By now the list of ways that COVID-19 and the resultant lockdowns have changed and affected our lives is so long that it’s hard to keep up.
There’s the disease itself, which as we’ve seen over the months since the first case was reported, can have lingering effects that range from exhaustion to full-on neurological disorders.
Then there’s the ‘new normal’ that we all have to adjust to. Work schedules were turned on their heads, many of us still work from home, and the uncertainty of not knowing what is going to happen as waves of the virus rise and fall can be unsettling.
We’re a resourceful bunch, though, and we can pat ourselves on the back for rallying when rallying was necessary.
In fact, some people adjusted like champions – so why are you still feeling, for lack of a better word, ‘blah’?
According to the New York Times, there’s an often-overlooked “middle child of mental health”, called languishing that sits somewhere between depression and flourishing.
In other words, you could still have energy and be relatively okay on the happiness spectrum, but at the same time “joyless and aimless”. So, blah, or ‘meh’ as the kids would say.
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.
The term was coined by a sociologist named Corey Keyes who noticed a trend where people weren’t depressed, but not living their best lives either.
What’s concerning about Keyes’ findings is that he reckons those languishing today, could be looking at more severe mental health concerns over the next decade including depression and heightened anxiety.
And new evidence from pandemic health care workers in Italy shows that those who were languishing in the spring of 2020 were three times more likely than their peers to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
You can read through that evidence published in the Journal of Affective Disorders here.
The good news is that psychologists have found that naming something helps you to overcome it. Now that you know what you’re feeling you can get on doing something about it, and that something is called “flow”.
Flow is that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away. During the early days of the pandemic, the best predictor of well-being wasn’t optimism or mindfulness — it was flow. People who became more immersed in their projects managed to avoid languishing and maintained their prepandemic happiness.
Focusing on small goals to start with, giving yourself time to do them, and celebrating the small wins are also ways to keep your motivation up and battle the ‘meh’.
Just because you’re struggling, and not ‘burned out’ doesn’t mean that you should suck it up and soldier on.
Find your flow, man. Find your flow…
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