Most of us are neither all the way down in the dumps nor are we thriving. There is just the feeling of not being able to move forward.
Do you feel like you are stuck in limbo? You are not the only one going through this in-between-ness. Most of us are neither all the way down in the dumps nor are we thriving. There is just the feeling of not being able to move forward. If you relate to this sentiment then you could be languishing, a term coined by sociologist Corey Keyes. It means that someone is failing to make progress and is considered to be the opposite of flourishing.
Some days, you might be struggling to find the motivation to even get out of bed or do the basic daily tasks. It's a difficult place to be in and people experiencing this deserve help. We don't have to break down completely before seeking help, after all. "Languishing is apathy, a sense of restlessness or feeling unsettled or an overall lack of interest in life or the things that typically bring you joy," Shemiah Derrick, a licensed professional counselor and certified alcohol and drug counselor, told Verywell Mind.
It is not a disorder like depression or anxiety, but persistent emotions like "distressing feelings of stagnation, monotony, and emptiness,” says Dr. Leela R. Magavi, a Johns Hopkins-trained adult, adolescent, and child psychiatrist and regional medical director for Community Psychiatry, California's largest outpatient mental health organization. "Individuals who are extroverts have struggled considerably with limited socialization, and consequently are prone to languishing. Individuals with a history of depression and anxiety or who are genetically predisposed to psychiatric conditions are more prone to languishing than others," says Magavi.
Since 2020, ever since the pandemic turned everyone's lives upside down, many people have gone through this series of emotions and might still be feeling it. During May 2021, Mental Health Awareness Month, we are going to put a spotlight on this phase that many people might be facing because of the pandemic.
If you are wondering how to get past this limbo, here are a few things to try:
When we are engrossed in work that is meaningful to us, we go with the flow, and feel engaged and absorbed in it. This is when we feel present in the moment, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, says that it could be the antidote to what we are going through right now. From crafting to gardening to cooking, any of these things could help you get your flow back, as per Happiful.
Most of us have found it hard to find our flow because we were not able to maintain our focus. There are many tools out there that can help us enhance our focus. For instance, there are apps that cut off internet access and other apps from our phones for a certain period of time. Music that helps in concentration is available freely on YouTube. There are also breathing techniques that can enhance our focus.
Something is better than nothing, people say. And, it is absolutely true. Just because we haven't been able to finish our grand projects or all the tasks on our to-do list, doesn't mean we shouldn't touch them at all. It might take you longer and perhaps, you can only do a limited number of them in a week or even a month, but that is cause for celebration too. This is the right time to start celebrating small successes.
Organizational psychologist and writer Adam Grant says, "As we head into a new post-pandemic reality, it’s time to rethink our understanding of mental health and wellbeing. 'Not depressed' doesn’t mean you’re not struggling. 'Not burned out' doesn’t mean you’re fired up. By acknowledging that so many of us are languishing, we can start giving voice to quiet despair and lighting a path out of the void." And that is precisely why we need to be patient with ourselves.
Note - May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you are looking for resources, visit this website: https://www.mhanational.org/mental-health-month
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by Malte Mueller