First of all: WTF is languishing? I swear this word has only just been made up, to describe how a lot of us are feeling during/post pandemic. It turns out, sociologist Corey Keyes was actually the first to coin the term, back in 2002.. It refers to having a general sense of apathy, being restless, and a lack of interest in life or things that would normally bring you joy. It’s feeling neutral, stagnant or that life is monotonous.
Languishing sits on the mental health continuum between depression and flourishing. The symptoms can be having no motivation, hitting emotional burnout, or experiencing numbness with regard to everything going on around you. However, languishing is not depression or a mental illness.
So, how did I get to this place? The unending waves of the pandemic, working from home, and closed borders meant I couldn't feel fully present in my life. As an extrovert and serial traveller, I found it particularly hard to have limited opportunities to socialise and have my cup filled from a wider social circle. During lockdown, I developed habits that gave me instant gratification - hello, baking and online shopping - but when skin breakouts and a dwindling bank account occurred, these ‘quick fixes’ soon lost their appeal.
If one end of the scale is languishing, then the opposite end is flourishing. Flourishing is the peak of our wellbeing; that feeling when you experience a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others.
So, how can we replace languising with flourishing?
Name your emotions.How are you actually feeling? Are you grieving for your old life and missed opportunities? Or maybe you’re angry your business is struggling? Acknowledge you might be languishing and that you are not actually just ‘fine’.
Find your flow. What activities make you lose track of time while you’re doing them? Prioritise doing more of these.
Assess if you are having meaningful experiences and doing meaningful work. Over the past year, we’ve seen ‘The Great Resignation’ occur - an unprecedented number of people quitting their job in search of something that fits their values and purpose. Ask yourself if your job is fulfilling you and giving you purpose.
Give yourself a break - and I mean a proper rest. Preferably away from your day-to-day life,and for at least a week, as it gives you a real opportunity to decompress.
On a smaller scale, you can explore new hobbies, get a change of scenery by going somewhere new in your hometown, or do some physical activity to boost your endorphins.
How did I get my groove back? I hiked somewhere new - and seeing the vast coastline gave me perspective on how beautiful my country is. I went to a rooftop bar and drank cocktails all night with good company - seeing the city buzzing made me feel alive. I made plans with friends and renewed my passport so I have things to look forward to. Doing the things that made me ‘me’ before the pandemic has reignited my spark for life.