Walking out of those school gates for the last time on a hot summer’s day can bring about a mixed bag of emotions.
You may well feel sad to say goodbye to classmates and teachers, excited about the long summer ahead, or maybe a bit daunted and overwhelmed by the prospect of leaving school, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic. You might be feeling all of these emotions and more, all at the same time!
Whilst leaving school represents the start of a new and exciting chapter in your life, it’s also a time of change and transition. It’s important to be aware of the changes that are happening and consider the impact it might have on your health and wellbeing.
Prioritise your mental health during this time and use these strategies to look after yourself and embrace your life beyond school.
Find your own path
Don’t forget that everyone is different and will approach leaving school differently. Maybe your siblings all chose to go straight to university? Perhaps your best friend is doing an apprenticeship? Take inspiration from your friends and family but remember that you need to find what works best for you. It’s OK if that looks a little different to those around you! Avoid comparing your choices and experiences with others, taking what you see on social media with a big pinch of salt. It’s time to focus on you and find your own path.
Take some time out to plan
You might not know what your next step is, or you might already have an end goal in sight but you’re not sure how to reach it yet. Either way, it’s worth taking a bit of time to consider your next steps. There’s no rush and you can always change your mind.
Take a look at our previous blog that gives you a summary of different post-school options you might want to consider.
Get into a routine
No more school work probably means you have a lot more free time on your hands! Whilst this sounds great at first and you should definitely enjoy those lie-ins and catch up on the latest series, the shift from constant studying to having an empty diary can be quite unsettling.
It can be helpful to recreate some of the structure from school by building a daily routine to keep you motivated. Try setting a goal for each day and make a to-do list the night before.
- Try a new hobby: This is a great time to challenge yourself to try something new. Maybe you want to learn to play the guitar? Or how about taking on a sporting challenge to work towards? It can feel really rewarding to learn a new skill and can help you make new friends.
- Continue learning: Do you need to build up your CV with some extra skills? Or is there something that really interests you that you never got to cover in school? Using your spare time constructively to learn and upskill can be really rewarding. Browse the range of free YourGamePlan courses for some inspiration.
Look after yourself
Due to COVID-19, it feels as if as a society we’ve all learned to prioritise our mental health. It’s no longer a taboo subject and we’re talking more and more openly about how it affects us and what we can do about it. During this time of transition, it’s important to know what you can do to look after yourself and your mental health.
- Regular exercise and healthy eating: 30 minutes of exercise a day and eating a balanced diet gives your body the fuel it needs to get well and stay well. Build exercise into your routine and get organised with your shopping to help you avoid junk foods and takeaways!
- Connect with nature: Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 has chosen nature as its theme this year and with good reason. During lockdown, millions of us turned to nature and 45% of people reported that being in green spaces had been vital for their mental health. As we head into summer, this is a fantastic time to get outside, connect with and celebrate nature all around you.
- Sleep: Sleep is our secret weapon when it comes to staying healthy. Every night our body resets and recharges, giving us the energy to face whatever challenges are presented to us the next day. The amount needed varies from person to person but most of us need 8-9 hours a night. So get comfy and settle in for a good night’s rest!
- Relax: Taking time out of each day to do something for you is a great way to maintain good mental health. It might be listening to music, taking a bath or doing an online yoga video – find what works for you and build it into your daily routine to help manage stress and stay calm.
Build positive relationships
Whilst leaving school means saying goodbye to classmates and teachers, it’s also an exciting time to meet new people, expand your horizons and build new friendships. Not knowing people can be daunting at first and a bit stressful, but try to think about the possibilities opened up by new friendships. It’s an opportunity to expand your horizons and be exposed to different cultures and life experiences!
Building quality relationships and finding your ‘tribe’ or people you can connect with, is a great way of feeling more connected and settled in your surroundings.
A great place to meet like-minded people is to pick a new hobby you want to take up or pursue an existing interest. If you’re going to university, there’s a club or society for almost anything (from rock climbing to chocolate tasting), and Facebook can be a great place to find local meetup groups.
Take time for self-reflection
Whilst you’re trying new things, meeting new people and moving through this transitory phase, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Try finding some time to be on your own to pause and reflect on the changes around you – which are positive and which aren’t? A bit of self-reflection can help you to navigate through any challenging situations, using your own intuition and self-awareness to help you make positive choices.
Whatever you’re feeling, someone else will probably either have been through it or might be experiencing it right now. It can be comforting to confide in friends and family and share your experiences, you’ll soon realise that you’re not alone!
The pandemic has shown us how with a little bit of technology, we can all stay in touch wherever we are. So there’s no excuse to not reach out to others and stay connected.
Leaving school can be exciting and stressful in equal measure. Don’t forget to take the pressure off yourself to feel a certain way. Whether you’re excited, apprehensive, or a little bit of both, use these strategies to look after yourself and your mental wellbeing as you embrace this new chapter!
Take your next steps with YourGamePlan
Whether you know exactly what you want to do after leaving school or you’re still undecided which career path to take – we’re here to show you how COVID-19 needn’t hold you back.
With YourGamePlan, we provide free access to online courses and industry-proven tools to help you stand out from the competitive crowd.
Sign up for free to choose from six-course categories including: Career Planning, Application and Interview, Skills for the Workplace, Behaviour for the Workplace, Improving Your Mental Health and Lifestyle, and Introduction to Industries.
Don’t forget to also check out our employability hub where you can find work experience, apprenticeships, jobs and more with companies looking for young people to join their team.