What Is Languishing?

“How are you?” is a question people often ask when they are starting a conversation. The most common responses are “I’m fine,” “I’m good,” and “I’m okay.” But when someone says they’re not doing well, it’s important to ask them “What’s wrong?” instead of dismissing it.

In recent times, the term “languishing” has surfaced as an answer to the question “How are you?” The word itself means “to be or become weak or feeble; lose strength or vigor” or “to be or remain in a state of unpleasant, slow, or dull activity or existence.” Languishing is a state of being stuck or stagnant, with a lack of enthusiasm, joy, or fulfillment in life.

The Origins of Languishing

The term “languishing” as a mental health condition has been around for some time, but it gained recognition during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, many people were unable to pursue their usual activities, faced job insecurity, experienced financial stress, lost loved ones, or were isolated from friends and family.

The range of emotions people experienced during this pandemic has varied from day to day or even hour to hour, depending on the circumstances. Languishing is more than just feeling down or sad; it’s an intermediate state between depression and flourishing.

A person who is languishing may not have the energy to do anything or lacks enthusiasm or passion for something they usually enjoy. They may feel as if they are just going through the motions or stuck at a crossroads. They may also experience a sense of burnout, fatigue, or restlessness.

How to Identify Languishing

The following are some indicators that you or someone you know may be languishing:

  • You feel as if you’re just going through the motions, without enthusiasm or passion for anything.
  • You feel like your career or personal life is on autopilot, without any sense of direction or purpose.
  • You’re not interested in things that used to excite you.
  • You feel disconnected from other people, and you find it difficult to connect with them or make meaningful relationships.
  • You feel like you’re suffocating or stuck.
  • You’re fatigued, even when you’ve had plenty of rest.

The Effects of Languishing

Languishing can have significant impacts on a person’s life, including:

  • Low self-esteem and self-worth
  • Mental health issues such as anxiety or depression
  • Decreased productivity at work or school
  • Increased absenteeism or presenteeism
  • Difficulty in making decisions and feeling stuck
  • Relationship problems in personal as well as professional life

How to Overcome Languishing

It is vital to remember that everyone can overcome languishing with strong will and a little guidance. Here are some ways to move past the state of languishing:

1. Identify the Trigger Points

The first step in overcoming languishing is to identify the trigger points. You need to understand what is causing you to feel stuck or stagnant. Once you have identified the trigger points, you can then start addressing them and find ways to move beyond them.

2. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness refers to paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Languishing can make you feel trapped in negative thinking and emotions, and mindfulness can help break that cycle. When you practice mindfulness, you observe your thoughts without judgment, which can help you understand them better.

3. Set Ambitious Yet Realistic Goals

Setting ambitious yet realistic goals can help motivate you and give you a sense of purpose. It’s important to find a balance between setting goals that challenge you and goals that are achievable. Achieving small goals can help you build momentum and confidence, which can help you overcome languishing more effectively.

4. Increase Social Connections

Humans are social creatures, and social connections play an essential role in our wellbeing. Languishing can cut off social connections, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. It’s essential to reach out to friends and family or join social groups to increase social connections and create new relationships.

5. Take Action

Languishing can make you feel like you’re stuck in place and unable to move forward, but taking action can help break that stagnation. Taking action can be as simple as starting a new hobby, scheduling daily tasks or making plans for the future. These steps towards action can help you build momentum and move forward.

The Importance of Seeking Professional Help

Overcoming languishing isn’t always easy, and it’s essential to seek professional help if you’re struggling. Professional help can provide you with the advice and guidance you need to move past your current state and grow. A mental health professional can help you identify the trigger points, develop skills, and techniques to help you stay motivated and overcome the hurdles that come with languishing.

Final Thoughts

Languishing is a state of being stuck or stagnant with a lack of enthusiasm, joy, or fulfillment in life. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this condition more common. Understanding languishing, its effects and seeking help is essential to overcome it. Practicing mindfulness, setting realistic goals, increasing social connections, taking action, and seeking professional help can help overcome languishing.

FAQs

FAQ 1: What is languishing?

Languishing is a term used to describe a state of stagnation or feeling stuck, as if our lives are on hold. It is characterized by a general sense of apathy, lack of motivation, and disconnection from others. Unlike depression, which involves intense negative feelings, languishing is a more subtle and less extreme form of psychological distress.

FAQ 2: What are the signs of languishing?

Some common signs of languishing include feeling unfulfilled, lacking energy or enthusiasm, having difficulty concentrating, feeling disconnected from others, and being overall dissatisfied with life. Individuals who are languishing may not experience severe distress, but they often struggle to find meaning and purpose in their lives.

FAQ 3: How can we overcome languishing?

To overcome languishing, it’s important to focus on building positive emotions and fostering connections with others. This might include engaging in activities that bring you joy, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones. Additionally, seeking support from a therapist or counselor can help you identify the underlying reasons for your languishing and develop strategies to overcome it. Ultimately, taking small steps towards creating meaning and purpose in your life can help you break free from the stagnation of languishing.


References

1. Cohn, M. A., Fredrickson, B. L., Brown, S. L., Mikels, J. A., & Conway, A. M. (2009). Happiness unpacked: Positive emotions increase life satisfaction by building resilience. Emotion, 9(3), 361–368. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015952

2. Keyes, C. L., & Dhingra, S. S. (2020). Simulating and evaluating a pandemic response via a psychological network model to prevent mental health complications like languishing. The Lancet Digital Health, 2(4), e189–e190. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2589-7500(20)30089-3

3. Skirbekk, V., & Loichinger, E. (2021). The mental health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on short and long-term absenteeism in the workforce. European Journal of Population, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-020-09539-6