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What you need to know

Is it normal to feel lonely after college? When Brianna Baker graduated in the spring of 2019, she felt lucky at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to have her work aligned. Many of his classmates did not. Still, working as a high-profile public health analyst was not his first choice for his post-university life.

Baker, now 24, hoped to go straight to graduate school. When that didn’t work, he found himself in an exciting job, but also a “worrying and lonely nerve,” he says. “Working in a huge team unmatched by my age made me feel like a very small fish in a big pond.”

In college, Baker excelled in his double dominance Psychology and interdisciplinary studies. He was accustomed to his personality as a very successful person. At work, however, he was often given tasks he did not know how to do.


“I took that learning curve a lot for myself. I’m overworked, and I wanted to do well, but I really didn’t know how. It was the kind of learning that took time. It was a great adaptation for me, and it was stressful,” says Baker.

He also felt alone. A close group of friends from the university spread to different states and futures. “My social life seemed to be ripped apart,” Baker says. He tried to stay connected through social media, but that sparked feelings anxiety and he felt bad about himself.

“It seemed [all my friends] they were prosperous and were able to do very well. But I didn’t have a new car or an apartment facing the city. I couldn’t work on my master’s or doctorate. I felt mediocre, ”he says.

After a few months, Baker found himself sad, stressed, and lonely for a long time. “Life felt like a series of failures,” he says. “I had a lot of ideas about what life would be like after college, and the reality wasn’t what I expected at all.”

Post-university stress is more common than you think

The sadness, loneliness, and anxiety that Baker felt after graduating from college are uncomfortable but uncommon, says Dr. Libby O’Brien, a licensed professional counselor and expert on the American Counseling Association.

“The first thing to understand is that you’re not alone,” O’Brien says. “Feeling anxious, depression, or after graduation “stickiness” and discomfort is somehow normal. It’s a change, and negotiating change can be very challenging. You don’t necessarily know what’s coming. ”

Post-university feelings of distress do not always rise to the level of being diagnosed mental health the disorder says Tanya J. Peterson, a nationally certified self-help consultant and mental health educator who has written seven self-help books on anxiety.

“Often these feelings of depression and anxiety are temporary, but severe depressive disorders or anxiety disorders are also possible,” he says.

If you are a new college graduate, here are some reasons to feel anxious, depressed, or lonely.

His view of post-university life and his reality do not match. “The last graduates often come off the cliff of high hopes,” O’Brien says. “You think ‘My life is about to begin.’ Then the image you look like may be short.”


You feel pressure from yourself and others. You can hear a lot of “what’s next” questions from well-meaning friends and family. “It’s a small discussion, but it feels pressure,” Peterson says.

The pressure can also come from within. “It’s an amazing achievement to get the title and you can feel the inner pressure to continue to be successful,” O’Brien says. “That may be especially true for first-generation college students and people of color because they feel their family’s dreams are set on them.”

You suddenly went into the adult world. “College often gives you a safety cushion between adolescence and adulthood,” Peterson says. “Now is the time to get a job, pay off the loans and start fulfilling all the expectations and responsibilities of adulthood. This can create a lot of anxiety.”

Your friendship and social life have changed. Graduation often means losing your busy social schedule with a close group of friends. After graduating from college, you or your friends can relocate and pursue different careers. You feel vanished, isolated, and lonely from this whirlwind of activity and familiar support.


The pandemic has already worried you and made you feel alone. Many believe that the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has exacerbated anxiety and anxiety that can be a black hole in post-college life.

“COVID-19 means that college students immediately lost access to friends, classmates and faculty. You may have missed an internship or other opportunity, ”says Peterson. “Now they’re moving from a university to a world where businesses are shrinking. There’s a lot of uncertainty and isolation to deal with that.”

Symptoms of post-university depression

Postgraduate depression and anxiety can cause a mixture of unpleasant emotions. Sorry:

  • Uncomfortable with yourself or your life and you don’t know exactly why.
  • Stuck or motivated, not knowing how to move forward or what you want to do.
  • It’s not worth it, it’s impossible, or it’s as if you’ve given up on yourself, your family, or your friends.
  • Isolated and unsupported in a new job, city, or education program.
  • Only for friends and family.
  • Get angry with yourself because you didn’t get what we hoped for or because you feel like they created an obstacle to your goals with others.
  • Angry or wrinkled.
  • Like your gaps on a roller coaster.
  • Tired and overwhelmed.


