Whether it’s an elementary school promotion, or a high school or college graduation – it is a major life milestone – for both parent and student. Whenever we find ourselves in these moments we often experience mixed emotions. While we may be thrilled and proud of the achievement, we may also be fearful of what comes next. And these extremes can bring on feelings of stress and depression.
So, as we enter the time of the year for graduations, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Live in this moment. Yes, you need to think about what comes next. But you don’t have to have the whole plan laid out. Take time to recognize what you have already achieved. Sometimes the answer lies in where you’ve been, what you’ve enjoyed, what you know. Instead of stressing about what you do next, just remember what you’ve done well – and believe that no matter what path you follow, you have what it takes to succeed again.
(Parents: You should also share in this celebration of success, and give your child space and time to make the next move. If they haven’t got it all figured out – that’s okay. Help them take a few steps forward and the direction may become clearer, but the most important role you can play is to be the one that believes in them.)
2. Put yourself first. Yes, this is a time when you may be inundated with well wishers and those who have strong opinions or expectations of what comes next. There may be some entertaining of friends and relatives that is obligatory, but don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed. Be sure you set aside time to do what makes you happy. Perhaps spending time with friends and relatives falls into this category, but if you need to set up some terms – let’s just catch up and share fun memories, not talk about what I’m doing next – then just be up front about it. Avoiding conversations that will potentially make you feel stressed will make it more enjoyable for everyone. Those who care about you will be more than happy to oblige.
(Parents: Before making big celebration plans, check with your child and be sure this is something they would enjoy and appreciate. And be sure to schedule in downtime between festivities for your child – and for yourself.)
3. Just let go. You may have envisioned this all a little differently. Maybe you didn’t get into your “dream” school. Maybe you thought you’d have a job lined up. Maybe you’re not living up to what you think is expected of you. Try to let go of the pre-conceived and accept what is and not worry about what isn’t. Life is not all or nothing. Take what is, be realistic, and move forward from here. Not your “dream” school?…with the right attitude you can make any campus a great experience. And you can always look into transferring if you give it your best shot and it doesn’t cut it for you. No job waiting for you upon graduation? Work, because you have to take care of yourself even if it’s not in your chosen field. You will probably learn something from the experience, no matter what the job. And keep looking for the right position. Not meeting the expectations of others?…do what’s best for you. You must have passion for whatever you do in order to be successful. Only you know what’s in your heart.
(Parents: You do not have any control over your child. You actually never did. But you certainly have influence. Use this power in a positive way. You may have a vision of your child’s future that isn’t quite lining up with what you see. Let it go. Be supportive, provide advice, try to steer them clear of major land mines – but ultimately you need to let them fly on their own.)
I hope the suggestions above can help you to find the right frame of mind to keep feelings of stress and depression at bay. For added clarity or to simply relax, be sure to make time to quiet your mind. Sit in a comfortable position and take deep, cleansing breaths. Try to clear your mind of any thoughts. Some find it helpful to visualize positive, calming images. These meditative techniques will help your mind and body fight off the negative mental and physical effects that stress-inducing moments like this can produce. And give you the strength and lucidity to deal with this, among many, transitions in life.
Are you gearing up for a graduation? How are you feeling? Do you have any concerns? What, if anything, have you done to prepare for this moment?