Just the other day, I was minding my own business, avoiding starting a stressful task at work with a good ole’ scroll on the ‘gram, when an article popped up from Real Simple: “That Mental Rut You’re Going Through Has a Name – and Here’s What to Do About It.” Intrigued (because obviously my avoidance tactic was backfiring and forcing me to look inward), I clicked on the link. The article was very informative, and led me to do a bit more Google research on the topic – after work, of course.
One of the most helpful articles I found was from the NY Times. These couple of paragraphs almost knocked me over:
“It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing. 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.”
THIS. This is how I’ve been feeling recently, as we’ve stopped pivoting and started trying to return to “normal” – if there is such a thing anymore. I’ve been trying so hard, working to be organized and focused and productive, but it is just so hard. I feel like I’m a step or two behind all the time, and I don’t understand why. And it’s not just me. I’ve talked to my husband, my mom friends, my single friends, my parents, my bestie – it seems like we’re all stuck in this muddling middle ground – maybe we’re not exactly doing poorly, but definitely not thriving. Maybe you feel this way, too. And if you do, I have a few suggestions.
Talking About How You’re Feeling Helps
I think it is easy for us to believe we are alone in our feelings of stagnancy, malaise, and fogginess. Like maybe something is wrong with us, specifically. I’ve found that sharing with others, especially my close friends and my husband, has helped me see that there is not a defect in me causing me to feel this way. And feeling less isolated in our feelings allows us to work through them, not bottling them up or hiding them, but processing them with healthy and safe people.
Gratitude Puts Things in Perspective
I know it sounds cliche’, but the fact is that our attitude is shaped by what we focus on. Often, it seems that our circumstances shape our mood, but I believe that looking a little deeper, it is which parts of our circumstances or surroundings we notice the most are the key drivers of our mood. Taking the time to note things to be thankful for can cause a dramatic improvement in mood. Keeping a gratitude list, journaling things or experiences in our daily lives to be thankful for, taking photos of things that bring joy are all ways to remind our brains that joy and hope are not lost, even when we are feeling stuck emotionally.
Find a Way to Take a Next Step
I’m a big fan of the To-Do List. It keeps me focused and productive. I also love a daily/weekly/monthly planner to help me see what’s in front of me. Sometimes I put simple things on my to-do list just to give me joy and satisfaction of crossing them off. This simple act gives me the a small jolt of motivation to keep pushing through the slog ahead of me.
The new planner I’m utilizing this year is especially helpful in a season of languishing as it offers the opportunity for me to list a “Big 3” each day, as well as a list of other to-do’s. I’m trying to be thoughtful as I acknowledge the 3 most important tasks ahead of me each day, and to work diligently to get them done. Sometimes the simple act of writing something down can gives us the strength and focus we need to get it done.
What Sounds Fun?
In order to move past our feeling of languishing, maybe we just need to have a little fun. Mardi Gras was definitely evidence of that here in New Orleans. We all needed the freedom to dance in the street, to laugh with our friends, to play with our kids. So many people echoed this feeling in the days during and after Carnival. But moments of fun are just around the corner each day – what can you do to laugh or smile this week? And what would that do to your mood?
We Can Do This
The simple suggestions above are just that, suggestions. I don’t promise they are a magic bullet or immediate fix to our problem. In fact, I’m still working through the mechanics of implementing them in my own life. But I hope that these words provide a bit of hope to others who are languishing, helping us all to move past this state, so that we can thrive again, becoming healthier versions of ourselves.