As the COVID-19 pandemic appears to ebb away in many parts of America, you’d think the overriding feelings would be joy and euphoria. But for many, that is not the case. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as more and more people now find themselves caught up in a kind of apathy, a feeling that’s called languishing.
What is languishing? And why is it striking now, right when we are on the brink of ending the pandemic in the U.S.?
The answers to these questions are below, as are suggestions for ways for you to try and get back to your former happy-go-lucky self.
A state of being that sits somewhere in-between depression and flourishing. In other words, you don’t necessarily have the clinical symptoms of full-blown depression, but you aren’t happy, energetic or motivated either. You don’t feel terrible; you don’t feel great. You’re just…blah, meh, things like that.
Languishing is a term recently popularized by Wharton psychology professor Alan Grant. He classified it as “the neglected middle child of mental health.” Because it’s not so bad, people tend not to seek help as much as with other more “serious” mental health issues.
The pandemic has left many people feeling rather beat-up mentally and emotionally. It’s been month after month of horrifying statistics, sickness and, for some, deaths of friends and loved ones. Everyone was told to stay at home, and fun outings to public areas were indefinitely postponed. People lost their jobs and businesses.
In short, life was put on hold. When lockdowns first began, many people had good intentions of making the most of it. They’d take up a hobby, try online dating, learn a new language, fix up the house. But then reality set in. And the general feeling was that keeping up your energy just takes too much energy.
People started to get burned out working, taking care of the house, and supervising the kids’ online schooling. It seemed never ending. So, without knowing how long we could expect to stay shut up, apathy eventually kicked in. Hope hurt too much otherwise.
Now here we are. Despite the light at the end of the tunnel, the country is still in a kind of limbo when it comes to health precautions and perceptions of safety. Things are still confusing, and people continue to fight with each other about them. We aren’t free of limitations yet, which makes feeling normal again difficult.
How Do I Get Back to Flourishing?
Flourishing basically means that you are highly functioning and fulfilled. You have a generally good sense of well-being and purpose.
As nice as it would be to simply flip a switch in our heads and get back to that kind of happy, it’s not that simple. Especially since it’s had a while to take over your mood, languishing is a mindset that will take some kind to overcome. Just like any other mental health issue, getting back to better is a process.
If you feel that you fall into the languishing category, there are some things you can do to try to flourish once again:
- Identify languishing as the issue.
- Take some time off for yourself. Even if you don’t go anywhere, time away from work or other obligations can help you to feel reenergized.
- Try tackling that hobby again. Or anything else that gives you a sense of joy. Even just small things can have a big impact on your sense of accomplishment and well-being.
- Get out of the house. Whether you just take a short walk or go on an out-of-town vacation, a change of scenery can also change your perspective.
- Consider therapy. Just because languishing isn’t considered as clinically serious as depression or anxiety, it is still a problem if it adversely affects your life.
You may also take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in your feelings of malaise. Many people are struggling to pull themselves out of the same hole. You will get there; it will just take a little time.
Photo credit: Dean Drobot – www.shutterstock.com