Supporting your mental health after graduation
We recognise that leaving university and entering into the world can be a very daunting time. Most graduates have felt lost and confused and there are over 45,000 of us in the UoC alumni community so you are certainly not alone, and we really want to help.
We have put together a page of resources that focus, not on the practicalities of careers, but rather the emotions and feelings behind all this. These tools can support your mental health and ensure you are prepared and feeling positive for the exciting next steps in your life.
The best bits of uni are the people you meet. Your course buddies, your housemates, your society friends, your drinking pals, you have all gone through a huge life event together and they are important. It’s the people that make your uni experiences and not the buildings you studied and lived in, but the best bit is you get to take the people with you!
I am contacted regularly by alumni who graduated many years ago and regret not staying in touch with their classmates. Don’t let this be you. It’s very easy once uni finishes, you disperse around the country, and start new jobs, friendships can slip. But they don’t have to. Treasure and prioritise your friendships, do all you can to maintain them.
- Schedule a weekly walk. I meet a friend at 9pm on a Monday night for a walk, we meet in the middle. I have nothing else going on at that time in the evening so it works so well, it’s a regular date and one I can rely on.
- Make use of the video call. If there’s one good thing to come out of the pandemic it’s the fact that I am a little bit better at facetime. I don’t dread it in the same way and it's kind of nice to see my friend’s face. They live right down the bottom of the country so seeing them IRL only happens a couple of times a year, we prioritise a regular video chat every other week.
- Make a date to visit. Your mate may have a whole new life, a new flat, a new job but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for you in it. I bet they are dying to show off their new neighborhoods. Text your pal now and say you are coming to visit, make the date, and then the following month, make a date for them to visit you.
- Come back and visit campus together! Maybe it's been 1 year, 5, 10 or even a month ago and you just miss the place. Covid restrictions permitting, we would love to have you back. Grab a gang of mates and re-live your student days. Get in touch with us in the Alumni Association and we are more than happy to help with your plans.
- Make the most of your alumni community. There’s 45,000 UoC and legacy institution alumni, and many of them are working in your dream career. Get to know your community, make new friends, network or even seek a mentor, we are a friendly bunch.
- Check out Gals who graduate. This is an online community of female graduates, it’s really friendly, super supportive and everyone is in the same boat. You will find a closed Facebook group, jobs chat and inspirational stories. Find them on Instagram @galswhograduate
One of my favorite ways to learn more about my physical and mental health is a good podcast. I’m a huge believer in understanding myself better and I love to hear from scientists and experts on these topics. Some things I have learnt through these podcasts have truly transformed my life for the better, I can highly recommend giving them a listen, best thing is they are all free!
Dr Chatergee’s guests are all scientists, researchers and experts in their fields. I have learnt so much from this podcast, some of these topics are mind-blowing. Dr Chatergee presents them in a really easily accessible way and leaves you with loads of practical tips to implement tiny changes into your life.
I particularly love:
- Episode 147 on sleep
- Episode 145 on habits
- Episode 124 on breath
- Episode 84 on walking
- Episode 80 on friendships
- Episode 54 on happiness
- Episode 23 on meditation
The podcast from Deliciously Ella is more than just food, it's about a holistic 360 degree approach to health and wellness. These shorter episodes cover a huge range of topics, Ella Mills interviews experts to bring a little inspiration into your life.
I particularly love:
Other podcasts to check out include:
- Huberman Labs – Andrew Huberman is a neuroscientist, this one is very science based, but has some amazing research to support better overall health.
- Happy Place - Fearne Cotton interviews a wide range of people, they discuss what happiness means to them.
- On Purpose – Jay Shetty, a former monk, shares his wisdom and interviews inspirational guests on topics such as distraction, anxiety, relationships, self-confidence.
It can be a full-time job applying for jobs! Not to mention all the extras that come with it, negotiating new places to live, travel to interviews etc. It’s a lot and can be stressful. Try to take some time each day to unwind and relax. Being quiet with your own thoughts can have a hugely beneficial effect on your wellbeing.
- Write a journal. If you are overwhelmed with thoughts swirling around in your head often writing them down can be a release. Writing can help to provide some clarity and sense of purpose on something you are worried about. Keep your journal private so there is no danger of anyone reading it, it's just for you, keep it close by. Some people choose to re-read passages a little time later to chart progress. Some people rip up the page as soon as they have finished it as a symbolic gesture of letting their worries go.
- Make a gratitude list. Every day make a list of three things you are grateful for, you can pop this in your journal, or use a separate book, or even just the notes on your phone. You could start off with ‘I’m grateful for the roof over my head’, ‘I’m grateful for my education’, ‘I’m grateful for my family and friends’. Try to come up with different things each day. This can work by re-wiring your brain, instead of focusing on the things you lack, such as maybe a job, or a plan, you focus on the abundant and positive things in your life and when you really start thinking about it there will be so many things to be grateful for.
