Languishing and the Doldrums - the new "normal"
According to the New York Times recently they claimed that the majority of people are now in a phase that is coined as "languishing" . This period of time could also be referred to as the "doldrums" which dates back to when sea fairing ships were caught without wind sometimes for weeks in a belt around the equator. They experienced a spell of listlessness or despondency, lack of activity and stagnation in other terms "the blues".
Languishing is the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness as time goes on.
The term was coined by a sociologist named Corey Keyes, who was struck that many people who weren’t depressed also weren’t thriving. His research suggests that the people most likely to experience major depression and anxiety disorders in the next decade aren’t the ones with those symptoms today. They’re the people who are languishing right now.
During these times it is difficult to keep optimism or hope going.
Here are some strategies to help cope during this time:
Reframe your thinking about the pandemic
Although the Pandemic has been, and is, devastating to many people who have lost loved ones or are ill themselves , there are also some positives that have come out of the Pandemic.
- More people are able to work from home cutting down commute times of often more that an hour each way.
-Working from home allows us to have more time to ourselves and to take a walk on a break.
-You may be getting a break from co-workers you don't like sitting next to, or family you don't like seeing that often.
-Many companies are going to keep people working from home either full or part time once the Pandemic is over.
-More people are moving out into smaller towns decongesting cities.
-The earth is healing. Less cars on the road = less pollution and noise pollution.
- People are shifting their consumer mentality by not being able to buy so impulsively.
-We are thinking more sustainably.
-We are getting an experience of what we have taken for granted in our freedom.
-We are realizing how important our families, friends and social groups are to us.
-The entire world is in this with us which is unprecedented. Nothing will be the same as it was again.
Take a break from the Panademic!
Don't watch news for a day. When you watch news it puts you into a hypervigilant state which sets off your nervous system and causes your fear and tension to escalate. Being in this state of hypervigilance can become the new normal making it harder to relax.
-Go out into nature
-Listen to a comedy channel or watch comedy movies. Laughing increases endorphins.
-look at old photo albums of trips already taken .
-Try to NORMALIZE your world for a day. That means trying to find ways to forget about covid and the world once in a while in your own home.
Set an Intention to Unplug
Set aside some time each day to unplug from all electronics, computers, cell phones, tablets and social media outlets. Just breath and be!
Stay in social contact
Introverts may have an easier time of being in isolation as they recharge their batteries by being alone. Extroverts on the other hand get energized from being with other people so they may have a harder time with loss of socializing.
Have video coffee dates with family and friends. Go for social distancing walks when allowed. Stay connected to family and friends, social groups - people in your life who you trust , who can help you calm down, have a laugh with and who you can turn to for support. Avoid negative people who generally increase your anxiety.
We are all in social isolation
Try to do some project you have been putting off. If you want to clean a room start small with one table or desk so you don't get overwhelmed.
Get out into nature while self isolating
Did you know that when we take a walk in the forest and breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in phytoncides which are airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal qualities which help plants fight disease. According to research, when people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond in a number of ways that help:
- boost the immune system
- lower blood pressure
- reduce stress
- improve your mood
- increase your ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
- accelerate recovery from surgery or illness
- increase your energy level
- improve your sleep
Green spaces in urban areas are just as important as rural forests. Gardens, parks and street trees make up what is called an urban and community forest. These pockets of greenspace are vitally important because they are the sources of our daily access to trees.
Spending time in nature helps you focus. Our lives are busier than ever with jobs, school, and family life. Trying to focus on many activities or even a single thing for long periods of time can mentally drain us, a phenomenon called Directed Attention Fatigue. Spending time in nature, looking at plants, water, birds and other aspects of nature gives the cognitive portion of our brain a break, allowing us to focus better and renew our ability to be patient.
Patients recover from surgery faster and better when they have a "green" view. Hospital patients may be stressed from a variety of factors, including pain, fear, and disruption of normal routine. Research found that patients with "green" views had shorter postoperative stays, took fewer painkillers, and had slightly fewer postsurgical complications compared to those who had no view or a view of a cement wall.
Play a game
Play a game with your kids or partner while phones, tv, computers are all off. Take up a craft or paint. Read a book (not a scary, violent or suspenseful one)
Practice Relaxation and Calm.
Try lying on the bed or couch and breathing into your belly. Count to 4 on the breath in, hold for the count of 7, breath out your mouth on the
count of 8. Repeat.
Try meditation or Yoga . There are lots of internet meditation or yoga classes. Try this link to do a calming chakra meditation: https://youtu.be/jeGT1VXwfx4
Choose an activity that works for you.
Lie down and listen to soothing music while you breath and look around at your surroundings or try just breathing and closing your eyes.
Try to decrease other stress in your life. Don't make major or impulsive decisions. We need to be centered and calm to make those.
You are resilient so be careful with the "What if's". Our stress and anxiety cause us to focus on the what if's and think about worst case scenarios. If you catch yourself thinking about worst case scenarios, you have gone down the rabbit hole with your thoughts. When you catch yourself doing this, try to look at the thought as "just a thought" and a red flag that you are stressed. Then practice with some tools (as stated above), to calm yourself down. Your body can't distinguish whether what you are thinking about is real or not and will react by tensing up, increasing your heart rate and clenching your stomach. If you change your thoughts to calm ones or calm memories your body will respond in kind.
When we are stressed we overestimate how bad the situation is and underestimate how well we can cope. We are resilient and use coping skills and make decisions every day! Reach out to family, friends or colleagues or professionals.
Create a gratitude journal
Write down every day 5 things you are grateful for. This method has been clinically proven to cut depression in half when done long enough!
Be kind to yourself.
Be kind to yourself. We are all in this together ! Beware of negative self talk. Be gentle with yourself if you make a mistake, compliment yourself every day. Try not to put yourself down. If you can’t think of any kind words to say to yourself, think of what a kind friend might say to you.
Careful about numbing out
Avoid substance abuse including smoking and vaping. Limit caffeine and alcohol. Its tempting to numb ourselves when we are stressed. Also stay active. physical activity is a great way to reduce stress. If you are isolated at home use your stairs or follow an exercise video on YouTube. Go for a walk around the block.
Remember nothing lasts forever.
People have lived through wars and plagues and have come out the other side. Tell yourself "this too shall pass"