Poornima Prasad B M
At the beginning of 2021, I was excited to get back to work on a regular basis with students around. However, when the lockdown was announced due to the second wave of COVID-19, I started stressing out because I had to stay home, again. Since the pandemic began, psychologists across the world have been curious about the effects of lockdown, the virus itself and work-from-home setting.
As a week of working from home passed in the current wave, I started feeling sluggish. I started experiencing psychosomatic symptoms like unusual dryness in the throat, frequent headaches, drowsiness, anxiety and irritability. There was a constant struggle to get off the bed for the day’s work. I had to manage household chores along with work. Little did I know that these were the symptoms of Languishing.
Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton reported about the phenomenon in April this year and has predicted that the most common emotion that would be experienced in 2021 as a result of the pandemic would be languishing. Languishing simply means failing to make progress or be successful. It includes feeling weak due to physical sickness or staying indoors for a prolonged duration.
One may experience languishing as a result of a restrained social life. Especially in the case of extroverts who have previously enjoyed meeting people have been found to experience this more often than their counterparts. It may also occur as a result of work pressure or burnout. The main reason for burnout may be that home is a place of comfort which has also become the place of work for almost a year now. This lack of boundary between work and home has made many individuals experience burnout which eventually leads to languishing, say experts. Grief is also one of the reported causes for one to languish.
Being in the middle of a pandemic, looking at people losing their lives to the virus creates anxiety among people. There are also reports stating that the virus itself has been causing negative thoughts and emotions in those affected by it. People with long-term sickness or immunocompromised also seem to experience the phenomenon as they are restricted to stay at home for they might be more prone to get affected.
How to recognize if someone is experiencing the phenomenon?
Experts say that the symptoms of languishing start with feeling exhausted when one is half a day through. There is disinterest observed in activities that one previously enjoyed doing. There is a constant feeling of being stuck, feeling sluggish along with demotivation accompanied by negative thoughts. However, the intensity of experiencing these symptoms also depends on subjective experiences and situations.
Here are a few ways in which one could deal with the “blah” feeling-
‘me’ time- Taking out time for self-care, engaging in existing hobbies or developing new ones and to contemplate thoughts is one of the best ways to deal with the phenomenon.
Yoga and physical exercises- Practicing yoga, meditation, regular physical and breathing exercises not only helps one cope with COVID-19 but helps relieve the mind from negative thoughts and yields stronger mental health.
Connect with people virtually- Technology has grown far beyond imagination to keep people connected. Try calling up old friends, relatives and family. This may be a good chance to reconnect and build better relationships with them along with relaxing the mind and feeling refreshed.
Take frequent breaks- Sitting in a place for too long is not at all a good idea as one may also end up developing a mental boundary within the self which may initially feel comfortable but may lead to feeling lonely in the long run. Our brains crave new stimuli engaging all our senses. Taking frequent breaks, at least for 5 minutes every hour to walk around the house or to sip some water will help one to stay focused on the task, stay in the moment and leave one feeling refreshed.
Stay hydrated- Water consumption is a must when staying indoors and focused on a task. It helps the brain function better and leaves one refreshed.
Journaling- Writing down my experiences of the day before I slept has helped me immensely with regard to keeping a track of my feelings, emotions and productivity each day. It helps one stay focused on the task at hand, recognize and monitor one’s patterns of thoughts, emotions and actions.
Practice gratitude- These are the times to count our blessings while we are safe or recovering. It is time to be thankful for what we have around that keeps us safe and sane. Writing down things one is grateful for every morning before starting work or classes is one way to feel and stay positive throughout the day.
Seek professional help if necessary- Experts have reported that the virus has been affecting mental health along with the physical health of those affected by it. It is also common for people to experience loneliness and anxiety as a result of social isolation. It is suggested that one should seek help from professional counsellors and psychologists when they need hand-holding to overcome the situation. There are various organizations like Muktha Foundation by Ms. Ashwini NV, Covid Mental Health Support by MyInsight Clinic and Manadani Helpline by Mr. Raghu Dixit to name a few, providing free counselling services for people in need of such services.
As much as it is important for one to take care of their physical health during these tough times, it is equally important to take care of their mental health. Keeping an eye on the family members’ mental health as well might help, as we do not want them to invalidate their psychological experiences.
Poornima Prasad B M is a Lecturer of Psychology at NSoJ.