Block out the Noise
Guest blogger Rosalie writes a poignant account of those all too common ‘graduation blues’. She wanted to share her experiences with other people who might be going through the same thing after leaving university, and she offers advice that helped her feel much happier and more positive.
Leaving University is probably one of the most bizarre and anxious periods of your life. You stride out of the great doors into streaming sunshine, clutching your degree and believing that the world is your oyster. Fast forward three months and suddenly you’re staring blankly ahead of you as you spill hot tea on a customer who ordered forty-five minutes ago. It’s not just the expectation others have on you that weighs heavily, it’s also the expectations you have of yourself. You proved yourself to be intelligent, inquisitive and successful – and yet you were rejected for a job at MacDonald’s and John Lewis before you landed this gig.
Maybe you’re earning money to travel, maybe you’re just earning whilst you figure out what the hell is going on. Either way, minimum wage is where you’re at. To make matters worse, you’re not very good at this job. In fact, you’re actively bad at it and no amount of training appears to be changing that. You’re fast discovering that the world of work is monotonous, tiring and not at all what you imagined. Whilst you know it probably won’t be forever, it’s easy to get sucked into a slippery void of despair and let the Big Bad World blow your confidence to the ground.
The nail in this scenario is comparison, and I don’t mean that lightly. We live in a world where we are more connected than we have ever been and surrounded by the minute details of each other’s lives. Whilst this access can be mildly amusing, it can also be extremely harmful to our mental health and our own sense of fulfilment or success. This period of life seems to be when the sting of social media’s venom is at its most potent.
When you were at University, you probably barely had time, let alone the will to scroll through endless profiles and stories, yet now it seems all you can do. And guess what, everyone’s having a much better time. Everyone is living in London with top graduate jobs. Everyone is travelling the world with miraculous amounts of savings – wonder where they got that. Everyone is making new friends and enjoying the most picture-perfect life. The thing is, it’s not everyone and most of it is heightened or fake. It is, however, extremely difficult to tell yourself that when you’re in the eye of the post-graduate storm.
I have really struggled to avoid comparing myself and have allowed it to undermine my own journey. I have written up a short list of practical and effective solutions to Block out the Noise in a healthy and productive way, allowing you more time and energy to focus on yourself.
Hide your Facebook timeline
Social media is great for staying in contact with people, but that is about it in the list of positives. When you’re not feeling your best, it can drag you down even further, because it’s literally designed to trigger your psychological responses and manipulate your emotions. You don’t have to go nuclear and delete your profile, but identifying what it is on social media that affects you is really important. For me my Facebook Newsfeed was a space online where I was not only wasting hours, but unnecessarily comparing myself to others – often people that I barely knew. I downloaded an extension on my Browser called Newsfeed Eradicator to remove it from my page. It improved my own sense of self and saved me precious time that I then used to be creative and productive.
Sort out your Instagram
This is another really dangerous place when it comes to comparing yourself and I really felt a shift in my mood and outlook after I had spent time on it. I knew more about other people’s lives than I did about my own. I decided to mute people I followed on Instagram who made me feel inadequate and unfollowed accounts that I found toxic. In their place I spent time finding accounts from various people I admire, art accounts and poetry and mental health awareness pages. Now when I scroll, I am not bombarded with triggers and possible points of comparison, but with motivational posts, illustrations, poetry and close friends. By cleaning up my newsfeed I lifted my mood and changed my outlook dramatically.
Just a few I would recommend:
Be loud & proud
When people ask you what you’re doing – and they will – please don’t be embarrassed. Just because you haven’t enrolled at Oxford to do an MA, or have a graduate scheme in London, doesn’t mean you’re failing. It means you’re taking the time to listen to your self and figure life out. When people ask about your current situation, be loud and proud and own your decisions. Make people who ask you regret not having taken the time out themselves, and revel in the possibilities. Remind them of all the doors you’re keeping open until you’re ready to peek inside.
Stay away from the news
There are a huge amount of problems to solve in the world and it’s important that you stay informed but know when enough is enough. If you get anxious easily, know that news platforms are designed to make you panic and stressed. So cut them out of your life. Remove the BBC news app. Keep informed about the world by all means, but do it on your own terms and make sure you are in the right head space to do so. I recently came across an amazing new venture by Emily Coxhead called The Happy Newspaper, which is a monthly newspaper you can subscribe to. It’s an explosion of colour and light, filled with uplifting and positive stories from all over the world. It doesn’t propose to be an anecdote or an alternative to actual news but is certainly provides a monthly fix of positivity and love.
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself
This one is tricky. If, like me, you have always been a high achiever, you won’t quite know where to put your efforts or mental power. Direct it somewhere useful – into a new skill, an old skill – but try your best not to put it on yourself. A little pressure is good and if you know you’re lazy, stop reading this now and do something productive. But my guess, if you’re reading this, is that you are already worrying and letting that anxiety spiral. Congratulate yourself on small achievements and let the Big Picture float to the background for a little while.
And finally – enjoy the journey!
At some point you’ll look back at this period of your life where nothing seemed to make sense and you’ll wish you had enjoyed it. Though the not knowing and lack of direction can make you feel small and fearful, see it as full of opportunity and possibility.
I read a great book this year called Nobody Cares by Anne T Donahue. It’s a series of autobiographical essays in which she talks at length about success, failure and how treacherous navigating the adult world can be. In one section, she talks about comparing yourself to others and quotes Madmen. There’s a scene where a disgruntled colleague says to the infamous Don Draper, ‘I feel bad for you’, to which he replies, ‘I don’t think about you at all’. Donahue says that maybe, just this once, we need to be a little bit more like Don Draper.
Don’t waste your time agonising about what others are doing. You don’t have space in your fantastic and beautiful brain, or hours in your day to waste on them.
Rosalie is a History graduate from Durham University.
She is currently based in Oxford and has been writing and performing plays, comedy and poetry since graduating. She hopes to pursue her passion and build a career in the creative arts.
Find out more on how to avoid the graduation blues
Grad Bites: Dealing with Change – A Guide for New Grads
A short video on coping with change & how to embrace this new chapter that comes after graduation
How to Let Your Hair Down after Finishing Uni! Avoid the Graduation Blues
How to relax & stay motivated after graduation