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Navigating Post-Grad Anxiety: What's Next? By: Ellie Johnson

If you're anything like me, life's uncertainties have always made you slightly uncomfortable. Even when it seems like you have everything figured out, that persistent "what if?" voice lingers in your head. For weeks now, I've grappled with this question, particularly as the impending graduation from college in just two months terrifies me. I've been on a quest to understand the root of this problem, and after deep reflection, I've found it: I fear the unknown. I'm afraid of how I'll feel when the comfort of being a student, having a routine, and knowing my strengths in this environment is stripped away the moment I leave this place. The idea that maybe I won't recognize who I am anymore or how to navigate this next phase of life leaves me feeling incomplete.

While writing this is cathartic for me, I also believe it resonates with some of you. If the unknown excites you, I commend you because letting go of control can feel nearly impossible. And if you're reading this, thinking it sounds like you, then rest assured we'll get through this together. A significant part of post-grad anxiety stems from societal expectations that after graduation, you're supposed to live a certain way. We impose pressure on ourselves to instantly find a job and build a life we love. Although we discuss these unrealistic standards, the pressure can still make us feel incredibly lonely and isolated.

Lately, when I feel the weight of my expectations bearing down on me, I strive to put life into perspective and recognize that I've been fortunate to spend 4.5 years becoming a better version of myself. Starting college as a freshman was also anxiety-inducing, but we made it through. So, here's a list of things to help you live in the present moment while acknowledging the normalcy of post-grad anxiety:

1. Stop comparing yourself to others. Your uniqueness is what truly matters. Trying to emulate someone else won't prepare you for success; it will only leave you feeling lost.

2. Learn to relinquish control. Practicing letting go of control allows you to accept that not everything can be predicted, transforming the future from a burden to an opportunity to experience life's wonders.

3. Do things you love. Unwanted emotions are inevitable. When they arise, let yourself feel them, then counterbalance them by doing something that brings you joy, whether it's exercising, cooking, or spending time with a friend.

4. Find your identity, not in what you do, but in how you carry yourself. I, as a D1 soccer player, find the thought of ending my soccer journey heartbreaking. Much of this fear stems from the identity I've linked to my soccer career. Instead of attaching your identity to successes and failures, base it on who you are, how you conduct yourself, and how you treat others.

5. Maintain a positive mindset. Believe in yourself and reframe your thinking. Instead of dwelling on "What if I fail?" start asking, "What if I achieve everything I've ever wanted?" or "What if this next phase is the best one yet?" Positive thinking is the first step toward success. While you can acknowledge negative thoughts, you can also consciously choose not to empower them.

6. Remember, this is NORMAL. Feeling nervous and anxious about post-grad life is entirely normal. Your feelings are valid, and you're not alone. Give yourself grace and trust in your journey.

7. View change as an opportunity. Change is an inevitable part of life and can often lead to personal growth. Consider this time as an opportunity, as growth often emerges from discomfort.

8. Create your destiny. Remember what makes you special and find security in the power you possess to shape the life you want. Engage in activities you love and make choices that bring you closer to your goals. You have all the power you need within you to find happiness in your life.

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