- Write down three positive things. Every evening look back through your day and write down three good/positive things that have happened. It could be that the sun was shining, it could be that you got out for that walk, you had a text from a friend, the new season of your fave TV show started, you saw a cute dog. Really try to list three different things each day. Throughout your day notice these things as they happen, as you stroke the cute dog think to yourself, ‘I'm going to put this on my list’. It works again by reframing your brain, instead of focusing on negativity and things that perhaps make you worried, you notice the good things and the more you do it the more you will notice.
- Meditate. Meditation is huge now, you hear everyone is at it, but for good reason, it can truly help to alleviate some of the ‘noise’ in your head and recognise negative thought patterns before they become problematic. At is essence it's just sitting still and quiet for a while and taking notice of your thoughts, but it can take some practice to truly master. I highly recommend the book ‘Mindfullness’ by Mark Williams and apps such as Headspace, Insight Timer and Calm.
- Manage your stress levels. Target Jobs have an excellent page for managing your stress as you job search, find the article here.
Moving your body can be great for your physical health but also do wonders for your mental health. Exercise can help to lift low-level depression and make us feel energised and more confident. It’s often hard to motivate yourself to move if you feel low, but just starting is the biggest step, you don’t have to run a marathon to feel the benefits, just pop out for a saunter round the block.
- Go for a walk. Since introducing lunchtime walks into my routine over lockdown my mood, energy levels and ability to focus in the afternoons has massively improved. I just pop on my trainers and my favourite health podcast, so I’m learning as I walk, and I get out the door. Some days it's harder than others to motivate myself, but I’ve never regretted a walk.
- Sweat. If you want to sweat it out pick something that you enjoy, exercise isn’t about punishing yourself, if you find something you like you will want to do it more. Frankly running is hell when you first start but once you can run a 5K you feel like an actual superhero, try Couch to 5k. My favourite form of exercise is my bike, I don’t even count it as exercise it’s so fun. I pick a hilly route and work up a sweat to earn the prize of those downhills, wizzing fast down hill makes me feel like a kid and is such an exhilarating buzz unlike any other.
- Swimming can be very relaxing, it can feel awesome to float and feel weightless but is also a great full-body workout. Check out your local pool, often one-off access is very cheap, the bonus for job seekers means you can go mid-day through the week when its quiet.
- Check out free workout vids on Youtube. There are millions of free workout routines online, from yoga to extreme body weight videos. Some of my faves are The body Coach, Zanna Van Dijk, Yoga with Adrienne, Kayla Istines.
- Kitchen dancing. Got the house to yourself? Get those tunes pumped up loud and have a good bop around your kitchen. This can be an excellent stress reliever, I even have a spotify playlist for this exact purpose. Literally dance like nobody is watching and sing at the top of your lungs and tell me you don’t feel a million times better afterwards.
- NHS Get Active. For more advice and tips for getting moving check out NHS Get Active.
When times get tough
The above resources can really help to transform a low level mood, but if you are really struggling, nothing helps and you cannot see a way out, it is important you to seek professional help.
If you need support urgently
- Samaritans are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year if you need to talk to someone.
- Telephone: 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call)
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you need medical help
- Book an emergency GP appointment with your GP surgery.
- For urgent medical advice call NHS 111 (England & Wales) or NHS 24 (Scotland) T: 08454 242424.
- For immediate medical help or attention call 999 or visit your nearest Accident & Emergency department (A&E).
- You can refer yourself to mental health services in your local area. Find out more here: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-psychological-therapies-service/
Need someone to talk to?
If you need to talk, these organisations are here to listen:
- Mind is here to help anyone experiencing a mental health problem
- Shout are a 24/7 UK text service. Text 85258 for free, confidential, anonymous support, wherever you are in the UK.
- If you’re under 25, The Mix provide support by phone, webchat or email.
Things to consider when looking for jobs
We can easily get carried away when looking for jobs and it all moves fast before you really get to know the organisation you are applying for. Remember that you could potentially be spending the next few years of your life with this company and a large percentage of your time. Are they the right fit for you? Find a company that fits your personal boundaries and supports your mental wellbeing.
When you apply, or during interviews be prepared to ask some key questions:
- What is the company’s staff mental wellbeing policy? Do they have something in place?
- Does the company actively promote mental wellbeing and talk about staff welfare on their website, or within the recruitment documentation? What is the culture like around mental wellbeing?
- Is there an HR department? Are they friendly and approachable? Would you feel comfortable discussing any issues to do with your mental health with your potential line manager or team?
- What is the break schedule? What do the employees usually do for lunch? Are proper lunch breaks prioritised?
- Do colleagues socialise? What is the general vibe? Are people getting on, are there organised social events? If you have moved away for a job your workplace is the most common way to make new friends. Will you get on with these people outside of work?
- Be honest with yourself, will the type of work keep you interested, stimulated and motivated? Boredom will not help your mental health.
- Is there any financial help with relocation, does the company run a cycle to work scheme or interest free loan for public transport? Having financial worries can be a big strain on your mental wellbeing.
Don’t forget, our friendly and supportive Careers and Employability team are always here to help you with all your practical job advice, find out more here.
Joanne Lusher, Alumni Relations Officer