Like many of us, I’m struggling with the re-entry into society. Although I wouldn’t classify myself as an introvert, I have anti-human tendencies like most. And now that I’m among the lucky who are vaccinated, I’m pushing myself to get back out there. It’s not easy.
This NY Times article entitled “Feeling Blah During the Pandemic? It’s Called Languishing …” touches upon this phenomenon. Here’s an excerpt:
Psychologists find that one of the best strategies for managing emotions is to name them. Last spring, during the acute anguish of the pandemic, the most viral post in the history of Harvard Business Review was an article describing our collective discomfort as grief. Along with the loss of loved ones, we were mourning the loss of normalcy. “Grief.” It gave us a familiar vocabulary to understand what had felt like an unfamiliar experience. Although we hadn’t faced a pandemic before, most of us had faced loss. It helped us crystallize lessons from our own past resilience — and gain confidence in our ability to face present adversity.
We still have a lot to learn about what causes languishing and how to cure it, but naming it might be a first step. It could help to defog our vision, giving us a clearer window into what had been a blurry experience. It could remind us that we aren’t alone: languishing is common and shared.
And it could give us a socially acceptable response to “How are you?”
Instead of saying “Great!” or “Fine,” imagine if we answered, “Honestly, I’m languishing.” It would be a refreshing foil for toxic positivity — that quintessentially American pressure to be upbeat at all times.
This excerpt offers some help:
So what can we do about it? A concept called “flow” may be an antidote to languishing. Flow is that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away. During the early days of the pandemic, the best predictor of well-being wasn’t optimism or mindfulness — it was flow. People who became more immersed in their projects managed to avoid languishing and maintained their prepandemic happiness.
An early-morning word game catapults me into flow. A late-night Netflix binge sometimes does the trick too — it transports you into a story where you feel attached to the characters and concerned for their welfare.
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. This was a problem long before the pandemic, when people were habitually checking email 74 times a day and switching tasks every 10 minutes. In the past year, many of us also have been struggling with interruptions from kids around the house, colleagues around the world, and bosses around the clock. Meh.
Also see this NY Times piece entitled “How to Feel Better,” suggesting using cooking as a way to get into some flow…
So let me start by being embarrassed. I pulled these pearls of wisdom from a Jonathan Foust dharma talk a while ago – but I forgot which one! Anyway, Jonathan talked about the notion of post-traumatic growth. To find the resiliency inside and resist the urge to get over your pandemic trauma without taking in the lessons learned. Don’t just simply move on. Be that trapeze artist and sit with the trauma. Give yourself permission to grieve. Let it get big. Really big.
This is an analog of the idea that it isn’t wise to suppress anger, that’s what makes people sick. Emotions are energy waves. So take this experience – which likely is not a “happy place” – and allow it to be transformative. That is if you’re tired of own story. Use this as an opportunity to break the habit of being yourself.
So following up on this blog, here are five lessons I’ve learned from the pandemic that I am striving to keep in my life:
1. Walking the neighborhood – I’ve always walked the neighborhood since we have a dog. But during the pandemic, I really walked the neighborhood. I now appreciate the beauty of waving to strangers much more. Of just being outside.
2. Being with like-minded people – Lucky for me, I was in a “Year of Living Mindfully” program when the pandemic started. We moved our meetings online like everyone else, and that community became that much more important to me as a lifeline to sanity.
3. Enjoy the quiet moments with myself – Meditation makes you more aware.
4. The joys of pickleball – I resisted for a spell, but I’ve come to enjoy the competition that was so much a part of my life for decades. My hoops friends made the move outside and learned a new game.
5. My loving wife, boys, dog and family – My relationship with my wife only grew stronger during the pandemic. We didn’t miss a beat and I try to be aware of how special that is. Our boys were in far-flung places but the family stayed very connected. My side of the family conducted weekly Zoom calls for the year. And Willa, our dog, became a big part of the lessons learned. She didn’t know anything about the pandemic – I think – and watching her have that mindset was very informative…
The pandemic definitely is forcing many of us to take a hard look at our lives. It’s hard not to be depressed, particularly as climate change, racial injustice, the possibility of an endless pandemic are all too real.
I recently read something where the author urged us to make at least one hard decision in our life. I’m spacing where I read it – but it made an impact. Of course, many of us make hard decisions all the time – we’re often forced to do so. But this particular notion was about taking a big risk to try to better align your life with where you perhaps once saw it. That kind of thing.
An obvious change of that nature is quitting a job you don’t like anymore. Or maybe you never did. This article about quitting discusses that. Changing a relationship. Having a child. Getting a pet. Jumping out of a plane. The list is endless. It will be interesting to see how many people decide to make big life changes – if they haven’t already – once they’re vaccinated.
For me, I left a comfortable job to go seek my fortune in “Just Saying Yes” right before the pandemic hit. So I never got to say “yes” too often – but I did realize that I’m the type of person that needs to be working. In addition to launching a free instructional video site for those in my field a few months ago, I just took a job with a law firm ranked among the “100 Best Places to Work” – the law firm ranked highest on that list (there are four firms listed, believe it or not) to do something experimental and innovative.
So I’m really leaning into my passion – being among like-minded people, striving to build community and educate in a way that is truly genuine. I am a lucky man…
I’m a wee bit superstitious, unconsciously relying on “signs” when I feel challenged to rely on my own intellect. I guess looking for a sign is some form of intuition. Anyway, I almost never look at my horoscope – but yesterday I decided to take a peek and it fit the bill:
With the Moon in Aquarius, you are relying on strange coincidences, surprises and synchronicities that are all around you, and feel like you must protect yourself from issues that aren’t rewarding enough. This is a good moment to decipher the stars or numerous events that took place in your life, so you can collect information and get deeper understanding for your own situation.
Don’t waste energy on superficial contacts and small talk. Things that are difficult for you don’t have to be overcome and you can simply commit to those that make you calm.
Of course, I’m well aware of confirmation bias and that we imprint our own motivations – consciously or subconsciously – into most of what we do. But I’ll take what I can get…