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High School Graduation Anxiety Lionheart Foundation

High School Graduation Anxiety 

Graduating high school may have seemed so far off when you first entered the building as a freshman. However, that day does come sooner than expected! Whether or not you enjoyed your high school experience, many high school students experience complicated emotions leading up to graduation day. One thing that you may find yourself experiencing is called graduation anxiety. It is something that can occur before any kind of graduation, but for the purpose of this article, we will focus on graduation anxiety as it pertains to a high school seniors. 

Read on to learn more about high school graduation anxiety, and what to do if you are experiencing high levels of graduation anxiety that may be interfering with your life. 

What Is Graduation Anxiety?

It is important for you to understand what graduation anxiety is, so that you can determine whether or not this is what you are experiencing. Graduation anxiety, essentially, is when you feel scared or anxious about your future. This can post graduation anxiety, or leading up to it as well. Graduation anxiety is also something that you are feeling constantly, and it can often interfere with your daily life. If you are only experiencing these emotions sometimes, or experiencing them rarely, then you are likely just experiencing the normal emotions that come about with big life change, rather than what could be diagnosed as graduation anxiety. 

High School Graduation Anxiety - Lionheart Foundation

Is Graduation Anxiety Common?

If you are experiencing graduation anxiety, you may be wondering if it is normal that you are experiencing it, or if it is a common occurrence. If your high school friends are not talking about it, it is hard to know whether or not you are the only one with this experience! The answer here is that, yes, some level of nervousness or fear surrounding graduation is common. A high school graduation is the turning of a page and signifies a change in your life, so it is very normal to have some level of fear or anxiety surrounding that. You may even find yourself experiencing higher levels of fear and nervousness leading up to graduation that can be classified as graduation anxiety. The kind of graduation anxiety that can affect your day to day life is not quite as common, but other students do experience it, too.

There are some ways that you can combat your graduation anxiety, which we will go over further below. 

How To Deal With Graduation Anxiety

If you are a high school senior experiencing graduation anxiety, there are some great habits or methods that you can practice to target this issue. We have rounded up some tips for dealing with graduation anxiety below!

Give Yourself Grace

One of the most important things that you can do when you are going through a big life change is to give yourself grace. It is very normal to feel uncertain about your next steps when you are looking toward the future or going out on your own. Instead of letting that nervousness and uncertainty overwhelm you, remind yourself that it is okay not to have it all figured out. Take a deep breath and congratulate yourself on all you have accomplished so far, that is culminating in your graduation.

Talk To Your Friends

Another thing that you can do when you find yourself nervous about the future or suffering from graduation anxiety is to go to your support system. Talk to your friends— especially the ones that are graduating with you! They are likely experiencing the same uncertainty, and can understand what you are feeling and where you are coming from. Sometimes, it can help to commiserate, and talking with someone going through the same worries can help put things into perspective. Your friends can also help to reassure you that everything is going to be just fine! Talking to friends, family or extended family, rather than just trying to figure things out on your own, can be an immensely valuable tool. 

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

This may not be easy, but try not to compare yourself to others. This can help to combat your graduation anxiety. You may feel like everyone else is already ahead of you or has everything figured out. This is not true, and it only seems that way to you because you are an outsider looking in! Plus, everyone has their own journey in life, and comparing yours to someone else’s will not get you anywhere. Learn to trust the timing of things and stay in your own lane. Focusing on yourself and not playing the comparison game will help you to stay happier and healthier in the long run! Comparing yourself to the journey or success of others will only make you more unhappy, anxious, or stressed— or some combination of the three. 

Start a New Hobby

Something else that you can do to combat graduation anxiety is to actually distract yourself from the looming graduation entirely. Do something that you are passionate about and that makes you happy! If you are happy and content, your graduation anxiety will fade into the background. Distracting yourself will also keep you from obsessing over the future and triggering that graduation anxiety. A good way that you can successfully distract yourself is to start a new hobby to fill your extra time with. This can be an active, outdoor activity like rowing, or it can be something more low key, like watercolour painting. Whatever you are interested in, go for it! You may even discover that you have a new talent.

Focus On the Now

When your high school graduation is approaching, it can be tempting to get your life in order, planning out all of your next steps or even going so far as to make a five year plan. However, this can end up being a trigger for more graduation anxiety! As we mentioned before, it is normal to not have everything figured out, and that’s okay! Instead, try to focus more on the present and on enjoying the experiences that are popping up now, as you head towards graduation. Spend time with your friends and peers, and appreciate what you have in your life right now.

Take Care of Your Body and Mind

With many mental health diagnoses, it is recommended that you exercise and get plenty of sleep. If you are dealing with high school graduation anxiety, this will be important, too! If you take care of your mind and body, then you will find yourself happier and healthier every day. If you are creating the best possible version of yourself, then you will also be able to think more positively and may end up experiencing less graduation anxiety as a result. 

Find a Mentor

If you are looking for a job post high school graduation, you can look for a career mentor to help you on your way. Having the know how and advice of a seasoned professional who has done what you want to do can also help alleviate your graduation anxiety— especially if you are the type of person who likes to have a plan of attack! In fact, even if you plan to go to college after graduating high school, a mentor can still be a valuable resource for you. A mentor can also help you with preparations for college, or can help you make smart college decisions to put you on the right track for your desired career once you get your degree! Finding a mentor is a way to deal with your graduation anxiety if your worries are more focused on the job market and finding a job and kick starting your career. 

