This past year tested all of us. While everyone faced a unique set of challenges during the pandemic, we all experienced that sense of stagnation and feeling blah at different points—hence, the growing popularity of the term “languishing.” Some of us felt it worse than others, and are still feeling stuck.
“Many people continue to reel and feel deflated by the ups and downs of the pandemic, says Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist, speaker, and author of upcoming book, Date Smart. “Many people have experienced a sense of languishing, and this is natural given the stressors of the pandemic. Languishing can result when the body and mind seek a ‘necessary break’ yet a habit evolves that contributes to a sense of decline.”
As we emerge from the fog of the pandemic, we’re eager to press "go" in all aspects of our lives. This is where flourishing, the opposite of languishing, comes in. We spoke to several mental health experts for tips and techniques to start thriving.
Understand and accept that what you are feeling is normal
It’s important, first of all, to honor that languishing often originates from a protective response to trauma or overwhelm, Dr. Manly explains. Once we appreciate this truth, we can then compassionately notice what led to the languishing behavior.
Far from being an abnormal or “lazy,” those who experienced languishing behavior during the pandemic were actually displaying natural responses to a highly complicated, disempowering experience.
Journal about a time in your life when you felt you were flourishing
How were you taking care of yourself? How were you accessing support? How did you feel about yourself (emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially)? How can you apply what you learned from that experience to fostering flourishing now? This journaling prompt can help you draw about lessons learned from the past and apply them to your current situation, says Joyce Marter, LCPC, licensed psychotherapist and author of The Financial Mindset Fix: A Mental Fitness Program for an Abundant Life.
Journal about what your life would look like if you were truly flourishing
Write it in the present tense as if it is actually happening now, Marter explains. What kind of work are you doing? What are your relationships like? How is your mental and physical health? How are you spending your time? How does it feel to have blossomed into your best self? This type of visioning has long been used in sports psychology because if we can imagine accomplishing something, we increase the likelihood that we will.
Take small, actionable steps
To break the “languishing habit,” start by taking small, actionable steps forward each day. Create a list of top priorities—the needs that must be addressed—and focus on accomplishing at least two or three of the top priorities per day, Dr. Manly states. This might be as simple as taking a 15-minute walk each day to get an exercise routine going or something more involved such as drafting a new resume or tackling housecleaning one room at a time.
Apply what you learned from the pandemic to the way you lived your life previously
Identify three to five lessons you learned and apply them to your post-pandemic plan. For example, if you found that sheltering in place caused you to curb overspending at salons, restaurants/bars, or entertainment/travel, maintain some of the behaviors that led to more cushion in your bank account so you can flourish financially, says Marter.
Or if you noticed you resumed an old hobby, like knitting or playing an instrument, don’t ditch those practices as you reenter the world—keep doing what fills your cup and causes you to flourish. Write about these in your journal. Tell somebody your intention and ask them for some accountability.
Reward yourself for your progress
Make sure to reward yourself for every positive step forward. As you complete each task on your list, offer yourself a feel-good reward such as 30 minutes of watching your favorite Netflix show in exchange for every 30 minutes of cleaning, Dr. Manly explains. This type of reward system supports the positive, flourishing-oriented mindset so essential for getting unstuck from languishing energy.
Our relationships are the key to flourishing and succeeding, so reconnect with your support network
Nurture relationships that have been neglected during the past year and plant seeds for new relationships that will inspire you and lift you up, Marter states. Break through barriers that keep us from asking for the help, and ask for the support you need and deserve from people who are capable of giving it to you.
In your journal, write the names of the people in your support network and what types of support they provide you (emotional, spiritual, professional, etc.) Identify what kind of support you need more of and who you are going to ask for what. Identify any areas of deficit in your support network and write out an action plan for cultivating new relationships in those areas. Consider enlisting the support of professionals who could help you flourish, such as a therapist, coach, or financial advisor.
Create a post-pandemic vision board
With an eye toward your wildest hopes and dreams, let your imagination take you into an empowering realm where you flourish in body, mind, and spirit, says Dr. Manly. Don’t worry that you’re setting yourself up for failure, because vision boards are not about being perfect or necessarily accomplishing anything in particular. Vision boards let the creative spirit “wake up” to see and reimagine fresh possibilities in life.
Invest in your self-care
So often, we think we need something outside of ourselves to make our lives flourish when the reality is that we have everything we need internally. The more we nurture our mind, body and spirit through mindfulness practices, leisure time, tending to our personal and professional growth, and cultivating self-compassion and self-affirmation, the more we will unfold into our greatest potential, Marter explains.
Cultivate abundant thinking
We all set our ceilings with self-limiting beliefs such as, “I could never do that”, “That’s not going to work”. Start to expand your thinking about what is possible and allow yourself to dream big, says Marter.
The world needs you to shine your gifts and talents brightly. Apply abundant thinking to your finances by being creative about how you could flourish and expand your life by negotiating, creating a new income stream with a side hustle, or starting your own business.
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