Mental Health and Wellbeing as a Postgraduate

me3From 2012 to 2015, I was having the time of my life at Falmouth University, meeting new friends, studying a subject I loved and enjoying being in the moment for the first time in my life. However, even during my second year I could feel a cold sense of dread following closely behind me, and the future would now and again whisper in my ear, ‘What about when this is all over? What are you going to do? What job do you want? Where are you going to live?’ If you are or have ever been a student at university, you will most likely know exactly what I’m talking about. As I moved from second year and into my third and final year of study, the fear got even worse and became a constant anxiety.

I remember welling up if I thought about it too much; my best friend would be going back to her home in Scotland and wouldn’t be just down the road if I needed her, my boyfriend would be living back in London and I would be moving back home with my family in Cornwall.

And sure enough, at the end of third year, my friend moved back to Scotland, my boyfriend left for London and I moved back home. This wasn’t something that I had ever minded. I had been living alone for my third year, and had grown to appreciate having the company of my family around me. However, this does have it’s limits. I liked my independence and my freedom, I enjoyed buying my own food, and doing my own washing. I would go out at night for long walks to clear my head if I couldn’t sleep, and suddenly there were people around asking where on earth I thought I was going at midnight on a Thursday.

Searching for a job is, of course, a cause of major anxiety for many graduates. It depends on your course; I studied English with Creative Writing in the hopes of going into the publishing industry. However, if you live in Cornwall, don’t have a trust fund and can’t afford to go for an internship and eat at the same time, this becomes unobtainable. Applying endlessly for jobs can make even the most positive people depressed. Of course, you start by applying for the jobs you really want, then after a month of rejections you start to lower your expectations, and you go for work your overqualified for, roles you don’t even need a degree for. And then you start to wonder why you bothered racking up £40,000+ worth of debt for a part-time job in your local supermarket. There is nothing at all wrong with this, but it’s probably not what you had planned and this can have a detrimental effect on your mental health.

Money is another issue. You don’t have the security of your student loan popping into your bank account every term, and unless you have a job lined up, you’ll have to get used to watching the pennies. Luckily, I’d put enough away from my student loans to pay my phone bill and a little in case of an emergency.

me4It took me almost five months to find my first post-university job, as an Administrative Assistant in Radlett, about 45 minutes outside London. My main reasoning for going for an admin/HR related role was because the experience was necessary for any entry level publishing jobs. The role was paid hourly, so not a salary based role as I’d hoped, but it was better than nothing. I moved in with my boyfriend at the time, and his family. It took two buses and over an hour each morning and evening to get to work and back. The job was horrible. I was sat alone in a room for eight hours a day whilst my boss worked from his home. I went back home to a place I was deeply unhappy and felt trapped. Although I  finally had a job, my anxiety and depression grew worse and after seven months I found a new job, and after a year I left my boyfriend.

Having spoken to my graduate friends, I was somewhat reassured to realise that I wasn’t the only one incredibly unhappy not enjoying life. I’d lost all motivation, things that made me happy a year ago no longer held any interest for me. Sadly, this is still the case for me now. Today, I met up with one of my university friends, and we went for a long walk along the Cornish coast. It is only on days like today I feel like I can think clearly about my future, and what makes me happy, and I’ve compiled a little list of things I’ve found can help. Even if they haven’t worked for me, I hope they will work for you!

  • According to my mum, exercise cures everything. Not feeling well? Go for a walk. Period pain? Go for a walk. Feeling low? Go for a walk! I love walking, hiking and exploring, but having grown up in the Cornish countryside, living near London means that the scenery is grey, concrete and uninspiring. Some days, getting out of bed seems impossible, let alone going for a walk. But even a quick trip to the corner shop on a sunny day can help (sometimes).
  • A friend recently suggested yoga; she’d discovered Yoga with Adriene on YouTube and recommends it as an easy way to help both body and mind in one. For someone with no motivation and has essentially become incredibly lazy, I was tempted by yoga. My friend makes a very good argument for yoga helping mental health and wellbeing, “You don’t have to leave your bedroom, you don’t have to buy a yoga mat or social media ready yoga clothing, you don’t have to be flexible or strong, and your body doesn’t have to be a prescribed size, you just have to be willing.” Even I can’t argue with that, and I did try following the yoga on the YouTube channel she suggested; it was very relaxing and I loved it!
  • Finding a hobby is really, really important. Since I could read, my hobby was reading. Then it became photography, and now blogging. I feel like I’ve achieved something if I finish a book, take a good photo or get around to publishing that book review I’ve had in the back of my mind for weeks. Sadly, the no motivation issue has really ruined all of this for me (sleeping and afternoon naps have become my new hobby). However, whenever I do feel inspired (like today) I have to push myself to actually be productive.
  • Talking to someone can really help, particularly with mental health. I don’t mean counselling necessarily (personally this doesn’t help me) but talking to a friend or making plans and having something positive to look forward to can massively boost your outlook on life for the better.
  • Diet is an important factor. I’ve put weigh on since leaving university, which is a massive source of upset and depression for me. However, I now live alone in a tiny space and so can’t always afford to buy healthy food and fruit and veg, which goes out of date faster than I can eat it, and it all ends up in the bin. I also like chocolate, what can I say? But all of this means my skin is really bad, and I have more spots than freckles sometimes, and I’m tired all the time. However, small steps in the right direction can begin to turn things around slowly. I’ve started taking multivitamins and the sun is (hopefully) helping my spots clear up.
  • Write about it. Personally, writing this post has really helped me come to terms with how I’m currently feeling, and I can only hope it has helped at least one other person in the same position. Sometimes even knowing someone else is going through the same thing is a help. So, take comfort in my unhappiness hopefully soon I’ll be writing a most positive update!

If you have any tips or suggestions that you’ve found help mental illness and wellbeing, please do share! And if you found this post helpful, or want to know more about my time after university, let me know!

 

 

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