A Whole New World: Mental Health Advice for New Graduates
Graduation season is upon us, which means new college graduates will soon be venturing into the full-time workforce. While this can be an exciting time for new young professionals, it can also feel overwhelming and stressful as they apply for jobs, learn to navigate the professional world, and start off their careers on a good footing. These challenges have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on workplace environments and cultures. By recognizing and preparing for these challenges, however, new graduates can better ease the transition and set themselves up for success.
Monitor Your Mental Health
Major life changes can have big impacts on our mental health, and graduation is no exception. Research suggests that recent college graduates may experience anxiety and depression at six times the rate of the general population. This could be due to a number of factors: leaving the comfortable routines and social structures of college, handling the stress of applying and interviewing for jobs, learning to manage their finances on their own for potentially the first time, and taking on new jobs and responsibilities.
As graduates transition into the next phase of their lives, it’s important for them to stay in tune with their mental health. Take note of any major changes in your eating or sleeping habits, excessive mood swings, or decreased interest in hobbies or socializing with your friends. These can be important signs that your mental health is suffering and that you should think about reaching out for professional help. Remember to check with your employer’s EAP, as many offer mental health services and support.
Make Mistakes—And Learn from Them
When we walk into a new situation, it can sometimes be tempting to fake confidence and pretend we know everything already. But remember, a first job comes with a steep learning curve, and part of your new responsibilities is to do just that: learn.
Learning new skills and making a few mistakes inevitably go hand in hand, so it’s important to be all right with mistakes. Rather than beat yourself up about them, own up to them and discuss with your manager or your team what went wrong and why. Then you’ll be able to take those lessons with you as you move forward in your career.
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from challenges and setbacks, and it’s been found to be a key factor in how well people deal with pressure. You can foster resilience in your own life by encouraging positive emotions, staying connected to (or building up) your support system, reaching out when you need help, being of service to others, and finding meaning and purpose in your daily life. These are important skills for us all to practice, and especially important for new graduates to develop as they navigate the pressures of entering the workforce. And speaking of pressure…
See Pressure as a Positive
It may seem counterintuitive, but pressure can actually be a good thing! We often feel the most pressure about situations that are the most important to us. Embracing the fact that pressure is a part of life can help us better manage the effects of that pressure and even use them to motivate us and perform better. To learn more about the benefits of pressure, listen to this LifeSpeak podcast.
Establish New Routines
By the time graduation rolled around, you likely had a comfortable routine: classes, schoolwork, hanging out with friends, maybe competing in athletics or working part-time. When you step away from the campus and into the adult workforce, though, you’ll be faced with managing a brand new schedule and balancing new responsibilities. Establishing new routines can help you manage your time and feel less stressed as you learn the ropes.
Use a planner app (or a physical planner) to stay organized and on top of your obligations. Start getting up 15-30 minutes earlier so you have time for a morning self-care routine before heading off to work; consider meditation, journaling, a short workout, and a healthy breakfast. Spend some time on the weekends planning out your goals and schedule for the week ahead. Try meal prepping and putting workouts on your calendar to help you maintain healthy habits. By intentionally establishing some new routines, you’ll feel grounded and settled into your new adult life more quickly.
Keep an Open Mind and Explore
Some people graduate with a clear career path set in their mind. If this is you, great! There is nothing wrong with having clear goals and ambitions. However, it’s also important to remain flexible. The truth is, many people end up in careers they would never have predicted, and are very happy and successful in them. Keep an open mind as you go through the job-hunting process and be willing to explore the different roles and career paths that may be available to you once you’re hired.
Set Work-Life Boundaries
You may feel overwhelmed or excited by your new job (or both!) but remember – your job is not your whole life. It’s important to maintain your connections with friends and family, keep engaging in hobbies and activities you love, and take some downtime just for yourself. Many young employees are hesitant to use their vacation time and sick leave but taking time off can actually make you more productive and successful in the long run. Set healthy boundaries early on and you’ll be less likely to burn out.
The transition from college into the professional world can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! By remembering to reach out for help and support and by taking some of the simple steps outlined above, you’ll be on your way to a successful career and fulfilling life as a young professional. Congratulations, new graduates!
WORKPLACE SOLUTIONS is a group of dedicated professionals who provide assistance and resources to individuals and families to create a satisfying and meaningful life. We’re counselors, attorneys, financial professionals, and experienced specialists in a wide variety of fields. Because life’s challenges and opportunities show up in a range of different areas, we provide assistance in a number of different ways.