Leaving university is a stressful time, not only because you now need to find a job, but also because the journey to that ‘end goal’ can be a tricky one. Days can be spent scrawling through job sites and seeing virtually nothing of interest. And, even when you do, your application barely gets a once-over. It’s important, therefore, to ensure that you stay afloat, and don’t succumb to the pressures of post-university life. That’s why I’m sharing my advice for graduates – to help you as much as I can!
And, what’s more, my friend from Fabel & Folk and I are putting on a free event in Cheltenham for anyone who wants to learn more about what life post-uni is like. It will be a casual panel discussion between myself and other graduates about our experiences after graduating – the ups, the downs, the essential advice that no one tells you before leaving. This event is also a safe space for current students who want to ask questions about life after university – how did you cope with loneliness? How hard was it finding a job? So, whether you’re a student, a recent grad, or someone who’s thinking about going to university, we’d love to see you there.
So, back to my self-care tips…
Being ‘mindful’ and practising self-care is something that has been talked about a lot online and in the media, due to the growing pressures of life and busy-ness of our minds. However, when it comes to that funny old time between graduating and getting a permanent job (I like to call it ‘graduate limbo’), self-care can often be forgotten. And, even when we do make time for ourselves to be mindful, a colouring-in book and a family size chocolate bar just aren’t going to cut it.
“Self-care is not indulgent… it’s necessary.”
Job-searching after university is a frustrating process. So, as part of this advice for graduates, I thought it might be useful to highlight some of the most common ways people can identify stress, as often it can go unnoticed and ignored…
- You feel more irritable about things
- You can’t switch off
- You’re saying ‘no’ to doing things you’d normally like to do
- You have trouble sleeping
- You’re not enjoying your hobbies as much
- You feel like your heart is racing for no reason
If you find that you do feel some or all of these things, it’s important to check-in with yourself and reach out to someone close to you. Remember that feelings of stress are perfectly normal and that you’re not alone. Talking about it to someone can be a massive relief.
But you don’t have to be feeling stressed before you start practising self-care. In fact, doing a little each day may help, or even prevent, you getting so stressed.
Tip number 1: Limit the amount of time you spend job searching
Yes, you will need a job eventually. But it’s not a race. Spending hours and hours a day filling out applications and re-writing your CV is not going to be hugely productive. This is what I did – I panic-searched most days, thinking that if I spent all day looking, I’d get a job quicker.
Truth is, it doesn’t really happen that way. And, actually, the longer you spend at your computer typing out your interests absent-mindedly, the more likely it is you’ll make mistakes in your applications.
So, limit the time you spend on job sites. Set yourself a timer on your phone for an hour then, once that hour’s up, take a break and come back to it later, or the next day.
Tip number 2: Take time away from your screen
This is a great piece of advice for graduates. During our degrees, we spend so long staring at computer screens writing essays and, when we have a break, it’s often to scroll through social media on our phones or watch a bit of telly. Amirite?
If you don’t have a job lined up straight after you finish university, it’s difficult to get into a routine and to fill up your days. I’ve been there. It’s so tempting and so easy, therefore, to spend a lot of time on-screen. Often without even realising.
However, while we’re focused on our phone, laptop, or TV screens, we’re not giving ourselves much attention. And, as we all know, the side effects of spending a lot of time on social media can be damaging, and it can become extremely tempting to compare ourselves to others.
And that can be the start of a downward spiral.
So, be mindful of your screen time. Make a conscious effort to put your phone down, shut your laptop, turn off Netflix – just for a little while each day.
“While we’re focused on our phone, laptop, or TV screens, we’re not giving ourselves much attention.”
Tip number 3: Do exercise you actually enjoy
I don’t know about you, but I’m not the biggest fan of doing exercise. I find it to be a bit of a chore. I mean, some weeks I barely move. Buuuuut, it is true that exercise is good for our mental health.
But my advice for graduates is this: don’t do exercise for the sake of doing exercise. Find something you actually enjoy – maybe that’s doing stretches in the morning, going for a walk, taking the bike out for twenty minutes. It doesn’t have to be particularly strenuous. Plus, if you enjoy it, you’re likely to stick at it.
I joined a Pilates class when I was feeling a bit lonely, just to be around people, you know? But I actually started to get into it and ended up doing a ten-week term.
Tip number 4: Download the Headspace app
I love the Headspace app for times when I’m feeling particularly on edge. I listen to it before I sleep to help me switch off and I find it reassuring. Headspace, if you didn’t know, is an app that guides you through meditation. It can help you relieve stress and anxiety and focus more on ‘the moment’.
I find that using Headspace forced me to make time for myself and ‘switch off’ my brain (as well as my laptop!) So, if you’re struggling to just stop, then I’d highly recommend it. It’s free to download and to listen to the ‘basic’ podcasts.
Tip number 5: Keep your space tidy
I find this helps me a lot. I’m not an untidy person, but sometimes, when you don’t have a set routine, things can be left unkempt. However, clearing your space and keeping on top of it all can have a big impact on how you feel. For me, having things in order keeps me from feeling stressed and, sometimes, the act of organising is calming.
It’s okay to not ‘Marie Kondo’ everything you own, but just keeping some kind of order will help keep your space a relaxing one to be in.
So, those are my 5 best top tips for self-care after university ends. It can be difficult, after 3-4 years of hard-working, to get out of that ‘always need to be working’ mindset. I found that I was feeling guilty just sitting at home and not doing anything, yet I hadn’t really got anything I needed to do – there were no deadlines, no homework, no research to be done. It was a really weird feeling.
Just remember, when university ends, it’s not all doom and gloom. If anything, it provides the opportunity to look back over everything you’ve achieved. My advice for graduates would be to just make a little bit of time for self-care a couple of times a week – it will help you in the interim between your last lecture and your first day on your new job. Because you will get there, and you will be okay.
Just trust the process.
Don’t forget to check out my free event here.