What Languishing During The Pandemic Looks Like

April 22, 2021

There’s one dominant emotion that many people have felt over the course of this pandemic. But many don’t know how to identify it. It’s not burnout and it’s not depression. It’s a sort of in-between feeling of being somewhat joyless and aimless. The name for this is called languishing.

What is Languishing?

The New York Times recently wrote an insightful article all about this feeling. They defined languishing as a “sense of stagnation or emptiness,” where it feels like you’re “muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.” Languishing is not a state of wellbeing. It can negatively affect our motivation and ability to focus. And languishing can be an indicator of developing a mental health condition later on. 

Putting a name to this kind of feeling can be really comforting for us. It helps to know that this is something that others have been experiencing in the past year, and that we’re not alone in feeling this way. Once we put a name to it, we’ll also be able to spot signs of languishing easier. It may show up when we feel let down after something like a short walk, that is meant to be helpful for self-care. Or when our significant other asks us again how our work day went and we reply with a “meh.” 

As discouraging as this in-between feeling can be, there are ways that we can cope with and work through languishing. Here are a few tips:

How Can We Feel Better?

  • There’s a concept called “flow” that may help with languishing. According to The New York Times, flow is “a state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away.” Finding things that get us into a flow can help us stop languishing. This could look like playing word puzzle or watching your favorite TV show. Sometimes these activities or challenges can be a helpful distraction.
  • Make sure you are setting boundaries and giving yourself some uninterrupted time each day. During this specified time, we can devote all of our focus to one task, to feel like there is a sense of progress being made. Giving ourselves time to feel like we are moving forward can combat that “blah” feeling.
  • Another tip is to focus on a small goal. We may feel immense loss from the pandemic and like larger possibilities are limited. But there is still power in pursuing smaller goals. One way to rediscover some of the energy and enthusiasm we’ve been lacking in the past year is to immerse ourselves into an interesting project or goal that motivates us.

While we can’t change all of our circumstances with this pandemic, we can make small changes to our day-to-day that may improve our mindset. Overall, having a strong sense of purpose and meaningful activities to pursue can help with the feeling of languishing. 

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