Hey 20-somethings: The Post-College Blues are Real, and Normal
“Don’t wish away the college years!”
Unlike some, I rolled my eyes at that phrase from my freshman year up until the day I graduated from Central Michigan University (fire up, Chips!).
How could I not look forward to the independence, financial stability and freedom that comes with ‘adulting’? When you’re juggling a full class schedule, a job, extracurriculars and a social life, it’s easy to convince yourself a 9-5 will be a cake-walk.
Unfortunately, nobody really tells you about the mental toll that transition can take, even for someone seemingly ready to embrace the change.
In October 2016, I was handed my diploma in the same week I received my first, official, full-time job offer. Shortly after, I was off my parents’ payroll, moved into a studio in Detroit and was officially where I wanted to be: on my own!
And then reality hit, hard.
In the year following graduation, the confidence I exuded in college was replaced by an overwhelming fear of failure. Every day, I worried I wasn’t good enough at my job, worried I didn’t choose the right life path and questioned practically every decision I made. Simple tasks became daunting, at work and at home.
I missed the change of pace that came with every new semester. I missed the mindlessness of going to class (sorry, profs). I missed being close to friends and having summers off, even if most were spent waiting tables. Mostly, I missed the comfort of knowing I was working toward something as tangible as graduation. Sure, the workday ended at 5 p.m., but I was taking home a new, unfamiliar kind of stress.
Little did I know I was wrestling the same monster most of my friends were: the post-college blues. With time, I learned the anxieties I felt were normal and experienced by many people my age (even by those traveling or living out exciting new adventures).
Being in your 20s is like playing a video game where you skip the tutorial & you just sort of run around with no idea how anything works….
— Bill Saucier (@B_Saucier) August 3, 2015
So, I opened up. Mostly to close friends at first, but eventually to a therapist who helps me work on my negative, anxiety-inducing frame of thought. I’ll admit, even after three years post-grad, no day is perfect – I still have moments, sometimes weeks, of crushing self-doubt. But I’ve learned some practical ways to cope, which I hope are helpful to others:
- Stop “future thinking” (probably the hardest).
- Find a hobby (mine’s running! Gross, I know).
- Set small goals (seriously, it could be trying to drink more water or eating a veggie. Just try it).
- Replace negative self-talk with something positive (and surround yourself with positive people!).
- Seek help if you need it (therapy is scary, but awesome. And quick side note – millennials were reported as having higher rates of behavioral health conditions, including major depression, between 2013 and 2016, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Health of America Report).
As cheesy as it sounds, there’s no rubric telling you the dos and don’ts of adulting. You’re not graded or given a pat on the back every time you do something right. What I hope to get across to 20-somethings (like me) is this: The post-college blues are real – and normal. Get help if you need it, and own whatever journey you’re on through the good and bad.
Oh, and to all my fellow over-achieving college students, hold the eyerolls when someone says, “don’t wish away the college years.”
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
- Five Surprising Ways Stress Affects the Body
- Just Breathe: Go from Stressed to Serene
- Blue Cross Online Visits: Making Mental Health from Anywhere a Possibility
Photo credit: fizkes