You cross the stage, ceremoniously receive a diploma, switch your tassel to the opposite side, and smile bright. As a parent, you both dread and anticipate this time for years. As a teenager, you look forward to ‘being an adult’ or ‘being on your own’. Graduation is rolling near. Within a few short weeks, high school seniors around the state (and the country) will be bidding farewell to that required school agenda and, with it, childhood as well.
So, what comes next? That’s the big question for many. And it does not just apply to teens graduating from high school. It also applies to the twenty-somethings embarking on graduation from colleges and universities as well as those who have ventured back into the educational realm for MBAs, law degrees, medical degrees, PhDs, etc.
Some have it mapped out. For the well planned high school senior, you have enrolled in college, signed up with the armed forces, or landed a gap year internship abroad. For the prepared college graduate, you have interviewed tirelessly to land that perfect first job, been accepted for graduate school, or applied for other forms of higher education, such as medical or law school. That all having been said, no amount of preparation can fully prepare you for “the real world” and you may still feel those twinges of anxiety or episodes of panic that come with not knowing what awaits in the next step.
Keeping in line with anxious graduates, where does that leave the teen or twenty something wielding a diploma, but not much else? Perhaps you went to college because you “had to” or you felt it was what everyone else was doing. Maybe you graduated high school because it was the only way out from under your parents. Now what?
It seems that anxiety ramps up this time of year for those who are branching out to embark on a new part of their journey. So, how do you combat all those worried thoughts, nervous twinges, and anxious reactions?
Three tips for helping to alleviate some of that extra anxious energy:
- Talk to someone. I cannot stress the importance of this one enough. Someone does not necessarily need to be a counselor or anyone with any training. Often times the best person to talk to when feeling anxious is the person who knows you the best or really gets who you are and what you’re struggling with inside. This could be a parent, a friend, a sister, a brother, a neighbor, etc.
- Make time for yourself. Let me clarify the idea of this: Make time where you aren’t catering to others’ expectations or obligations. Take some time to think about what you want, and when it becomes overwhelming, set those thoughts aside to get in a quick workout, go for a walk, watch a movie you love, write in a journal, draw in a sketchpad, or do whatever else takes you to your “happy place.”
- Think, feel, and do. No one knows you better than you know yourself. No one knows more about how you’re thinking, feeling, or reacting to certain stresses than you do. Make a plan, and even a backup plan if that helps, that has you feeling secure in your decision and put it into motion. If the plan does not work out the way you want, then shift gears and go another direction. Give yourself grace and permission to make changes as needed along the way.
You have worked hard to get to this point. Trust yourself and that hard work to get you through this next phase. And as always, if you (or someone you love) need someone to talk to, I’d love to listen.