Identifying and Coping with Languishing

“Languishing” has been one of the mental health buzzwords of the COVID era. The term was coined back in 2002 by sociologist Corey Keyes but brought more into the public spotlight by this New York Times article last year. Depression is an extremely prevalent mental illness, with approximately 18 million people in the United States are diagnosed with clinical depression every year. However many more suffer from a milder form, a perpetual state of feeling “defeated, frustrated, and unmotivated”, an emotional exhaustion called languishing. Let’s talk about languishing, how it’s similar to yet different from depression and other mental health conditions, and how someone who is languishing can cope with these negative feelings. 

Languishing is the often-undiscussed state between depression and flourishing. Flourishing is when you are moving forward, feeling connected with your relationships, career, and life, personally growing with confidence in your own well-being. Languishing, by contrast, is living a life of going through the motions (at best) while not mentally functioning at full capacity. Your motivation is gone and your ability to focus is disrupted. Previously easy tasks become more daunting. Just kind of slogging through the days – languishing triples the odds that you’ll get lazy about work. 

While not as severe as clinical depression, languishing is strongly related – in his research, Keyes found that the risk of a major depressive episode was almost six times greater in languishing adults than those who were flourishing. It can be a lifesaver to work your way out of a languishing state before it develops into greater challenges.

Some keys to overcoming languishing include:

Being intentional about self-care. You’ve recognized what you are suffering from, now allow yourself some compassion and time to take care of yourself. Start making choices with forgiveness and improvement in mind.

Practice gratitude and celebrate your successes. Pay attention to all the good that is around you! Make special note of all the small “wins” in your day and you’ll probably soon discover that you’re doing much better than you thought. 

Set some new goals for yourself. If there are things in your life that need improving, now’s the time to get started. Small, realistic steps quickly build into bigger wins, and the momentum can swing your whole outlook upwards with it. Even something as easy as getting started with a new hobby can bring fresh excitement into your life.

Find your flow. Put yourself into a flow state with activities that draw your focus into something you enjoy. Whether as intense as a jazz musician channeling in song or even as casual as getting engrossed in a book or TV series, investing time paying a deeper form of attention helps you value the moment you’re in.

Get out and have fun. Healthy relationships are crucial for healthy lives. Connecting with others and being social – even when you don’t feel like it beforehand – is an important tool to lift yourself into flourishing. Do stuff.

Reach out to resources. Languishing and depression are difficult conditions to bear. From our 24/7 emergency helpline (603-434-1577 Option 1) and walk-in crisis assessments at our Derry location, to a full range of mental health, family support, and substance use services, Center for Life Management offers you many options to be heard and receive support.