Graduating from your nurse practitioner program is a bittersweet accomplishment. On one hand you’re beyond excited to finally be done with school and eager to start your new profession as an NP. On the other hand, you may also feel overwhelmed and stressed about the uncertainty of your future now that school is over and it’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice.
Just as the transition from high school to college was difficult, so is the transition into life as a healthcare provider. While it’s not uncommon for significant life changes like the one you’re in now to trigger these types of mixed emotions, unfortunately for some new grads, leaving behind the world they created in their NP program can actually lead to a post-graduation depression or stress disorder.
Although there’s not an official diagnosis, post-graduation depression and post commencement stress disorder are two commonly used terms used to describe the significantly negative emotions and impaired functions that some recent graduates may experience in the weeks preceding commencement; such as feelings of sadness, abnormally negative perspectives, decreased motivation and avoidance of normal, everyday activities.
If you’re nearing graduation or recently earned your nurse practitioner degree, here are six ways to combat a post graduation slump.
Start a post-graduation plan as soon as possible
When you first started your NP program, you probably didn’t give too much thought about what you were going to do after graduation because you were so laser focused on passing your classes for the semester. But now that graduation is inevitable, it’s a good idea to start putting together a post-graduation plan if you haven’t done so already. Start by asking yourself questions about the goals you have for your nurse practitioner career such as whether you’ll look for a residency program and what geographic regions and specialties you’re most interested in working in. Organizing your goals and thoughts into a solid plan of action will help you feel less anxious about graduating as you’ll have more control over the uncertainties of your future and won’t feel so lost.
Create a budget
Mapping out your finances is a great way to ease your mind on how you’ll tackle your finances now that your program is finished, especially as the payment dates begin to draw near on your student loans. Creating a budget doesn’t have to require an accountant or to take longer than thirty minutes and it’s an easy way to give you an accurate picture of your financial health so that you don’t have to stress yourself out about money.
Lean on your support system
Over the last few years, you’ve probably had a lot of support from your fellow classmates and may consider many of them to be some of your greatest friends. Now that school is over and everyone is going their separate ways, it’s important that you still stay in touch with one another after graduation as it’s important for your emotional state; after all many of your classmates are likely experiencing the same emotions and can probably relate to what your going through the most. Not to mention, staying connected with each other can also make for great networking opportunities in the future. Getting connected with other NPs outside of your personal network on professional sites like LinkedIn is a great way to build up your support system with other new grad NPs too.
Don’t compare yourself to other new grad NPs
Having a support system of other new grad NPs is a great way to help you navigate through your emotions, but it’s important that you don’t get trapped in comparing your circumstances to theirs, regardless of whether their situation is better or worse than yours. For example, if someone in your network has already secured their first job as an NP, yet you’re still struggling just to land interviews, you might begin to feel that you’re inadequate in some way. On the other hand, seeing other providers in your network face continuous disappointments and struggles may cause you to feel that you’re doomed for the same outcome. Comparing your circumstances to others is an easy way to induce unnecessary stress and anxiety, and to lose sight and enthusiasm for achieving your personal goals. Be patient with yourself by bearing in mind that everyone reaches success at their own rate and excels in their own time.
Redirect negative thoughts
Albeit cliche, the power of positive thinking is arguably one of the most powerful attitudes you can have in life. In fact, multiple scientific studies have found that there many physical and mental benefits as a result positive thinking; benefits such as more confidence, an improved mood, and a reduced likelihood of developing stress-related disorders such as hypertension and depression. It’s inevitable that in any phase of your life, you’ll encounter obstacles but instead of letting negative thoughts dominate you, redirect yourself into a positive mindset. Try to focus on the good things that happened that day; find humor in bad situations and turn failures into lessons. Transform negative self-talk into positive self-talks and focus on the present accomplishments you’ve made. What consumes your mind controls your life; positive thoughts bread positive outcomes.
Create healthy habits
Healthy habits can sometimes be difficult to stick to when you’re a busy NP student. Now that life has settled down a bit, it’s time to make your health a priority again. Make sure you’re eating healthy, getting adequate sleep and exercising, which is one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health as it has profoundly positive impacts on stress, depression and anxiety.
It’s normal for new grad nurse practitioners to feel stressed and anxious even though this is an exciting time full of achievement. With the many highs and lows that accompany graduation, it’s easy to become hyper focused on the future and become overwhelmed. Before you start worrying, take a deep breath and think of everything you’ve just accomplished. Graduating a nurse practitioner program is no easy fete!