One of the most disconcerting things I found while doing research for The Turbulent Twenties Survival Guide is almost everyone I spoke to about emotional health after college mentioned to me that either they had become depressed or knew of fellow graduates who had developed what I call post-college depression. It can affect every students: from a small college in Utah to a renowned University, no matter whether you attended college on campus or as part of an online college degree program, what educational programs you were in, if you or someone you care about are experiencing feelings of anxiety, helplessness, or depression, you or they are certainly not alone.
Along with post-college depression, many spoke about feeling extremely nervous about how their life was unfolding after graduation because they didn't know what the next step was and felt like they were simply wandering through their twenties and thirties. What compounds this worry and stress is the assumption that these feelings of sadness are somehow abnormal when in fact, it is just the opposite.
You Are Not Alone
If you or someone you care about are experiencing feelings of anxiety, helplessness, or depression, you or they are certainly not alone. It is extremely common to struggle with an array of negative emotions that arise from all the challenges changes you face after college throughout your twenties and thirties. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, acute depression is the second-most common illness in the United States right after ischemic cardiopathy (congestive heart failure). As Eduardo Punset describes in his book, The Happiness Trip, "Depression is the greatest cause of incapacity in the world, measured in years lived with an incapacitation condition, among people over the age of five...Although we are well on the way to eradicating disease caused by external factors, we are invaded by malignant sadness that germinates from within."
Post-College Depression Can Also Affect Your Work and Career
Post-college depression not only has a major impact on you personally, but can have a a negative impact on your work and career. Feelings of sadness and helplessness from the post-college blues can result in poor performance, absences from work, or even losing your job. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to effectively do all the things that your job requires (much less excel) if you're struggling psychologically. Our emotional health is just as, if not more, important than having a stellar resume or the perfect cover letter. While we don't think about it, it is vitally important to put just as much time and energy into becoming psychologically strong as we do in all the other external aspects of our life.
There is a running thread about post-college depression on the Life After College Forum however, what I will be doing on MarcosSalazar.com is delving much deeper into the increasingly common problem of depression, anxiety, and stress emerging adults of Generation Y through a series of posts as well as show how it can affect your work and career. I want to raise awareness of this epidemic among millennials and let people know that they are not alone in facing this problem. I exposed this problem in the Turbulent Twenties Survival Guide where I provided the first comprehensive explanation of this common problem and here I will expand on my findings as well as provide ways that you can combat the post-college blues.
What Are the Symptoms of Post-College Depression?
Below are a common list of symptoms that post grads have mentioned they feel after college:
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Focusing on failure
- Excessive anxiety
- Lack of confidence
- Feeling of being overwhelmed
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Feeling like they're not good enough
- Impaired concentration or memory
- Inability to cope
- Despondency or despair
Two Forms of Post-College Depression
As I spoke with both younger and older graduates, I found that there are two distinct times after college that emerging adults are most susceptible to post-college depression. The first is right after graduation. This is because because there's never been any other time in which so many aspects of our lives change so quickly and drastically. From work and career, to finances, to relationships, to coping with creating a new vision of self, so many parts of life can be up in the air. What's worse is that we have to attend to them all at once, which can overwhelm us and create a feeling of not don't have any control over the important areas of their lives.
The second point in which emerging adults can develop post-college depression is during the mid-to-late twenties and early thirties. It is at this point that it dawns on them that five or more years have passed since graduation and their life is not where they thought it would be when they planned it all out during college.
For example, when we were younger we most likely thought that by our mid-to-late twenties we would have a great paying job that we loved, a defined career and a plan to change the world, a great group of friends, dating someone seriously, possibly engaged or married, making payments on a new house and in general, have our life more settled. But most of us have only a few, if any, of these things present in their lives. Most likely, the job we are in is not our dream job, we are not settled in any type of career, not married, renting a small studio that takes up half our paycheck or living with a group of other twentysomethings frat and sorority style, can't even come close to affording a house, not making much money and quite possibly, living back home with the parents. At this point we also have accept the fact that we cannot change the world so easily or accomplish all that we want as fast as we could during their academic years.
Just because you may be experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression doesn't mean that you have to let them take over your life. There are proven strategies you can use to beat the post college blues, and what I will show you in coming posts is how to use these clinically tested methods proven to help you take control of your emotional health. In the next post I will talk discuss how it is very easy to developed what psychologist Martin Seligman calls "Learned Helplessness" as a result of so many things being unstable in our lives after college, which can quickly lead to post-college depression. We we also talk about how this can affect your work and career and begin outlining ways in which you can start combating the post-college blues to regain your sense of control and happiness.
Questions to Comment On:
- Have you or do you know someone who has developed Post-College Depression?
- Have you done anything to combat these feelings?
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