This very interesting blog about finding your flow, that blissful and often elusive experience of feeling almost at one with what you are doing, makes for absorbing reading!
It is taken from psychologytoday.com. Here is the link to the full piece: https://bit.ly/3vjiC0R
Languishing is not depression, but it is a sign that we’re not at our optimal level of functioning.
We can work to prevent languishing by changing how we organize our time.
Seeking out experiences that allow us to enter a flow state can help prevent languishing and depression.
I woke up yesterday morning to my alarm—the electronic song my phone released at 6:30 a.m. to remind me that I had a 4-year-old client and his dad coming to my Zoom room at 8 a.m., so I better get to it.
For months, a friend and I referred to Thursday as “Hit by a Bus Day” because weekly, on Thursdays from mid-March 2020 through at least September 2020, I would wake up on Thursday mornings and feel like I’d been hit by a bus. I’d made it through Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but Thursday—whoa. Thursday hit like a ton of bricks. Or a bus.
We’ve evolved in the past few months to calling it “Blursday,” a term another friend used to describe all of our days during the past year-plus. We don’t always know what day it actually is when so many of the days feel the same.
On this particular Blursday, for the first time in a long time, I really didn’t want to get up. But I had that 4-year-old waiting for me, and students who need my support as they try to get through their degree program during a pandemic, and a planned check-in with colleagues, and the regular detritus of adulthood (showering, making food, straightening up).
By 3 p.m., I was, let’s just say, not doing well. I’d powered through, as I do, but I was on edge. I was snappy, cranky, easily irritated.
By 4:30, I was done. I ordered delivery and turned on the TV at 5. (These are activities I likely have not paired, at least at around 5 p.m. on a weeknight, since roughly the year 2000.) I asked for recommendations on what to watch, but I found that I almost didn’t care—I just wanted to do nothing. Check out. I couldn’t concentrate anyway, so it didn’t really matter what was on the screen.
Languishing versus depression
Organizational psychologist Adam Grant writes about what he calls the dominant emotion of 2021: languishing. Languishing, Grant says, “is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing—the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity.”
In his New York Times piece, Grant offers suggestions for those of us who’ve reached this state of, as he puts it bluntly, stagnation and emptiness.
One of the suggestions is to try to get into a flow state, that blissful and often elusive experience of feeling almost at one with what you are doing. Athletes find themselves in flow when they’re “in the zone”; artists and writers feel it while creating; anyone can feel it while immersed in nature, focused on the present and the full experience of just being. This state of deep enjoyment, creativity, and full engagement is hard to come by in a pandemic. It’s a bit of a luxury commodity and a real exercise in privilege, and it is much harder to induce when we’re experiencing high levels of anxiety.
But I was willing to try
I know that writing is often a flow state experience for me. With the help of a friend, I decided that if I woke up early on my own the next day, I’d spend the “extra” time writing—no Facebook scrolling, no mindless rolling around in bed, no getting lost and stuck in my thoughts.
I didn’t have to wait for an alarm or even the sun. After a day of feeling all the feelings associated with languishing, my body and mind had a hard time staying asleep. So, when I woke up early, I started thinking about what I wanted to write. And I started to feel a lot better. I grabbed my laptop, opened my Google doc, and began.
What’s important about preventing the fall down the precipice of languishing is that languishing is on the side of the mental health continuum closer to depression than to flourishing. At the bottom of the cliff of languishing is depression; if you can back up from the edge, you can move closer, slowly perhaps, toward flourishing.
This past year-plus has been unlike any other most of us have experienced. Our reactions are unpredictable because this experience is unprecedented (unless you happened to be alive during the 1918 flu pandemic, but then I’d bet that your workplace wasn’t expecting you to show up on time, via Zoom, with no kids and pets in the background).
So, since we’ve made it this far, how can we make the next months of 2021 marginally better, at least on an individual level?
If you can, seek out flow.
If you can’t, just try setting a boundary.
This suggestion also comes from Grant’s piece, and it resonated with me, as I think this is how I’m managing not getting to a place of total burnout. I stop working at some point each day. I try to make it close to 5 p.m. (Having two school-aged children helps in this regard; they are hungry at about that time and have a range of other needs that I need to meet!)
It may sound ridiculous—of course, I stop working. But think about all of the boundary violations that the pandemic has forced on us. Many of us are still working in our homes (a gift and a curse), and the past decade of work-life has not exactly taught us that America values people working less. White-collar employment has not shifted, at least on a large scale, to requiring workers to produce less during the past year; if anything, we are being asked to do more (at home with our unreliable WIFI, makeshift workspaces—sometimes with kids and pets in the background).
I needed to set a boundary that was work-related because most of my time goes to work when all is said and done. But the boundary you set doesn’t have to be work-related. It can just be saying to yourself and those around you, about a little period of time, “This time is my time.” The time you set aside doesn’t even have to be a very long period of time. Thirty minutes to do whatever, uninterrupted. (Some people do this by having a practice of daily meditation, prayer, walking, or another physical exercise. This counts!)
Grant pushes for bigger-picture, societal change: “You can’t heal a sick culture with personal bandages.” Most days, I’d agree with him; my life’s work has been motivated by this very principle.
However, though a band-aid will not stop a gushing wound, there are times when the personal is what we can most easily access while we try to work on changing the world. As we work toward justice on multiple levels, we can work to help our own minds heal and move, step by little step, toward flourishing.