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You’re not burned out; you’re languishing

A recent article has me convinced that most of my clients and even friends are languishing post-pandemic. They aren’t burned out, depressed, or even in a brain fog; it’s more a sense of stagnation. That is, you know there is a light at the end of the tunnel but aren’t sure you’ll see it.

There are numerous articles written about the physical symptoms of long-haul COVID-19. Many of us know people who still aren’t physically well, but we don’t hear about those suffering from the emotional strain and anguish. Unfortunately, those struggling have no idea that the feelings they feel are common. If you are trying to cope with feeling numb or apathetic, you may feel some sense of shame or guilt for feeling that way. After all, you’re not depressed or ill, but you aren’t thriving either and you’re not sure you ever will again. How do you explain to well-meaning people who ask how you’re doing?

Like all emotional states, self-care is paramount, in helping you work through these feelings of languishing. You will feel joyful again, but it won’t happen magically. Practicing these suggestions will help.

1. Look at your belongings with intention and get rid of clutter. During the pandemic, you may have accumulated excessive “stuff” that you no longer need. Cleaning out the clutter and reorganizing your living space helps you see your situation differently.

2. Give yourself time to do less. During the pandemic, you may have tried to balance childcare, online learning, and a job. Although society glorifies being busy, it isn’t healthy. You need protected time to sit and be still.

3. Step away from your gadgets and distractions. Filling the void or emptiness you feel in your life with scrolling or social media gossip makes you feel more negative and drained. Get outside, take a walk, or open up a novel you’ve been waiting to read.

4. Set small, specific reachable goals. Keep a list of small goals that you can attain. This will boost your confidence and make you feel more in control.

5. Set personal priorities and stop trying to please others. Focus on what’s important to you, instead of worrying about what others will think. Turn off “auto-pilot” and focus on where you are now. Be compassionate with yourself.

When you ask someone how they feel, stop and listen to their answer. How many times do we say, “Fine,” when we really mean we’re languishing? Reclaim your need for stillness and accept that it’s okay to be somewhere in between energetic and depressed. The world is not black and white; respecting and giving a name to the space between the two is the first step to healing.


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