depressionGraduation is an exciting time for a college student. All the hard work you’ve put in over these last four years is finally going to pay off, and you’re finally going to start working that dream job. Everything you have planned for your future is about to come to fruition. Right?

While graduation may be an exciting time and one filled with hope, it is also a time of great transition — one that can lead many students to become depressed. Here are some of the common reasons that students can become depressed and some ways for overcoming depression:

Causes of Graduation Depression

Mourning the end of an era

You have been focused intently on a goal for the past four years (or anywhere from two to 12, depending on your degree path). All of your time has been directed by going to classes, studying, writing papers, and trying to get good grades and graduation has been the light at the end of the tunnel.

Now that you’re finished, you likely no longer have such a defined goal. Sure, you want to get a job and you want to do well, but there is no specified time frame for that goal, no predetermined series of steps. You may not even know what you want to do with your life yet.

Pressure to “Do”

The pressure to graduate doesn’t quite compare to the pressure to find a job and to start earning a salary to support yourself. If you didn’t do well in class, you earned a bad grade. If you don’t get a job, you (maybe) don’t eat. The reality may not be quite as extreme, but it can feel that way.

Loss of Identity

When you were in college, you were an undergrad. A student. A “State” student. An English major. An aspiring writer just waiting for the gates of graduation to open and let you burst out into the world to seize your prize.

Now you’re … a graduate? You haven’t yet claimed your new identity as writer, or computer programmer, or video game designer. What do you say when people ask you what you do? The loss of identity that comes with graduation can often leave students feeling unsure about their future and unsure about their own worth, leading to depression.

Overcoming Depression

If you are struggling with graduation depression, there are many ways you can treat and overcome it.

Get support.

Your family and friends are a great source of support in a time of need. Turn to them for help. Talk to them about your feelings and let them guide you where possible. Or simply spend more time with them in an attempt to lift your spirits. Being with the people we love and who know us best helps us to feel validated and secure.

Talk to a professional.

Everyone needs a little help sometimes. Don’t feel ashamed to speak with a professional counselor or therapist. The counselor can help you work through your feelings of depression and find constructive solutions for managing your condition so that you can get back to feeling like your old self. If your case is severe, a professional can also prescribe antidepressants or other medications to help you.

Practice self-care.

No matter how busy or stressed you get, you should take time for yourself. Taking proper care of yourself — by eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, and finding ways to reduce stress — can help you to regulate your mood, relieve tension, and feel more energized and ready to face challenges. Taking the time out of your day to properly care for yourself is an investment in your long-term happiness and overall wellness.

Understanding that depression is a common problem at this time in life can help you to recognize it more quickly so you can get the treatment you need to make it through to the next phase of your life. Know that many other students face this problem, and get the help you need to overcome it.

This article was contributed by Sarah Rexman, the main researcher and writer for bedbugs.org. Her most recent accomplishment includes graduating from Florida State, with a degree in environmental science.