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“BLAH, MEH” THAT FEELING HAS A NAME

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Anxiety, PTSD depression, hopelessness, and burnout. Those were the emotions that many of us felt through 2020 but now, I’m just not feeling much of anything.

Thanks to Adam Grant, a professor, and Psychologist from the University of Michigan, I realized there’s a term for it and that I wasn’t the only one in this stage. In his New York Times article, he mentions that after speaking to several friends and colleagues, he realized they were all talking about not looking forward to anything, like “living in a fog”. They would stay up late at night just not caring.

“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 what stops you from being present. You might be “here” but you’re not present nor engaged. Definitely not looking forward to anything. It’s having the “blah’s” but you’re not depressed. It’s a sense of stagnation and emptiness, and despite having the energy to do things, you just can’t because your ability to focus is disrupted. It’s the indifference to your indifference.

After the pandemic grieve, Grant says this might be the dominant emotion of 2021 and I believe juveniles could be the main target considering we already are the most anxious generations with 40% of millennials and 54% of gen z’s reporting they’ve felt anxiety at least once in the past month (according to the Wall Street Journal). But don’t panic just yet, because there is a way to manage Languishing. Remember when at the beginning of the pandemic there was a boom of DIY tutorials and people got into new hobbies that later became Etsy shops? Well, those who stuck to it are less likely to experience languishing because they were the pioneers of getting into “flow”, an antidote to languishing.  Flow is that elusive state you experience when getting into your own time and space when practicing an activity that brings you joy, such as painting or writing. Activities that calm you but can also feel like small achievements.

Although Languishers don’t have symptoms of a mental illness, they’re not the picture of mental health either. Languishing can be just a step away from severe depression, but it’s so silent that it’s hard to diagnose. New evidence from pandemic health care workers in Italy showed that people most likely to suffer from anxiety disorders in the next decade are the ones that are languishing right now. So, it’s time to give voice to quiet despair and rethink our understanding of well-being. Adapt the term languishing into your lexicon in a world where mental health is still being stigmatized and perhaps in the future when someone asks “Hey, how’s it going?” you can answer with a sincere “Well, actually I’ve been languishing”.

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