Trust Your Journey

We touched on this earlier, but it bears repeating— no person’s journey is the same. And that’s okay! When you go through a big change like a high school graduation, you are bound to experience both highs and lows. This is something that you will experience all throughout your life. Instead of letting the lows affect you and get you down, trust the process and know that good things will happen to you, too. Once you stop thinking and worrying about how things are “supposed” to be, you will be able to recognize more opportunities for what they are and can work towards building the life of your dreams. Letting go of rigid expectations can be freeing! 

Talk To a Professional

We have gone over many different methods that you can implement into your daily life to target your high school graduation anxiety. However, if none of the habits or tips we discussed above are helping to alleviate your graduation anxiety whether it be pre or post graduation anxiety, it may be time for you to talk to a professional. If your high school graduation anxiety is not going away, then you should schedule a time to talk this through with a therapist, who can help you to uncover the root of this anxiety and then help you to overcome it! There are plenty of ways that you can do this— there are services where you can do a virtual video call with or text with a therapist, or you can have an in person session in their office.

High School Graduation Anxiety - Lionheart Foundation (1)

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you deal with graduation anxiety?

After you graduate high school or college, you may face anxiety as you look towards this next stage of your life, which can be widely unknown! Luckily, there are some ways that you can deal with pre and post graduation anxiety so that it is less scary. One of the most important things that you can do is give yourself grace. It is normal to be nervous about big changes. You can also talk to friends about it, exercise, and stop comparing yourself to others and where they are at in their lives. If nothing else seems to be helping with your graduation anxiety, then you may want to talk to a professional about the anxiety you are experiencing. 

What is graduation anxiety?

Graduation anxiety is a term you may not have heard before— so how to know if it is graduation anxiety that you are experiencing? This is a kind of anxiety that will manifest after young adults graduate high school or college. It can also manifest when you have not yet graduated, but when graduation is looming closer! Graduation anxiety is characterized by feeling worried or scared about the future, and feeling this worry constantly. If you are struggling to find work after graduation or find yourself in a comparable situation, you may also feel like a failure, which is another symptom of graduation anxiety. The physical symptoms here include shaking, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath when you are at rest. 

Is it normal to feel anxious after graduation?

A high school or college graduation is the end of one chapter and the start of the next. It can also be a big change for a lot of young adults post graduation. For this reason, it is very normal to experience some level of anxiety or nervousness as graduation approaches or after graduation. This is something that often occurs around big life changes. However, this can be more of a problem if a person is experiencing this fear and anxiety constantly, and especially if it is becoming detrimental to their life. This is when they might be suffering from graduation anxiety and may need to talk to a professional to help work through what they are feeling. 

Is it normal to cry at graduation?

As a high school or college graduation is seen to be the “end of an era”, it is expected that many people are going to get emotional during the graduation ceremony! This could be the teachers, the parents who are in attendance, or the students themselves. It is normal to see some tears being shed during this momentous occasion, because it can be emotional and bittersweet. If you are worried about crying at graduation, don’t be— many of your peers, and some parents and school staff, too, will likely be tearing up right with you! Feeling sad or melancholy about leaving school is normal.

Why am I so emotional about graduating?

Graduating from school or university is a significant milestone in one’s life, marking the end of an important chapter and the beginning of a new one. It’s a time of transition, change, and uncertainty, and it’s normal to feel emotional about it.

There are several reasons why you may feel emotional about graduating:

  1. Sense of accomplishment: Graduating is a significant achievement, and it’s natural to feel proud of yourself for reaching this milestone.
  2. Fear of the unknown: Graduating means saying goodbye to your senior year which means stepping into the unknown, and this can be daunting. You may be worried about what the future holds and feel uncertain or carry self doubt about your next steps.
  3. Leaving behind a familiar environment: Graduating means leaving behind the familiar environment of school or university, which may have been your home for several years. You may feel nostalgic about the memories you’ve made and the friends you’ve met.
  4. Change in relationships: Graduating means that you will no longer be in the same environment as your classmates and friends. This can be a significant change in your relationships and the thought of making new friends and may be difficult to navigate.
  5. Pressure from family and society: There may be pressure from your family or society to succeed after graduating, which can be stressful and overwhelming.

Overall, graduating is a significant life event, and it’s normal to feel emotional about it. It’s essential to acknowledge and process your emotions, and seek support from loved ones, your support network or a mental health professional if needed.

Is it normal to feel lost after high school?

Yes, it’s entirely normal to feel lost after high school. High school is a structured environment with clear goals and expectations, and when it comes to an end, it’s common to feel uncertain about what comes next.

There are several reasons why you might feel lost after high school:

  1. Lack of direction: After high school, there’s often a lack of clear direction, and you may not know what you want to do next. This can be overwhelming and lead to feelings of uncertainty and confusion.
  2. Change in routine: After high school, there’s a significant change in routine, and this can be challenging to adjust to. You may be used to a structured schedule of classes, extracurricular activities, and homework, and the sudden change in routine can be disorienting.
  3. Social changes: After high school, you may be leaving behind familiar social circles and entering a new environment where you have to make new friends and build new relationships.
  4. Pressure from society and family: There may be pressure from society and family to pursue certain career paths or follow certain expectations, and this can be overwhelming and lead to feelings of confusion and anxiety.

It’s important to remember that feeling lost after high school is entirely normal, and it’s okay to take time to figure out your next steps. It’s essential to take the time to explore your interests, passions, and values and to seek guidance from mentors, counselors, or other support systems if needed.

At the Lionheart Foundation, our mission is to facilitate comprehensive access to best-in-class mental health supports for children, adolescents and their families experiencing anxiety-based mental health challenges. We do this through building awareness, education and therapeutic capacity to address anxiety-based mental health needs in our community and through the provision of financial subsidies for treatment.

Get connected with immediate crisis and/or long-term mental health support.