If you’re feeling blah, you are not alone. Here’s what you can do about it.
“I’m so tired”, my friend said. I could relate. Only I didn’t feel the kind of tired you get when you don’t have enough sleep or overexert yourself physically. To me, tired felt like I was lacking my usual zest for life or oomph as my mom would say. In Ontario, we are part way through another lockdown as the pandemic rages on. Some of the helpful strategies I used in earlier stages of the pandemic seemed to have lost their luster and even the thought of the vaccine rollout wasn’t filling me with as much hope as I’d wanted. I wasn’t sure what to do to improve things except keep persevering.
Don’t misunderstand, I was functioning well at times and could honestly answer, “I’m okay,” to the standard, “How are you?” I felt okay, but not fully myself.
“In psychology, we think about mental health on a spectrum from depression to flourishing. Flourishing is the peak of well-being: You have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others. Depression is the valley of ill-being: You feel despondent, drained and worthless.Adam Grant: There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing
Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.”
Grant says 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.
As I read the article, I felt a sense of recognition. “Yes,” I thought, “not tired, but languishing. That’s what I’ve been feeling.” Noticing and accurately naming the feeling changed something for me. I felt a tiny prickle of hope. Emotional granularity, the ability to put feelings into words with a high degree of specificity and precision, can be helpful. It certainly seemed to help me. I felt less alone, like there were others out there feeling the same way. It was as if languishing was an unnoticed program running in the background on my laptop. It was slowing everything down and making some things malfunction. Precisely naming what was going on even made me feel less powerless.
I decided to follow Grant’s suggestion that the antidote to languishing might be two-fold: achieving a state of flow and focusing on small goals.
The Antidote to Languishing
“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.”Adam Grant : There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing
Immersing myself in whatever I was doing became the focus as I tried to find this somewhat elusive state of flow. I found it helpful to let go of the notion that I was trying to be happy or motivated or fulfilled. It seemed much more manageable to attempt to focus on the one thing I was doing. (As an aside, it also meant I significantly cut back on social media which tends to be something I do while I do something else – definitely not part of achieving flow.)
“One of the clearest paths to flow is a just-manageable difficulty: a challenge that stretches your skills and heightens your resolve. That means carving out daily time to focus on a challenge that matters to you — an interesting project, a worthwhile goal, a meaningful conversation. Sometimes it’s a small step toward rediscovering some of the energy and enthusiasm that you’ve missed during all these months.”Adam Grant : There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing
I chose various small (-ish) goals. Alright, maybe some of them weren’t that small. The perfectionist in me always raises its head somewhere. I’m coming at these goals with some grace, self compassion and flexibility. That is my attempt to combat the perfectionist who mostly sets the bar too high. The goals I chose to work on:
- Daily 16:8 intermittent fasting.
- Inspired by Sunday’s sermon, I am working on letting my spiritual disciplines nurture my soul instead of just doing them in a check-it-off-the-list way.
- Complete the (11) business development modules I’ve been working on by the end of the week.
I’m doing well on all these goals so far (and even on track to finish my study modules by the end of the week!) In a fairly short space of time, I feel I’ve left languishing behind and am on the path again towards flourishing. My focus and motivation are better and I’m enjoying some of the little things again.
This Week’s Photos
Here are some of the little things I’ve been enjoying.
I completed 7 months of coaching with two different clients this past week. Here’s what they had to say about coaching with me.
Coaching made me feel more confident and capable of doing things that would have made me worried before.Janna, graduate student
Through coaching with Sue, I identified my core values, learned how those values drive my actions, and developed strategies to identify and navigate challenges when I don’t honour these values. This has allowed me to be more reflective and intentional in my day-to-day life. If you’re interested and open to coaching, I would highly recommend Sue!MO, graduate student
I help people who are too hard on themselves to develop more self compassion, confidence and courage through strengthening mental fitness, powerful reflection and personalized coaching.