As human beings, we are programmed to plan. Holidays, weddings, birthday celebrations, catch-ups with friends, trips home. As a business, we do the same – conferences, awards events, annual picnics. The anticipation of an event buoys our spirits, provides goals. We plan the details, and get absorbed in preparing. And then – totally unexpectedly – we are in another lockdown. The events we were looking forward to, are cancelled.
It’s something that people – particularly on the eastern seaboard of Australia – are familiar with. And each time something is cancelled, while we shrug it off, accept that what is happening is for the “greater good”, our spirits nevertheless are diminished a little.
There’s been a lot of talk recently by mental health experts about Languishing – and it’s becoming endemic in this pandemic. Surprisingly, it’s the people who believe they are coping, who are working productively, looking after their families and loved ones and generally feel like they are in control, who are often “Languishing”. They have energy and they aren’t depressed, but they no longer anticipate anything in the future like they used to. It’s like they are in third gear, and the vehicle is motoring along, but fourth gear – that free, smooth ride – is beyond them.
Languishing is the opposite of flourishing. Its symptoms include apathy, stagnation, feeling of monotony, foggy, unmotivated – a real lassitude. You are coping, but there are no highs, no feeling of excitement for something in the future.
Describe Languishing to your friends and colleagues and see how many of them nod in recognition.
The good news is that the first step to addressing Languishing is recognising that you are suffering from it. Then there are a range of coping mechanisms you can try:
Carve out a period of time every day when you are just relaxing. No news alerts on your phone – in fact, turn off your phone. Read a book or watch a movie. Go for a walk with the dog. Do some relaxation exercises – whatever it takes to disconnect your mind from every aspect of the pandemic, and how it is affecting your life.
Take some holidays/have a break
It feels like a waste to use your annual leave when you can’t go anywhere – but it’s important to have a day here and there when you can walk away from work. If you’re working from home, make sure you shut the study door so you aren’t tempted to check your emails. In fact, power down your PC and disconnect for a full 24 hours.
Do what interests and absorbs you
In the bunker mentality a lot of us have developed, hobbies have sometimes been packed away. Drag out that model aircraft kit, the comic book collection, the scrapbook making, the Gameboy. Spend time doing what you really enjoy. It might be cooking, watching reality TV, running – whatever it is, lose yourself in it. Or you could look for a new interest to master.
Change the scenery
A five kilometre radius might seem restrictive if you’re in lockdown. And it is if your family is outside that 5km. But it’s a lot of space to explore when you’re walking. Challenge yourself to a new route to explore every day. The important thing to do is refresh your brain with new scenery.
List three things that you are thankful for each day and write them in a notebook. This sounds simple, but some days it can be a real challenge. And it’s on those days, when you are searching for something good that happened in the day, that you recognise the pure gold in your life. A hug from a child, the cat curling up in your lap and purring, the lavender blooming, a Zoom call with friends. Our world has become smaller, but that just makes everything in it bigger.
Reach out to your circle
The act of helping others is great therapy. Reach out to people in your circle – whether that’s a phone call, zoom catch-up or text. Check how they are going, talk about Languishing (and listen to the ah’s of recognition), and plan online get togethers that won’t be cancelled by a physical lockdown.
Get vaccinated if you can (Subject to medical advice)
By getting a vaccination, you are taking control of your future. You are also helping protect yourself and those around you, and there’s a lot of mental relief to be gained in reducing the chances of being seriously incapacitated by the virus. But you are also contributing towards a time when we can open up, and start planning those celebrations and events again – with increased certainty.
Whilst Languishing isn’t depression, it is recognised as a lack of mental wellbeing. We are all a little mentally fatigued by the rollercoaster we have been on for the last 18 months. Who wouldn’t be? But recognising that you aren’t top of your game mentally is a really positive first step. If adopting some strategies to lift your engagement in life doesn’t work, consider getting professional help.