You wake up to carry on with your usual routine. You have the energy for it. You know what to do and why you need to. The only problem is no matter what you do, nothing seems to spark joy. Even when you accomplish something, you still feel empty and aimless. That, my friend, is called languishing.
Languishing is a term that sociologist Corey L.M. Keyes first coined in his 2002 journal titled The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life. It is the antithesis of flourishing, which has symptoms of numbness, lack of motivation, and burnout. It is a series of emotions like monotony, feeling stuck, and emptiness.
Last year, almost all of us completely pivoted to working virtually. This also meant that the boundaries we built for years in the name of work-life balance had to be tested. Eventually, walls started crumbling, and time seemed to have created a limitless void. Like a wrecking ball, these changes bulldozed the walls that kept us focused and motivated.
In a New York Times piece by author Adam Grant, he explained what we might all have felt in the middle of the pandemic. Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.
He further explained that languishing is the neglected child of mental health. It is the void between depression (valley of ill-being) and flourishing (peak of well-being). If, for some reason, a task you are so used to becomes a bit difficult to deliver, whether due to lack of focus or motivation, you are likely under the spell of languishing.
Part of the danger is that when you’re languishing, you might not notice the dulling of delight or the dwindling of drive. You don’t catch yourself slipping slowly into solitude; you’re indifferent to your indifference. When you can’t see your own suffering, you don’t seek help or even do much to help yourself.
Languishing makes you feel all sorts of things that could drag you throughout the day. You could have all the toll gates set in your head to accomplish your tasks, but no matter how hard you try, you could still fall short and likely cut back on work because your concentration is being diminished. We mentioned in our previous articles how concentration is necessary to increase your overall quality of work. Lack of such decreases your productivity and efficiency.
When you experience feeling blah, you could write multiple drafts but never reach a point when they’re good enough for submission. You could create concepts and ideas but could never really get to the home run of execution. Perhaps, this is the difference between depression and languishing. Depression can make you completely unable to perform and finish tasks. In languishing, you could still have the eagerness and energy to try and deliver. You don’t necessarily feel good or bad. The constant feeling of stillness makes almost anything more draining than usual.
HOW TO GET YOURSELF OUT OF LANGUISHING
Since languishing is a series of emotions, it then makes it temporary. But that is not to say that you don’t have to do anything about it. Languishing has the potential to cause major problems when left unchecked. Luckily, you can take steps to get yourself out of the abyss of feeling stuck.
Call it by its name. Many would say that calling something by its name makes it real. But if it’s a feeling affecting you and your performance, wouldn’t it be best to put a label on it? After all, you can’t solve something without knowing the problem.
Change your scenery. Unfortunately, this is still a luxury for many. Not everyone has the resources and space to separate work from rest. It doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t do it. You could start by building a new routine. You could also incorporate time during the day for a 15-minute walk outside the place where you work or study. Changing your scenery could show you new perspectives or remind you why you are doing what you are doing.
Taking a break is another thing you can do, though this may not always be available. When a car overheats, we usually just shut it off and let it rest before restarting. By allowing yourself to recharge, you are giving yourself better chances of getting yourself out of the downturn. Remember, knowing when to hustle and when to take a break is key to success. There will always be moments when we feel slumped in our actions. But remember that success is how high we bounce back after hitting bottom.
KNOW WHEN TO SEEK HELP
Aside from being the mood of 2021, languishing is a temporary state that can cause major problems in certain aspects of a person’s life if left unchecked. Recognizing the situation and knowing how to pull yourself out of it could help improve your overall well-being. When it starts to feel out of hand, seeking professional help is an option available for you. You may reach out to the National Mental Health Crisis Hotline if you think you need to talk to someone about what you are going through. That brain of yours is your biggest asset. Taking care of it is taking care of your future.