from Solutions Counseling & EAP
by Keri Forbess-McCorquodale, MS, LPC, LMFT, CEAP
I recently read an article that put its finger on how many of us have been feeling. So many people I know are “just not themselves” these days. We aren’t excited about the near future, vaccines or not. It’s hard to get motivated in the mornings. It’s not that we are depressed, exactly. It’s not that we are burned out completely – we can still find energy when we need it.
It’s more that we are kind of aimless and not feeling much joy. The author of the article used the word “languishing,” and I think it fits our current state perfectly. Oh, we’re here. We’re doing what we need to be doing, for the most part. But we lack vitality. We feel stagnant or stuck, and it feels like we aren’t making any progress.
Remember at the beginning of the pandemic, we were all on high alert? We were washing our hands furiously, spraying down packages when they came to our door, getting used to wearing masks. That was our “fight or flight” response kicking in. As you gained information, you probably settled down a bit. Many of us fell into languishing at that point. It’s as though someone was asking “How are you doing?” and all we could come up with was “making it,” or “meh.”
Then, the hurricanes graced us with their presence. We were already tired and on edge. And now we had to deal with all the additional stress brought to us by Laura and Delta. Many of us just didn’t have what we needed in reserves. I spoke to many people who seemed to be moving in slow motion, and no amount of cheerleading from me was changing that. They were languishing.
So, what’s the problem with languishing? You’re not depressed. It’s not hurting anyone, right? Wrong. Languishing today can lead to issues in the future. Some new research indicates that those who were languishing in the early days of the pandemic are now showing signs of PTSD. It’s looking like languishing weakens our mental health.
Hmmm . . . what’s a languishing person to do? Here are some simple suggestions you can put into place today:
Uninterrupted time. Get knee deep into something. And don’t allow any interruptions. It can be work, a hobby, a home project – it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you sequester yourself, don’t check emails/texts/social media, and you allow your brain to focus. This will create “flow.” Sometimes we call this “being in the zone.” Flow restores you. You feel productive, and generally satisfied.
Small wins. We have all suffered major losses this past year and a half. It is time to start creating ways to feel the triumph of winning. So, go for it. You know what this means, right? It’s time for a game night. Get your family/friends together, and play games until everyone gets to feel the joy of winning. And there will be laughter and party food. No, it won’t change your situation, but it very well could get you moving out of the languishing rut.
Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day? I love the movie for the comedy, but I love it more for the process the main character goes through when he continues to live the same day over and over. Remember Bill Murray’s character becoming even more mean, manipulative and gluttonous than he was at the beginning of the movie? What did it matter how ugly he was to people? They weren’t going to remember, so he might as well treat them any way he wanted. And he might as well eat and drink anything he wanted – there seemed to be no price to pay. At some point, he decided to accept things and use the time to become a better person. And as he evolved, he began experiencing true feelings. It was when he focused on living the best life he could that he got out of the eternal loop of languishing.