Research Reflections blog for Mental Health Awareness Week, Healthwatch’s  newest Research Officer Beth reflects on the anxiety she felt after graduating and shares some mindfulness techniques with the Healthwatch Essex team.

Mental Health Awareness Week is an important time that encourages every individual to think about mental health and help to combat the stigma surrounding it. This year’s awareness week ran from the 15th – 21st May and focused on the theme of Anxiety. Over 8 million people in the UK are affected by anxiety disorders, and feeling anxious is a common emotion experienced by many each day (Mental Health UK, 2023). There are a lot of things that can lead to anxiety, such as life events and exam pressures, and what is helpful for each individual may differ. In this blog, I will reflect on the anxiety I experienced both in my final year and after graduating from university, and how I drew on mindfulness techniques to provide comfort during these ambiguous times.

Young people between the ages of 18 to 24 are the most likely group to feel anxious in the UK (Mental Health Foundation, 2023), and typical of this age group are students either starting or finishing their undergraduate degrees. Going through a major life transition is one of the main sources of anxiety, and for students in their final year of university, the transition of finishing university is anxiety provoking, with a survey finding that 49.1% of students felt concerned about their future (Keane et al., 2021; Rethink Mental Illness, 2019). When students reach the end of their studies, they are faced with navigating a postgraduate career and searching for jobs, whilst balancing the feelings of finally finishing their degree. The uncertainty around these situations leads to excessive worry and self-doubt. There is often little support from university systems about the future as students are encouraged to self-manage, and thus a transition that is expected to be exciting for students, leaves them feeling as though they are ‘thrown in at the deep end’ when finishing their degree (Kim et al., 2022).

Read the blog here :