SHEC: Graduating with your mental health intact
I have a weird case of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, I am the poster child of senioritis. All I want is to finish up my undergraduate degree and get on with the rest of my life. On the other hand, I am wholly unready to leave McMaster. While they seem diametrically opposed to one another, these feelings stem from a common source: my impending graduation.
One thing that helped me to make sense of these feelings was to allow myself to feel and be scared by them. This was the first step I needed to take in order to parse my thoughts and feelings. While this constant reflection helped me to figure out some things, I also felt suffocated by my thoughts. After this, the natural step was to talk through my feelings with other people. This allowed me to gain a new perspective on everything I was feeling. What we experience is so narrow and specific that you can truly learn so much from just exploring your frame-of-mind with other people.
In your final year, there is huge pressure to have already figured out what you want to do with your life. For those who aren’t quite there yet, it can be incredibly scary and overwhelming. There also exist the ever looming “what ifs.” What if you don’t get in? What if what you thought you wanted to do is not actually for you? What if you won’t make enough to have a stable future? This then leads into the conflict between doing something practical and secure while also fulfilling your passions. While the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, it can be a fine line to toe.
When you have a case of the Novembers, have thesis work piling up, and have applications up to your ears, worrying about what happens after graduation can be overwhelming. Taking care of your mental health is key and can help you sort out your feelings. There are several venues available where you can talk through your feelings, varying from peer-based to more professional services.
SHEC provides a variety of resources including confidential peer support. This service is available every Monday to Friday during daytime hours in MUSC 202. If you are seeking help after hours or on the weekend, the MSU Peer Support Line is a great resource. This phone line is staffed by McMaster students and is confidential. The volunteers at SHEC and PSL are trained to be knowledgeable about a wide variety of issues and will provide emotional support, information and referrals.
If peer support is not up your alley, professional counselling may be better suited to help explore your problems. The Student Wellness Centre (SWC) at McMaster offers a professional counselling service. Unfortunately wait times for an appointment with a counsellor at the SWC can be very long, especially during stress-intense times of the school year. One easily accessible alternative to the SWC is Good2Talk. Aiming to provide “free, professional and anonymous support for students in Ontario”, Good2Talk is a bilingual phone line run by the provincial government specifically for post-secondary students. This service is available 365/24/7 and provides local referrals in addition to counselling.
One way of taking care of your mental health that doesn’t necessarily include talking out your feelings with someone, is practicing self-care. While this is easier said than done, eating properly, sleeping a sufficient amount, and exercise can make a huge difference in how you feel. Self-reflection through writing in a journal, practicing meditation and creating art can all contribute to a better understanding of what is going on in your life. Remember that this is a scary and tumultuous period of time and that taking the time to be gentle with yourself is worth it.