8 tips to target pandemic-induced languishing

Katharine James, Clinical Psychologist at Roodlane Medical, part of HCA Healthcare UK

After over a year of largely staying indoors, abiding by stringent restrictions and calculating the potential risks of everything, it shouldn't be surprising that we might now experience great comfort in saying no to things – turning down social invitations, choosing to continue to work from home, not taking on new projects and avoiding leaving the house unnecessarily.

The impact of this is that we’re not functioning at full capacity – motivation levels are dulled, concentration and focus is impaired, and our confidence levels may have decreased. We are getting the things done in life that we need to but with the sense that we are living without purpose and aim. We are living but not flourishing. 


What is languishing?

In the context of mental health, the absence of mental illness doesn’t translate into the presence of mental health and it doesn’t mean someone is flourishing. This in-between state where you might feel empty, stagnated, demotivated and dissatisfied – this is what has become known as languishing. 

We might be languishing, in part, because we’ve forgotten how to desire, how to wish for better things, how to take action towards achieving the things we want – perhaps out of fatigue, fear of failure, fear of judgement, or fear of being overwhelmed. 

8 tips to ease these feelings

1.  Learn to dare again: It's good to sometimes step out of our comfort zone and take reasonable, calculated risks to motivate ourselves to move closer to our goals.

2.  Pace yourself: We didn’t languish overnight and therefore we won’t be able to improve things overnight.

3.  Reconnect with loved ones: Consider meeting up with one person outside as a first step to reconnecting with people if other social situations seem daunting. Allow yourself time to gradually ease into being around bigger groups of people.

4.  Notice the small things that bring joy and satisfaction: Once you’re able to identify the things that provide brief moments of respite, joy and excitement, find ways to incorporate more of these things into your everyday life.

5.  Spend time outdoors: During the various lockdowns, the importance of spending time outdoors was emphasised, and it’s important that you continue to go outside for walks and appreciate your surroundings.

6.  Give yourself small, achievable tasks each day: This can help bring about a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

7.  Check in with yourself: On a scale of 1-10, how are you doing? Try to find words to describe what feeling (often, giving a name to something helps to bring some degree of understanding, acceptance and relief).

8.  Talk with trusted friends about how you’re feeling: This may help to normalise your experience and you may find that you’re not the only one feeling that way.

Access to support

If you’re still finding it difficult to cope with these feelings and you’ve experienced significant changes in your mood that are affecting your daily life, it might be beneficial for you to speak with a healthcare professional to explore this further and access support. Psychological therapy can be a tremendous tool for navigating difficult emotions, stress and worry, as well as the symptoms associated with languishing. 

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