Languishing: The “Neglected Middle Child” of Mental Health
Have you been feeling “blah” lately? Like you’ve lost your sense of purpose? Or perhaps you can’t see meaning in things you usually enjoy? And despite answering “yes” to these questions, you don’t identify yourself as anxious or depressed either?
Well, your awkward sense of dullness and stagnation is called “languishing”. Coined by sociologist Corey Keyes, languishing is basically the opposite of flourishing. Furthermore, the swathe of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many drowning in this state of slow dread.
To bring this “neglected middle child” of mental health into the light, today we explore a few signs of languishing and a few tips to find more joy in this prolonged unprecedented state.
Signs of Languishing
You feel dull, unmotivated, and empty
You feel a lack of interest in things that typically bring you joy. But you’re not intensely upset either. Rather, languishing leaves you sitting in a muddy state of stagnation and monotony.
You struggle to focus
You experience trouble concentrating on even the simplest of tasks and you struggle to stay present. It can feel as if mundane tasks call for every single drop of your attentional effort.
You feel constantly fatigued
Languishing can make you feel like you’re going through the motions. Alternating between short bursts of motivation and long dips in energy. These inconsistent energy waves, paired with the prolonged pandemic, can make you feel like you’ve been sprinting for the past year.
Four Ways to Cope with Languishing
Switch your scenery
Changing your physical view greatly shifts your inner mental state. This is because a change in environment stimulates all your five senses, making it easier to snap out of the languishing funk. Therefore, it’s important to peel ourselves away from our digital caves regularly. For instance, going out for a mindful walk does wonders for releasing endorphins, boosting your mood and motivation.
Engage in creative hobbies
Quarantine measures can leave us feeling like work, meals, family are blended into an unappetizing mush. Hence, doing something out of your routine helps add a little zest into our days. Specifically, creative hobbies bring you out of languishing and into flow and mindfulness. Whether it’s painting or playing the guitar, immersing yourself in these activities engages the perfect amount of challenge and enjoyment.
Connect and contribute
Languishing can tempt you to shy away from your social connections. However, studies* have shown that social support has been the most consistent factor in maintaining wellbeing during the pandemic. Therefore, reaching out to loved ones, even virtually, can help you clear the fog.
Another way is to lend a hand to your community. For instance, try helping out a food bank or volunteering in vaccination centers. Especially in such dire times, these actions can give you a sense of higher purpose and meaning.
Simmer in small wins
Transcending from a state of languishing requires us to start with small wins. Clean your room, cook a meal, have a meaningful conversation. Taking small steps is sustainable yet effective in moving you closer to a flourishing state. By simmering in mini triumphs, you rediscover the momentum and energy you need to move forward.
Languishing isn’t made up in our heads. Rather, it festers through our circumstances. We may not be depressed, anxious, or chronically burnt out. But that doesn’t mean we’re discounted from life’s struggles. Only by acknowledging this collective state of languishing, we can sow each other a sense of support and wellness. However, if you feel like your languishing has progressed into something heavier, do consult a mental health professional to help you get back on track.
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