Your body can also react to anxiety and depression. You may:

You may notice changes in your behavior. To deal with depression or anxiety, you can do the following:

  • Use too much technology and spend hours playing, moving through social media or websites
  • Do too much or too little exercise
  • Eat foods that are not too healthy
  • Consume too much alcohol or caffeine or use reaction drugs

Accept your feelings and let go of guilt

To overcome the feelings of sadness and anxiety that can arise after graduating from college, you must first acknowledge and accept that you must feel.

“Imagine that you should keep your face and posture. But that means you avoid what’s going on inside,” Peterson says. “Instead, take a break and listen to yourself, and throw away the labels and the verdict. When you recognize and accept your feelings, you can overcome that barrier much faster. “


For Zipporah Osei, acknowledging that the feeling of anxiety and despair was linked to the latest changes in her life was key to feeling better.

“I didn’t enjoy my new job or new city as well as I expected,” says Osei, who graduated in journalism in May 2020 from Northeastern University in Boston. Shortly afterwards, he moved to New York to work for a research team for a major media outlet.

“At first, because everything was so new, I didn’t really know what was causing those feelings,” he says. “In the summer I took a break from my writing to get to a better place. But, by the fall, I still didn’t feel like writing. I realized mentally that I wasn’t where I wanted to be. “

At the time, 24-year-old Osei said, “I had feelings about processing the feelings I was experiencing and not just ignoring them.”

COVID-19 meant that Osei could do little to change who saw it and where it could go.


“I had to change my mindset and remind myself of the good things I had for myself,” he says. “I really turned to my family and friends to move forward. I couldn’t physically be with them.”

She also realized that feelings of anxiety and depression made her feel guilty.

“Since I was a first generation graduate, I hoped to feel really good when I reached this milestone. But I didn’t do it, ”he says. “But reading how it happens to a lot of people and talking to friends who were having similar problems helped me get to the other side.”

A few months later, Osei felt more optimistic about the future and its place. His advice? “Don’t be beaten for feeling that way,” he says. “You feel better with time and effort.”

Tips to help with feelings of depression

O’Brien and Peterson offer this advice to alleviate feelings of post-college distress, loss, anxiety, and sadness.


Build healthy habits. Eat nutritious foods, get enough sleep, and exercise in a way that is good for your body. “When you go about your overall well-being you are better suited to navigating feelings of anxiety and depression,” O’Brien says.

Keep up with friends and family online. Get emotional support from those who care about you. Even if you can’t see them in person, connect regularly via text, phone, or video, Peterson says.

Make new connections. Friendships can change with the changes that time, distance, and adulthood bring. To create new relationships with people with the same person, tap into your hobbies and passions, Peterson says.

Get involved in things that are meaningful to you. “Having a goal can help you deal with negative feelings,” O’Brien says. “If you’re not working yet or are more concerned about what you’re paying for your work, consider volunteering for something that makes sense in your life.”

Practice attention.Meditation it’s a great way to tune your mind and let it rest, ”says Peterson.“ If formal meditation isn’t for you, you can keep it in mind. to choose “.


Achieve achievable goals and take small steps toward them. “That means you need 30 minutes to smooth out your resume or do a job search,” Peterson says. “Sometimes when we set goals we want to get them right away to complete what we think is a waste of time. But when we do that, we often fall. ”

Brianna Baker used a combination of these techniques to overcome feelings of tightness after graduation. He joined a gym, made new friends, set small daily goals, and limited time on social media. He also created a blog about post-university experiences and a voice for social justice and systemic change.

“Writing a blog was cathartic for me. Being out of social media helped me stop comparing myself to others and start doing things for myself instead of external validation, ”says Baker, who is now pursuing a PhD in psychology.

More help when searching

Many people go through post-college depression and anxiety over time and with the help of family and friends. Others need more help.

If your feelings interrupt your life or if your way of thinking about yourself is significantly different from a few weeks or months ago, it may be time to seek the help of a therapist, counselor, or other health care professional. If you’re not sure how to find the help you need, talk to your primary care physician or family doctor, O’Brien says.

If you ever feel that you want to hurt yourself, contact National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. You can talk to a trained crisis worker or chat with them on the website 24/7.

“It doesn’t matter how bad it is stress, anxiety, depression, or an external situation can always help, “Peterson says.” If you’re thinking you’re beyond hope, it’s here. “

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