had been shouting in my brain for the past three months day and night. 
She sat and she listened, not saying a word until I was ready to listen to what she had to say. Within moments, my worries about not being good enough or being a disappointment began to fizzle away as she told me she understood, and she would be there to support me in any way that I needed. She told me that she knew I was a naturally anxious person, but that my insecurities and doubts in myself didn’t come from anywhere real. 
No one was going to think about all the horrible things I thought about myself. No one was going to think I was a failure for not having a five-year plan following leaving university. No one except me was piling on this pressure for me to have everything fixed immediately. These things take time, and it’s incredibly important to give yourself kindness whilst things fall into place. If you are feeling overwhelmed, scared, or pressured it is always the better option to talk to someone about it. 
Letting these emotions pile up inside of yourself will ultimately make things worse! Reach out to someone you trust and support, ask them to just listen, and if needed, you can always come up with a step-by-step plan for what comes next together. It is okay to say ‘I don’t know’ when people ask what is next, there is time to figure things out, and it is not the end of the world to not have your whole life planned out at the age of 21 – or even at 50!  Allow yourself the space to breathe and take in the last moments of university before graduating without putting that heavy weight of pressure on yourself. 
Take 2022 as an opportunity to give yourself space and patience, especially when it comes to things that you would usually be anxious about, and remember that just because you feel that you are alone in feeling something, that doesn’t mean it’s true. It is always the better option to talk about these things with someone.
We know that experiencing mental health difficulties at university can feel overwhelming. Explore the support that is available at your university and further.

Hi, I’m Robin. I graduated from the University of Brighton in 2021 and found that my mental health went on its biggest journey whilst I was studying – for better and worse! I struggled with feelings of self-doubt hand-in-hand with depression for most of my time there but found joy in writing and having creative outlets such as writing.

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