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.
Main image credit: Getty
Are you ok today? Does languishing sound relatable to you too?