health

"The dominant emotion of 2021": 6 signs you're 'languishing', and what to do about it.

"Hello, you've reached the lockdown languishing line, this is Erin speaking - how may I help you?"

If you've felt like utter poo for most of this year, please take a ticket and join the queue. Because if you're anything like us, you've been trapped in an endless daze for months on end.

You find yourself muddling through your working from home days - just doing what you can to get by. Night after night you're staying up late, trying to find joy in 'watching' tv while doom scrolling on social media.

You wake up in the morning, make yourself fluffy promises that it's going to be different today (HA!) - and then you end up doing it all again. On repeat. For weeks. Months.

Watch: Things you'll never say in 2021. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

You don't feel depressed. Nah - it's not that. You don't feel burnt out, either. You just feel a bit... mehLike you're suddenly floating through life without a goal or purpose. You're just kind of... existing.

Sound familiar? It's called 'languishing'.

We asked a psychologist to break down everything we need to know about this feeling - how you can spot it and what you can do to beat it.

What is 'languishing'?. 

"Languishing is a sort of ‘no-man's-land’ where a person feels as if their life is at a standstill. Or it’s very similar to feeling stuck in a rut or a limbo phase of life, where it feels as though nothing is moving forward," explains psychologist Nancy Sokarno from Lysn.

"Languishing often refers to someone who continues to exist in an unwanted situation for a long period and yet makes no move to change it."

Think of it like being stuck in a dead-end job you 100% hate and not really making any moves to look for something better.

So, where did this phenomenon come from? Is it a new thing?

Well, not necessarily. The term 'languishing' was originally coined by sociologist Corey Keyes, but was recently brought into the forefront by organisational psychologist Adam Grant, who wrote in an article in the New York Times:

“Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing - the absence of wellbeing. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either.”

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Anyone else feel... seen?


"If we look at languishing from a clinical perspective, it sits somewhere in the middle between depression and flourishing. With languishing, a person isn’t struggling as much as someone that is suffering from depression, but they’re certainly not feeling that same sense of meaning if they were flourishing," adds Sokarno.

Why is languishing such a buzz word right now?

"Languishing has actually been described as the dominant emotion of 2021 because it’s a feeling many people can relate to right now. Thanks to the effects of the global pandemic, many people simply can’t, or are feeling anxious about, making any changes in their life," explains Sokarno.

We're living in a constant state of uncertainty. Many of us have spent the last year and a half hesitant to make any changes or plans for fear things will inevitably go to s**t. 

The result? One big ol' feeling of aimlessness. 

"Unfortunately, those fears are real – most of us will know someone who tried to plan a wedding or a holiday in the last year and a half, only to be shut down by the reality of something they can’t control. It’s almost as if people are lowering their expectations so that they can avoid the disappointment."

What are some common signs of languishing?

According Sokarno, there's no one-size-fits-all symptom when it comes to languishing - it can be something that is quite insidious and not everyone will experience it in the same way or the same intensity. 

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However, here are a few common signs Sokarno said to look out for:

  • Generally feeling apathetic or unenthusiastic about life and unmotivated to move forward.
  • Feeling very indifferent about future prospects or things you might normally get excited about.
  • Feeling ungrateful about current circumstances and unwilling to be positive about the future.
  • Feeling aimless or having no clear sense of direction for your life or where it might be headed.
  • Hesitant to make any changes or plans, even though you know that it has the potential to make you happier.
  • Unable to focus or concentrate on tasks and often not completing them. 

How many of these did you tick off?

What are some ways to rediscover your flow?

So how do you cope with languishing? What's the best way to stop it and start finding your flow again?

Well, like most things, it's easier to prevent it than to get out of it. But when you're stuck in the thick of is (like many of us are) there are a few things that can help pull you out of that hole.

1. Accept that some things are out of your control.

Living with lockdowns and restrictions can be frustrating AF, however Sokarno said the sooner you accept that it is a situation completely out of your control, the better off you'll be.

"If you’re finding yourself constantly feeling frustrated by the state of the world, try to turn to the things in your own life that you can control instead," she suggests.

"Try to have the perspective that making a change is better than making no change. Yes, such is life that sometimes things just don’t work out, but living a life thinking ‘what if’ and feeling miserable at the same time isn’t necessarily a better alternative."

 2. Take some baby steps to move forward.

We know it's easier said than done, but don't... stop making plans. Even implementing really small changes to your day-to-day routine can make a difference. It can be as small as organising a weekly walk with a friend or planning a date night at home with your partner.

"While it’s true that we are still living in uncertain times, life does need to move forward. Try to take some baby steps when it comes to making changes," said Sokarno. 

3. Set some achievable goals.

If you're feeling like you're simply muddling through life with no clear purpose, it's time to figure out some goals. Like, actually write them down and put a plan in action.

"Many people’s dreams and goals have been put on hold as a result of Covid, however that doesn’t mean you can’t still strive to achieve some smaller goals," said Sokarno.

"Break those big goals down into smaller achievable tasks and you’ll be bound to feel some satisfaction from ticking them off your list."

Take that, aimlessness.

 4. Find the meaning in your current situation.

The joy. Where is it? If you're struggling to find things you genuinely enjoy day-to-day - you might need to take a step back. Because chances are, those random Netflix series' you're forcing yourself to watch every night are doing squat all for your feels.

"Try to find some meaning in your current situation even if you’re not living the life you want to. The way you can do this is by ensuring that you are doing things every day that bring you enjoyment."

"This might mean going for a walk to your favourite coffee shop, having a bath, or watching your favourite movie. Try not to feel guilty about indulging in your favourite past times because these things can make you feel fulfilled (even if only on a smaller scale)."

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 5. Talk to someone.

One of the most underrated ways to help you cope with how you're feeling right now? Talking to someone.

"Unfortunately languishing can lead to other mental health concerns so it is important to ensure you don’t experience it for prolonged periods of time," said Sokarno.

If you feel like you need some extra support, talk to a health care professional - now is a time to reach out for those resources if you need them. Because the sooner you nip these negative emotions in the bud, the better.

"Sometimes simply voicing your feelings can help make you feel not alone and a professional can arm you with coping mechanisms that will allow you to push forward. Lifeline and Beyond Blue are services that provide free over-the-phone counselling with trained experts who can help you to understand your feelings.

"Services like Lysn provide access to psychologists via phone or video chat, which can be accessed from the comfort of your own home around the clock. These services can be instrumental in providing the support you need."

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Can you relate to any of the above symptoms? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Getty/Mamamia

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