Everyone around you is back to business for weeks now. Going out for drinksdating again, rushing off to 'green light' countries on a mini break. But you still can't feel yourself.

Why can't you just get back to normal, even now?

When back to normal feels exhausting

You are far from alone in not being able to just act like everything is fine after the last year of global ups and downs. It might just mean that you are a sensitive person, or someone who isn’t naturally resilient but takes longer to accommodate changes.

Or it could mean that you were already a mild depression and/or anxiety sufferer before the pandemic hit. And it’s all rolled into what one writer has aptly called ‘languishing’.

What is ‘languishing’?

  • Don't really feel depressed, but don’t feel good, either? More like you’ve flatlined?
  • Don’t have negative thoughts, just feel empty?
  • Have seriously reduced motivation?
  • Struggle to focus?
  • Just can’t be excited about, well… anything?
  • Can’t keep up with time, and sometimes mix up your days?
  • Have to push yourself out of bed in the morning, and to bed at night?
'Languishing' describes a sort of nether zone that isn’t diagnosable depression, but certainly isn’t mental wellbeing, either.

In a New York Times article by Adam Grant he points out how we were all high on the fight or flight stress response at the beginning of the pandemic. Now it’s like many of us have just crashed. He applied the term 'languishing', first coined by sociologist Corey Keyes back in 2002, to the situation. And the idea has gone viral.

SOLUTION: One of Grant’s suggestions for moving past lethargy is to find ‘flow state’. This is basically mindfulness, finding time daily that do something that helps you be fully present, whether that is drawing, dancing, or talking to a friend. He also points out that we can all benefit from small wins at the moment. It’s time to dust off your goal setting skills and find achievable things to work towards.

Social anxiety says hello again

In the joy of a world gone quiet and party-free, did you forget for a second there that you were actually a social anxiety sufferer?

You might find that now it feels your social anxiety is back with a vengeance, and worse than ever.

It’s more likely that it’s the same as it was, but now, after such an unexpected anxiety-free window, it just feels harsh in comparison. And that perhaps your social skills are rusty.

SOLUTION: Stop comparing yourself to your more extroverted friends, as comparison leads to depression. Just compare yourself to yourself and take small but steady challenges.

I lost my friends and feel lonely

For some of us, being able to see our friends is bittersweet, as the pandemic has created social rifts that means we don't really have any now. Or perhaps lockdown was the end of your romantic relationship and you've lost your 'couple' social circle. So suddenly you feel lonely.

Loneliness is connected to depression, so it is important to take it seriously.

SOLUTION: Focus on identifying what your values are. What groups can you join that reflect those values and mean you'll meet people who share them, and will be a natural fit for friendship? Or start a value-aligned side hustle with your new free time, and connect with people who share your passions.

Going back to work is depressing the heck out of me

Another thing blocking many from leaning into normal is that they’ve had the time to realise what life without the office every day might be like. And the idea of going back to the grind is beyond miserable.

SOLUTION: Ask if your workplace is considered hybrid working, if they haven’t mentioned it already, with a few days a week working from home. Or, if you realise you actually hate your job, don’t overlook the power of career counselling to help you find the steps forward to a job you want.

But nothing is helping

If your thoughts have become negative and despairing for several weeks or more, you are seeing changes to your eating and/or sleeping, or you have no interest in any of the hobbies you used to love? Languishing might have rolled into depression, and it’s time to reach out for support.

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