The way many of us are feeling right now can be summed up in one of two words: ‘meh’ or ‘languishing’.
They basically refer to the same thing: feeling aimless, stuck, unenthusiastic, and uninspired.
Languishing isn’t a new term – sociologist Corey Keyes published a paper on it back in 2002 – but has become a bit of a buzzword in recent times, in part because the mood is oh-so-common after a year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It might not sound serious, but left to fester, languishing can have dangerous consequences.
Those who are languishing are more likely to go on to experience major depression, anxiety, and PTSD, and the trouble with its in-between state is that you’re unlikely to seek out help or take action when you’re experiencing total indifference to life.
And taking action is crucial.
So, how can you tell if you’re languishing, and what can you do to break out of this mental and emotional rut?
What are the signs and symptoms of languishing?
Think of languishing as the midpoint of a spectrum between flourishing – when you’re thriving, mentally healthy, and firing on all cylinders – and in crisis.
In essence, it’s the perfect word for when everything feels just a little bit bit…blah.
Signs you’re in this stage include:
- You’re lacking of motivation
- You don’t feel especially excited about anything
- You aren’t feeling passionate about work
- You’re struggling to get creatively inspired
- You find it difficult to focus
- Everything feels slow or at a standstill
- You’re experiencing brain fog
- You feel bored, but doing anything feels like too much effort
- You’re able to function and get things done, but you don’t feel like you’re nailing it
How to deal with languishing
We chatted with Ben Graham, the head of coaching at mental health organisation Sanctus, for his top five tips for getting your mental health back on track if you’re languishing.
Here’s what he recommends.
This is key for boosting motivation.
Ben tells Metro.co.uk: ‘A lack of purpose and drive is one of the core traits of languishing, and lockdown has certainly interfered with our ability to challenge ourselves in some of the ways we’re typically used to – be it progressing in our careers, working on our health and fitness, or planning for our futures.
‘But there are ways to find and create motivation on our own – and it starts with goal setting.
‘Goal setting is great for supporting our mental health as it gives us something positive to work towards.
‘It also means we can identify the things in our lives that are really important to us and that we feel passionate about.
‘Start by writing a list of all the things you want to achieve, and then order this list from the most easy to accomplish to the hardest.
‘It could be reading a certain number of books each month or learning how to play an instrument, to boosting your savings or getting a promotion at work.’
Once you’ve made your list, make sure you start with the easiest things first. This way, you won’t get knocked out by the harder bits, feel put off, and give up.
‘Once you start making progress and ticking things off your list, you’ll find that sense of purpose and motivation starts to come back – and gradually you can build up to achieving some of your biggest goals and ambitions,’ says Ben.
Reconnect with people and activities that make you happy
‘Another element of our lives that has been enormously disrupted by lockdown is socialising with friends and family or participating in shared activities with other people,’ Ben explains. ‘In fact, one of the biggest things I find myself discussing with people I’m coaching right now is how they feel indifferent and blasé about group activities which used to excite them.
‘But doing things we enjoy and connecting to different communities is integral to good mental health.
‘Plus, having fun releases happy endorphins that reduce stress, improve our moods and ultimately help combat those feelings of languishing.
‘Now that lockdown restrictions are easing up, consider reconnecting with those communities you may have disengaged with over the past few months.
‘Whether it’s playing in a sports team, getting back to your favourite gym classes, re-joining a book club or even participating in a group meditation session.
‘You might not feel that enthusiastic about it immediately, but once you spend some time with the people you like, doing things that you love – you’ll start to reap the benefits.’
We know, we know. You’re feeling demotivated to work and we’re telling you to just do more work? And this time for free?
The thing is, volunteering isn’t pure altruism. Science has long shown that helping others does wonders for our mental health. Get going and you’ll notice you start to feel an increased sense of purpose, then happiness.
‘During the pandemic, there’s been a host of new ways you can help support the most vulnerable in our society and a quick Google of organisations in your area will no doubt bring up plenty of options for you to get involved in,’ recommends Ben.
‘Or, have a think about three or four things you enjoy or are particularly passionate about in life and then research volunteering opportunities within those fields.’
Now hugging is back and we can meet up indoors, it’s high time we make space to connect with people we care about.
Ben says: ‘Good relationships with others are key to good mental health.
‘Although lockdown restrictions have now started to lift, making it easier for us to see the people we care about, many of us are still finding that some of our relationships with others still feel a little detached and flat.
‘If this is the case for you, remember that clear communication lies at the heart of all strong relationships.
‘If there’s a relationship in your life that you want to enhance or develop – telling that other person is really important.
‘It might make you feel exposed and vulnerable at first, but ultimately, telling someone how much you value them can bring greater feelings of trust and intimacy into our lives.’
Sometimes, reading the news or going on social media only serves to make you feel miserable. You read stories of the virus, wars, crime, and get pushed further into the languishing headspace of ‘everything’s rubbish and I give up’.
This doesn’t mean you have to shut yourself off entirely from the wider world.
Ben recommends looking out for stories of individuals, to help us remember that there are people out there experiencing challenges and overcoming them.
‘Over the past 12 months, the global news agenda and our social media feeds have been dominated by worrying stories – both in relation to the pandemic and beyond,’ he says. ‘When we consume this information, it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed and anxious and often, our first response is to disconnect and withdraw from this information as quickly as possible.
‘While this withdrawal might help our feelings of anxiety initially, it’s important that we try to find a way of understanding what’s happening in society otherwise these negative feelings can remain unresolved and have a long-term impact on our mental health.
‘Instead of focusing our attention on big, breaking news stories – try looking for deeper stories of individuals, families and communities. Listening to the stories of others can help us make sense of what is happening around us – as well as providing us with useful information and techniques on how to cope.
‘Something I often recommend to the people I coach is to find some podcasts that have been recorded during lockdown – there’s a high chance the pandemic will be discussed at some point throughout, and you’ll get to hear how other people are handling it.’
Article – Metro Lifestyle