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You Just Graduated! Why Do You Feel Down?

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You've been looking forward to graduation since you first started college or grad school. It's finally here! Why aren't you happier?

Pressure
"Graduation is supposed to be a happy time! Why aren't you happy? Be happy!" Is this running through your mind? Stop pressuring yourself to feel the way you think you're supposed to. Allow yourself to be yourself. Ambiguous feelings about graduation are more common than you think. Most graduates feel a little nervous and uncertain -- it's normal. Don't make yourself feel worse wondering, "What's wrong with me?" You're ending one chapter of your life and beginning a new one. That's always a little scary and anxiety-provoking. What can you do to feel better? Recognize that endings, as well as beginnings, are inherently stressful. It's normal to feel nostalgic over what was -- and to worry about what will be.

Transition-Related Anxiety
If you're graduating college and planning on attending graduate school, you may feel anxious because you're embarking on a long path through the unknown. You're also encountering mixed messages. Your graduation ceremony says, "You're at the top of the pack. You've jumped through the hoops and are finished," whereas the orientation program at your new graduate institution says, "You're an incoming runt, bottom rung of the ladder." That discrepancy can get you down, but the feelings will pass as you move on to this new stage in your life. Overcome the transition anxiety by relaxing and congratulating yourself over your accomplishment.

Achieving a Goal Means Having to Find a New One
Believe it or not, graduation blues is also common among graduates from masters and doctoral programs. I remember feeling somewhat detached and sad when I graduated from my doctoral program. Sound crazy? Wonder why anyone would feel sad after such an achievement? That's just it. After working towards a goal for nearly 10 years, achieving it can be a let-down. No, you don't feel any different -- even if you thought you would. And once you achieve a goal it's time to look ahead for a new goal. Ambiguity - not having a new goal in mind - is stressful.

Most graduates both from college and graduate school feel anxiety over what's next. That's entirely normal, especially in an uncertain job market. What can you do about the graduation blues? Take control of your emotions, allow yourself to feel blue, but then work your way out of it by focusing on the positive, such as what you've achieved. Then consider new goals and a new plan to attain them. Nothing like a new challenge to excite and motivate you out of the graduation blues.

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