Feeling A Bit ‘Blah’? Turns Out It’s Called Languishing And You’re Not Alone


Today marks R U OK? Day, a very important yearly event that encourages us to check in on the mental health of our loved ones and those around us.

And while I’ve always found it easy to do so, what I’m struggling with at the moment is my response to being asked the question myself.

I’m typically a “yeah I’m fine!” respondant or “work is busy but other than that all good!” to add some flavour in there, but what the hell do you say when you’re just feeling “blah”?

Like most, I’m mourning the time lost while we’re in lockdown, but I also know it’s for the best. So I wouldn’t go to the extent to say I’m overly sad, but I’m just not my usual go-getting, full-of-life self, either. It’s not something that feels so off to be concerning (I don’t think), but also saying “I’m fine” feels wrong.

Relief came quickly when I heard the term ‘languishing’ and was led to a New York Times article where author Adam Grant summed up the symptoms of he and his friends: “It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing.”

And I tell you what, even just having a word to associate with such a feeling already makes me feel so much better.

The article goes on to describe languishing as “the middle child of mental health”; you’re not thriving but you’re not depressed either.

If this sounds familiar to yourself, firstly, hi friend. And secondly, while I certainly don’t expect a ‘cure’ for this feeling until lockdown is well and truly a thing of the past, Grant did offer some antidote advice to languishing, which he calls ‘flow’. 

“While finding new challenges, enjoyable experiences and meaningful work are all possible remedies to languishing, it’s hard to find flow when you can’t focus,” he wrote. And a foggy focus is certainly something I’ve been experiencing.

Here’s two methods I’m going to try to counteract this:

  • Create boundaries: For me, this is going to be work-related; creating boundaries in areas such as how often I check my emails and when (instead of just ten thousand times a day because I can). For others, it could be uninterrupted time with your kids where you switch everything else off, or even physical boundaries (if possible), like creating one room for work only (instead of working from the couch).
  • Small goals only: How come even in a pandemic we’re still trying to do a million things at once? I know I certainly felt like I should be killing it at work, writing a book on the weekends and going for runs every day. But failing at multiple things feels sh*t. So I’m just going to try and succeed at one thing at a time.

And the reason for me sharing this story? Now that we have a word for it, share with your friends how you’re feeling. It’s so easy to opt for the “I’m fine” response but R U OK? Day is not just about asking the question, it’s about responding with an honest answer too. 

If you or someone you know needs help you can call Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyondblue 1300 224 636.

Main image credit: Getty

Are you ok today? Does languishing sound relatable to you too?

Share your thoughts

Comments 50

  1. Definitely have been feeling ‘BLAH’ never heard of the phrase ‘languishing’ before for myself personally I have been very sick getting over an illness I do suffer from Fibromyalgia and Costochondritis so my whole body hurts all of the time. With the lockdown as it goes longer has increased my Stress Levels as well like Miss19 hope it will end soon.

  2. No lockdown in WA but still in a languish as chronic pain has felled me. My small goal is getting past a house inspection on Tuesday. Then next goal is doing some pool walking and light exercise to feel fit for an op on 8th October. So still have goals just feel tired and sh** all the time. Prayers for all the languishing lockdowners.

  3. Oh, and BTW, I should have added in my last message……every email I’ve tried to send re the Best In Beauty Trial has bounced back to me ??? Absolutely NO idea as to why. I’ve checked and double checked that I’ve written the address correctly. Perhaps my iPad is ‘languishing’ too……

    I have submitted all of my reviews though. I did it the ‘usual’ way, not via the link provided, they kept bouncing back :-@

  4. How beautiful – thank you, Samantha. The “when will it end” is something we all have to cope with and my heart goes out to young parents trying to work from home AND home school at the same time.

    Sending hugs and/or high fives to all BH Staff and members.

  5. I find that my job working with special needs children recharges my batteries daily. Each day is different and the kids bring me so much joy. Its impossible to feel down with them in my life.

  6. I’m really enjoying the downtime in lockdown. I know that for a lot of extroverts must be hating it but I like the slower pace of life and just enjoying the simple things.

  7. I know there are so many people out there struggling with lockdown and I really feel for them. Work commitments, home schooling, being with each other 24hrs a day (if you’re not used to it) can really take its toll.

    I’ve quite enjoyed the lockdown period but at the same time I’ll be glad when we have more freedom. Being able to do the simple things in life such as going out for a coffee and catch up would be appreciated.

    No languishing for me. I’ve been as busy as a bee but the best thing that’s come out of lockdown is that I’ve got hubby walking. We walk 6kms each day – a total of 1hr 6mins – so that keeps us fit and healthy.

    Naturally there are loads of things I miss – like holding my granddaughter who will now spend her 1st birthday in lockdown; the small family get togethers; travelling when we want to, etc etc. but what we have to remember is that our current situation won’t be forever.

    I know I’m one of the lucky ones and the only real problem is keeping hubby occupied so he doesn’t get bored.

  8. aaww thank you Samantha. Actually I feel like im the lucky one. I get so much more from the kids then im able to give. Not once have I ever got up in the morning and not wanted to go to work.

  9. I have a mental health illness and I feel like this all of the time. What is joy? What is happiness? Even with beautiful children and a wonderful husband I don’t feel joy. Even on medication and in therapy.

  10. I would imagine there are a lot of people who are not ok at the moment. All of the scaremongering and threats by the Government and the Health Departments saying if we don’t get vaccinated we will lose our “privileges” and “freedoms.” We are not prisoners and we are not in jail. What has happened to our country and the rest of the world? I for one struggle to deal with things at the moment and I am by no means an anti-vaxer, and am only hesitant when it comes to this particular vaccine and I don’t want to be told I have to be vaccinated and also that I cannot have a choice of vaccines. RUOK Day should be every day for the time being.

  11. Informative article – I struggle every day so I just plan my day, buzy buzy buzy, Walk my dogs , weed the garden, care for my elderly mum, bake and try to be very grateful for my life.

  12. I’m in Victoria and it sounds to me like lockdown fever. It’s not just about feeling stuck, it’s also when will it end. So many thoughts and feelings. I think I will leave it there….

  13. Languishing describes it perfectly! I have to try and write a list each day so I feel like I’m actually doing something. I’m looking forward to getting my vaccine on Wednesday because I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something.

  14. I’m so sorry that you feel this way, perthchick! I’ve experienced depression in the past & it’s something that regularly tries to pop its head back up. You could pop onto the “Lift Esteem” thread on the forum.

    Sending love! ❤️️

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