Self-care or Self-sabotage? Advice for dealing with post-graduation stress

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by Dhalu Sherpa

So you’ve come here to learn about how self-care can help you with post-graduation stress. First, congratulations! You are so close to graduating and getting ready to set sail! (Don’t forget to download this FREE Career Roadmap to discover your path to your dream job. This will help reduce the stress of job hunting after college for the first time)

It takes courage to move forward when the future seems uncertain. However, in times of uncertainty, it’s even more important that we reflect on how we treat ourselves.

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When everything feels out of control, the one thing we truly have control over is how we treat ourselves. How do we really take care of ourselves? This is when self-care is crucial. 

Now, let’s talk about what self-care really means. 

Self-care (/self’ker/), noun; the practice of taking action to preserve and improve one’s own health. 

Self-care is millennial and gen z’s remedy for the overworked, self-sacrificing hustle lifestyle. An antidote for — anxiety and stress. A preventative measure for — burn-out…Needless to say, self-care is popular. 

It grew rapidly within the movement to destigmatize mental health care. But, self-care is not new. It is a decades-old, billion-dollar industry selling fads and trends masked as self- care and improvement. Many have spent hundreds on skincare, downloaded multiple apps, used technology to track behaviors, and now, we are even using our DNA and personal data. We have been there, done that, and are doing more. 

Self-care prerequisites:

  1. Acknowledge that it’s not a remedy but rather, a process
  2. Similar to school, everyday learning, and practice will bring holistic results
  3. Know that it shouldn’t have to cost you a fortune. Instead, it should be something you can add into your routine and offer time for reflection

If you find yourself not being able to enjoy the accomplishment of graduating, you may be experiencing Post Commencement Stress Disorder. Dr. Bernard Lushkin, a licensed marriage, and family therapist described PCSD as a normal reaction to change. And graduation is a big change indeed. During this time you may be experiencing: 

  • Future and financial uncertainty
  • Loss of control over life
  • Feelings of failure because you cannot find employment within a “reasonable” time
  • Sleeplessness, anxious, and irritability
  • withdrawing from family, friends and social activities
  • Coping with alcohol, recreational drugs, overeating, or binge-watching  

Often during a time of great achievement, high-stress level follows. There is the dread of, “everything that goes up, must come down.” We instill in ourselves the expectation to only do better and never fail.

This is when we truly need self-care, not self-sabotage.

What’s the difference between self-care and self-sabotage?

post-graduation stress
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Sometimes actions of self-sabotage can be disguised as self-care. It’s actions that disrupt our intentions and goals. Also, self-care can be but is not always self-love.

Let’s face some self-sabotaging behaviors disguised as self-care: 

  • Binge-watching to escape from your problems
    • Use the time to instead reconnect with your hobbies or explore new ones. Challenge yourself to explore a hobby
  • Spending over your budget to make yourself feel better
    • Whether you’re ordering take out or browsing amazon, always have a reminder to stay within budget.
  • Comfort eating, not to enjoy food but to get over a feeling
    • Identify healthier outlets, writing, music or physical activity
  • Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol

How to avoid self-sabotage: 

  • Leave perfectionism behind 
    • Striving for perfectionism can stall you from moving forward. Even as I write this article, I realize that I’m trying to perfect a draft which defeats the purpose of a draft.
  • Prioritize one behavior that reduces stress  
    • It shouldn’t take up too much time or money.
    • Take a walk, listen to music, try at-home yoga or dance.  
  • Overindulgence doesn’t reduce stress
    • Spoiling yourself is not self-care. Choose something that does not include binge-watching, overeating, and shopping. 
    • It can be trying a new recipe, DIY project or gardening. 
  • Excuses and avoidance aren’t forms of stress relief 
    • “I’ll start tomorrow” mentality rewards repetitive and toxic behaviors.
    • Try the “last things first” method. To-do lists can be your worst enemy if you put important tasks at the end. 
  • Stop comparing
    • Goals are needed but if you’re constantly setting goals based on comparisons, it instills a need to do more and better. Eventually, it creates an unhealthy ego and encourages toxic behavior. 
    • Instead, practice gratitude – make lists of things you have accomplished that week, as small as it may be. 

If we are being honest with ourselves, self-care requires more effort than a 10-step skincare routine. 

Real self-care is: 

  • Not obsessing about self-care
    • While skin/body/hair regiments are an important part of self-care, it can increase the need for perfectionism. You don’t need to have a perfect regiment with the newest products and tools. 
  • Identifying self-sabotaging behaviors
    •  Sometimes we don’t realize our actions are self-sabotaging. So identifying and admitting them is a big first step in the right direction. Similar to how we identified some behaviors and ways to avoid it above. 
  • Getting professional mental health care 
    • You don’t need to have a severe case to seek mental help. Often, we box mental health care for extreme cases. However, mental health care can be extremely helpful with everyday challenges. The stigma around mental health can change when we normalize it as a part of our overall healthcare. 
  • Projecting your negative thoughts on paper — not people
    • You don’t have to be a writer. You just have to write. The importance of this practice is that it separates you from your words. It gives you an opportunity to read and reflect. It has helped me identify patterns in how I think and talk about myself and challenges.

You cannot overcome and fix everything overnight. It takes time and mindful practice of positive behaviors. I hope this blog post has helped you at least reconsider your own #SelfcareSunday routine! 

It takes a few minutes but a ton of courage to admit our self-sabotaging behaviors. You can do it too, just remember to be kind to yourself. Take a moment to make your own list and see what you find out about yourself. 

For a lil push and motivation; download the chart and wallpapers here for some positive reinforcements! And if you’re looking for clarity on the post-college job hunt, download this FREE Career Roadmap to discover your path to your dream job.


Dhalu Sherpa is a University of Washington alumna PR pro, artist, advocate, and occasionally, a writer. Get in touch with her on LinkedIn.

Want to start a career in marketing, but don't know how to get there?

Get the exact steps you need to take with the FREE Career Roadmap.

Want to start a career in marketing, but don't know how to get there?

Get the exact steps you need to take with the FREE Career Roadmap.