Maybe you’re feeling anxious, sad, burnt out, unmotivated, or some combination of these many feelings. Perhaps you don’t even know what to call what you’re feeling… “just feeling ‘meh’ recently”, I hear some of my friends saying.
The pandemic has raised many unknown feelings and pushed some buttons in many of us. Feeling ‘blah’, is one of them. Even if we don’t know how to describe this general malaise that some of us have been feeling during the pandemic, there’s actually a good term for it... ‘languishing’.
The word has been used by Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, in a widely shared article published by The New York Times.
What does Languishing Mean?
"Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness," he wrote. "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."
And he’s right. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes it as a way “to assume an expression of grief or emotion appealing for sympathy, and “to be or live in a state of depression or decreasing vitality”. It matches quite well with the stagnant feeling the pandemic brought on for so many of us.
The uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic left us with is one of the main reasons for this pervasive languishing so many of us feel. After more than a year of feeling ‘on endless pause’, our major life events like celebrations, anniversaries, birthdays, and weddings are still being postponed without a determined forecast for when they can be resumed.
Nonetheless, the social distancing, WFH, school, shop from home, travel, and mask restrictions add up to a source of great stress.
Another aspect of our personal struggles is that decision-making has become significantly more difficult and confusing. According to psychiatrist and author Gayani DeSilva, MD, it’s called ambivalence.
"In psychological terms, when we cannot readily make a decision between known choices, it's called ambivalence," says DeSilva to Health.
However, it’s important to distinguish between languishing and depression. Even though the number of anxiety and depression cases has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic started last year, we can’t categorize the feeling of languishing as a mental illness.
An Opportunity To Reconnect
During this challenging time, a time in which many people are experiencing various degrees of crisis, we are all re-examining if we even want to return to our hectic and hustling pre-pandemic life!!
The world has gone on a long hiatus and has given us the opportunity to question how we’re living our lives on this planet. In spite of the many uncertain feelings right now, the only certainty we have is that life is precious and short, and that time passes pretty fast.
The daily grind has disconnected us from our true nature and has replaced it with a rushing feeling to get work done so we can enjoy our weekends and our vacations. When deprived of what we call “normalcy”, many people are often at a loss for how to live in a manner that creates deep meaning in their lives.
But how can we deal with these feelings during this time and avoid sinking into mental distress? Additionally, how can we fully align with our true nature?
It’s hard and can even be frustrating to simply give tips on how you can take care of your mental health during a global pandemic, as so much is truly beyond our control. Because in truth, even if life gets back to “normal” soon, we’re likely still not facing the elephant in the room.
Unaddressed feelings like “I’m not depressed but I don’t feel happy either” are hardly ever resolved when life gets back to normalcy.
Technically speaking, we’re more connected than we’ve ever been. But we aren’t living according to our natural rhythm when we spend prolonged periods of time indoors, under artificial lights, and immersed in the world of screens. It may connect us artificially, but it ultimately disconnects us from ourselves and from each other.
The writer L.M. Browning wrote, “Being connected to everything has disconnected us from ourselves and the preciousness of this present moment.”
So, regarding tips on how to ease anxiety and languishing, we should first take this opportunity to ask some deeper questions. Once you address the root cause of whatever feeling you might be experiencing right now, you’ll automatically address several if not all of the related challenges. But how can we address the ‘root’? Well, and as Browning said, by connecting with the present moment.
Mindfulness To Reconnect Us
According to the website Mindful.org, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
As opposed to what many people believe, mindfulness isn’t something available to a small number of people. It’s actually a quality innate to every human being. We just need to learn how to tap into it.
Mindfulness goes well beyond meditation. Mindfulness meditation is one of the main tools among many mindfulness techniques. Here are some of those techniques and how you can apply them to your daily life.
As we mentioned, meditation is a core mindfulness practice that allows us to connect with the present moment and everything around us — sensations in the body, or emotions, the environment around us, our thoughts, and so on.
There are many ways to practice meditation, such as in a group, individually, or with a one-on-one expert. Here at Mindful Life, Mindful Work, Inc., we offer mindful one-on-one coaching, peer learning groups, consulting, and mentorship services that are tailored to differing needs.
Walking can be such an automatic thing and many people consider it a chore. However, it can be a great opportunity to practice mindfulness. Mindful walking consists of avoiding walking on autopilot and instead connecting to the environment around us.
It’s more about the journey rather than the destination. Walking mindfully can be performed anywhere; in a busy street, on the beach, or on a hiking path. As you walk, pay attention to the sensations of the body. How is the weather, the temperature? Is it warm, is it cold? How do your feet feel touching the ground? Notice anything you can while allowing your thoughts to pass by.
Mindful listening is the act of being present, connecting, and truly understanding what the other person is saying. It’s important to be grounded so that you can hold space for them and in turn, let them know that they’re being fully heard.
You can verbally demonstrate interest, as well as doing so physically through maintaining eye contact, nodding, smiling, and encouraging them to express their thoughts.
If you’re used to eating your meals while scrolling on your phone, watching TV, or reading, you’re probably doing just the opposite of mindful eating.
Eating mindfully is eating with intention, connecting with all of the senses that an eating experience makes available...the smell, the taste, the touch of the food, and so on. Among the benefits of eating mindfully, expect an enhanced enjoyment of your meals, a reduction in overeating, and improved digestion.
Our brains work differently in a WFH environment than they do in air-conditioned cubicles. When working from home, people tend to book back-to-back meetings, and this actually lowers their productivity.
Taking regular breaks from work and giving a real break to your brain — checking your phone doesn’t count — increases productivity. You can schedule on your calendar a 15 to 20-minute break, and during these breaks, you can practice mindfulness in many ways like meditation, mindful breathing, mindful walking, etc.
Camila Santiago is a content writer and strategist specializing in health and corporate wellness, including extensive experience writing SEO-friendly content. She writes, edits and proof-reads content on wellness topics spanning physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, and does so for organizations aiming to improve overall employee wellbeing and professional excellence.