Feeling Off From the Pandemic? You’re Not Alone
When you have a flat tire, the next steps are clear: change the flat, get the tire fixed. When your car’s ride just seems less smooth and something’s just “off” – the fix is much less obvious.
That comparison can help explain a common feeling known as languishing that many people now feel after more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re not depressed – they get up daily, go to work and do their thing – but the joy of life feels subdued or “off.”
“Languishing is a part of our culture now, because we’ve all been through some type of loss. I see it in friends and coworkers – it’s commonplace,” said Avera Medical Group psychiatrist Matthew B. Stanley, DO. “Most of us feel that life’s not popping back with the same vibrancy as before. We work, we live our lives, but something feels like it is missing.”
Coming to Terms with the Way You Feel
The COVID-19 pandemic brought worry and changes to almost all aspects of life, including loss of loved ones or of events and routines. It made us question what the future might hold.
Languishing could be a way to describe adjustment problems, coupled with depression or anxiety. This condition has been all-too-common during the pandemic.
“Clinically, we might call this condition an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood,” said Avera Medical Group Behavioral Health Psychologist Nancy Wise-Vander Lee, PhD. “Dealing with these difficult emotions now can lead to better outcomes in the future. Addressing these feelings and all the changes that the last year has held can help us for years to come.”
She said many people experienced loss of friends, family, work changes, financial instability and new responsibilities. Most spheres of our lives were affected.
“More than half the population reported considerable elevations of stress due to COVID-19,” Wise-Vander Lee said. “We can all focus on mental health wellness to achieve a more effective return to that stable feeling that can come after times of worry.”
Wise-Vander Lee said one way to overcome languishing is to engage in things that allow your natural “flow” to occur. That could be any activity where time “flies” – while you’re working, taking part in a pastime or hobby or even some nonsense fun that fully takes your attention.
She also recommended these four practices, many of which are promoted by programs such as the Avera Employee Assistance Program:
Personal Energy Management
- Give your best in work, home or community.
- Practice good sleep habits, including a limit on electronic devices.
- Make exercise a priority to increase your energy and boost mood.
Shift Your Lens: View Situations More Positively
- Reflect on your beliefs to influence your response to challenge.
- Manage emotions by stepping away, slowing down and asking for help.
- Work to maintain social connections with in-person visits (it’s OK if you’re vaccinated) as well as scheduled, regular calls, Zoom meetings or letters to keep in touch.
Maintain a Sense of Purpose
- Reaffirm the life purpose you have and seek ways to move through change with journaling, prayer, meditation and connecting with others.
- Stay in the present, not fearing the future or staying stuck in the past.
- Think about other times that you have overcome adversity.
Follow Basic, Healthy Self-Care Habits
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
- Make time to be outside, even for a short walk.
- Read a positive story or article that offers hope, limit time watching pandemic news.
- Acknowledge and prioritize your needs and those around you.
- Practice deep breathing and self-calming techniques.
“These are suggested activities that can help, but when stress, anxiety or depression interferes with your basic life activities, it’s time to talk to a professional,” she said.
The experiences of the pandemic are not ones we’ll just “shake off” – so remember that as you interact with coworkers, loved ones and family.
“In the last year, people are much more aware of the need for care for one another – and for self-care,” Stanley said. “It could be a silver lining of this experience and one we need to use going forward: support one another and ask for help when you need it.”
If you need support, reach out to professional counselors or your workplace Employee Assistance Programs.