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Languishing: The “Bleh” you’ve been experiencing

Experiencing bleh during these uncertain times is completely normal. Just keep going! Here are some tips to help you!

During the Quarantine have you felt boredom, “I don’t care”, or dread “There’s nothing to do, what’s the point of all this?”, felt low motivation “I don’t feel like doing anything “ loneliness, numbness like everything around you in unreal or even a sense of being “detached” from your own body?. If you have, you are not alone. What you have been experiencing is calling “Languishing”. 

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Young upset woman holding book looking through window while sitting on sofa in living room at home during quarantine

Languishing (verb): To exist in an unpleasant or unwanted situation, often for a long time.

Cambridge English Dictionary

Quarantine, social distancing and isolation are terms we have heard more than we’d like to in the past year. Since March 2020, we have been looking forward to “normal” days and with the first wave coming to an end in most countries and especially in India, we let our guards down. We set to experience life as we had known it, unfortunately for us, the second wave hit, and we were back where we started. Covid-19 has led to a disruption of life and daily routines and a drastic decrease in social contact.

Psychologists have suggested the side-effect of the pandemic may be far greater than once thought. A study conducted in India in March 2020 found that 10.5% of the 168 participants reported symptoms of depression. Boredom and feelings of isolation and loneliness have been on the rise. Lifestyle changes as a result of the lockdowns such as changes in appetite, sleep, screen time and overall routine result in an overall low mood with negative consequences. 

What is Languishing? 

Before we can figure out how to deal with it, let us discuss what languishing is and how it influences us. 

A situation like the ongoing Pandemic causes us to unravel a string of uncomfortable thoughts and emotions in us. Loss of work-life balance, loss of a sense of security, financial strains, loss of social support, diminished social interactions, countless deaths and an un- escapable sense of loss of control. It results in low mood and feelings of dread; we may get anxious and procrastinate.

Here’s something to know: 

  • What you’re feeling is understandable in response to quarantine or self-isolation 
  • It is not your fault; you are not causing yourself to feel the way you do 
  • Feeling this way doesn’t mean that you are weak or too sensitive or vulnerable 
  • Emotions and thoughts are like waves that peak and subside, even though it feels like it won’t go away, it does.
  • We have to capability to take control of how we feel, at least to some extent by practising some techniques.
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What can I do?

Experiencing languishing can cause high amounts of distress. Low moods, physical manifestations of crying or sobbing may also present themselves, leaving us feeling defeated at the mercy of our distressful thoughts and emotions. Low amounts of energy and motivation may in turn create an endless cycle of distress. Therefore, gaining control of these thoughts and emotions is key is breaking this unhelpful cycle. 

Here are some immediate steps you can take:

Physical Activity

A simple yet effective technique may be to indulge in physical activity for around 2 to 5 minutes. This need not be elaborate and may be as simple as moving your neck up and down, rotating your shoulders, moving your arms in circles, moving slowly from head to toe. It is important to become your own cheerleader for making the effort and as a first step towards feeling better! 

Eating “sharp” food

This one is interesting, sometimes all we need to jumpstart ourselves is to eat something with a sharp taste- spicy, sour, sweet, crunchy or chewy and a glass of cold water! This may make you feel more present with your surroundings. It is, however, only temporary and only a start to your journey of breaking the cycle. 

Listening to energizing music

Sometimes the simple act of listening to music itself may be all one needs to feel more present and connected to their surroundings. So blast that metal and pop and dance if you have to, anything that gets your groove back! 

Buy an Alexa!

Keeping a Mood Diary 

Keeping a diary of how one feels can be extremely helpful for us to understand what and how we feel. questions like; How did I feel this morning? In the afternoon? In the evening? etc.

One may even attempt to rate this mood. A template for this is: 

DateTimeTasks FeelingRating
MorningOnline ClassBored, Tired7
14-06-21AfternoonCooked LunchHappy8
EveningExerciseEnergized, Tired5
NightSocial MediaAngry6

Find a mood diary here.

Find things to do 

During this period of inactivity, boredom, and low motivation, it is important to understand the link between our emotions and behaviours. How we feel can influence how we behave.

For instance, getting scolded by a parent may cause Person A to feel sad and cause them to cry while may cause Person B to get angry and retaliate. Similarly, how we behave may influence how we feel. Therefore, being mindful of this, we can influence how we feel. It is necessary to realize our goal is not to be productive but to simply break the monotony of the day. 

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Engaging in activities which cause pleasure

Playing music, talking to a friend, studying, playing a game with a sibling, etc. anything which may require our active involvement rather than more passive activities such as scrolling through social media, or watching a movie. One can start small, slowly building our motivation as we schedule activities in the day. 

Practicing Mindfulness 

There are various mindful practices that one may use to feel more connected and active in our daily tasks. It prevents ruminating or thinking about the past. This rumination is something that is often proven to be unhelpful and therefore being more connected to the present may help us feel more in control of our ways in dealing with our immediate surroundings. Also, look at grounding techniques. Mindfulness in our daily tasks may include mindful eating, mindful conversations, mindful walking, mindful bathing, etc. 

Distraction and Self-soothing techniques 

The aim of dealing with the “bleh” is to function well enough to help one carry out daily tasks without it affecting our mental health.

Therefore one can use the following to achieve this: 

  • Distraction using pleasurable activities: painting, composing music, watching funny videos, etc.
  • Helping someone else: helping a parent or sibling or a friend or relative over the phone 
  • Not paying attention to oneself: Simply observing the surrounding from where one’s at, from the balcony, counting and naming details etc. 

Other grounding techniques have been discussed on this blog before: check it out here.

Find a mindfulness colouring book here.

 Be Self Compassionate 

Dealing through a Pandemic is extremely hard. The news can be tough to consume, messages about the rising number of deaths and cases of people known and unknown is something traumatizing for many of us.

We are quick to be kind and understanding to others around us, yet we find it hard to do so with ourselves. Especially through these difficult times it is important to be kind and empathetic to ourselves. When faced with a difficult thought or emotions try this: 

Ask yourself: If my best friend was going through this, what would I tell them which would make them feel better? 

The chances are, you are more compassionate towards someone you love. So use your own advice, give yourself space to fail, accept it as a normal part of being human, take a deep breathe and try again. 

You’re not alone in this. 

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3 comments

  1. All the best to you Jeanne, you write well. Coincidentally I too believe I am a reluctant entrepreneur.

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