Last fall, and then through much of the winter, I struggled quite a lot with what I thought might be depression creeping in. I wasn't sleeping very well. I wasn't excited about much of anything. I felt like I was slogging through my days. But I still had some hope. And I could still find things I enjoyed doing every day. I kept scrabbling along . . .
And then things started to brighten. The vaccine news was good. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris arrived on the scene. Spring was coming. I started to sleep again, and much of the sloggy feeling was ebbing away.
Most days now, I'm feeling hopeful and ready to move forward with purpose.
Some days, though? Well. Not so much.
Turns out (as I'm sure many of you have undoubtedly already heard) there's a word for this now. . .
Yep. Languishing is the name for the blah I still feel sometimes. Because even though I generally feel pretty good, there are times that I still feel a lack of concentration and focus. When I feel a bit aimless. When stagnation and emptiness creep into my day. When I've lost my mojo for things I normally like to do. As Adam Grant said in his article about languishing for the New York Times, it's like "looking at your life through a foggy windshield." Languishing is the absence of well-being. There are no real symptoms of mental illness, but . . . it's not the picture of mental health either.
It's like not functioning at full capacity.
And what's the flip side of languishing? That would be . . . flourishing. Flourishing is operating at peak physical, emotional, and mental fitness. It's mental health at its finest. It's feeling fulfillment, purpose, and happiness. If you're flourishing . . . you can't be languishing.
I feel like there have been days this spring where I have been flourishing. And there have been days, too, where I've definitely been languishing. This week, for example . . . for some reason . . . has been a languishing week for me. I don't exactly know why. (But I'm blaming the crap weather pattern we've been stuck in for the last 3 weeks. Too much cold wind. Too much freezing cold temperatures. Altogether too-much sweater-wearing for May.)
It occurs to me that it doesn't really take much to tip me from languishing to flourishing these days. Sometimes I even move from one to the other in the same day. But mostly, whatever "phase" I'm in tends to last for a few days at a time. So I decided to research this flourishing thing; to find out how we can move ourselves out of the languishing category and into the flourishing category.
Apparently, the best thing to do when you find yourself languishing is to find "flow" -- or absorption in a meaningful challenge where your sense of time, place, and self melt away. This "flow" state could be from . . . anything. Doing the New York Times crossword puzzle every day. Binge-ing Ted Lasso (again). Weeding. Painting. Reading. The challenge with this, though? Well. It's hard to get into a "flow" state when you're low on mojo. And it's hard to stay there if you can't focus.
What to do? Here's what the researchers suggest doing, for a start.
- Give yourself some uninterrupted time (that means no distractions) (like . . . put away your phone) and allow something (anything, really) to grab your full attention. No pressure that it needs to be something "big." Really. Ted Lasso will do it.
- Focus on small challenges that you know you can manage -- and find success in the completion of the task. Baby steps. Success begets more success. Maybe it's just . . . fold the load of laundry that's been sitting in the dryer for days. Or weed that bed for 15 minutes. Or cut out that top you've been wanting to make. Something small. Again, no pressure.
- Acknowledge that you're languishing. Give voice to it. Admitting (to yourself or to others) that you're feeling the quiet despair of languishing actually helps light a path out of the void -- for yourself and for others. So . . . talk about it.
It's been a rough go. A long year. An emotionally taxing time. We can expect to move in and out of languishing for a while yet, I'm afraid. Sometimes (like it did for me this week), it sneaks up on you when you think you're setting up permanent residence in the flourishing camp. Sometimes it hangs around for a while.
So I thought I'd just check in. How are YOU doing? And if you find yourself languishing, what helps you move forward? What helps you hold things together?