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Did we really need to read this morning that 52% of those surveyed in the first Axios/Ipsos poll of 2022 say they believe it will be more than a year — or never — before they can return to their normal, pre-COVID lives.

Do you feel like a rubber band that has been stretched so far that you could lose your ability to contract to your pre-covid normal state? If a rubber band is stretched to full capacity for too long, it loses its ability to return to its vibrant elasticity. It needs a continuous process of stretch and release.

It’s a little frightening to think that we could lose that resiliency as we enter our third year of “stretching” with just about no release. We are living, going through the motions, but we are not flourishing.

The aging process and the concern that we our processing speed is slower than it once was or that we’re losing words that should be so familiar to us is worrisome enough but throw on top of that the feeling that we seem to be flat, unengaged, unmotivated, joyless! One wonders how the feeling of neutral or numb or not operating at your full capacity will ever turn around, even after the various covid surges are behind us.

We now have a name for the “blahs” and its being called the “dominant emotion of 2021.” According to psychologist Adam Grant’s latest op-ed for The New York Times, he details the experience many are feeling during the pandemic — showing up for life, but living without purpose and aim.

It’s called “languishing.”

Emory University sociologist Corey Keyes first coined the term languishing in 2002 as the antithesis of flourishing. “Languishing is apathy, a sense of restlessness or feeling unsettled or an overall lack of interest in life or the things that typically bring you joy,”

However, Keyes is clear when he differentiates between languishing and depression. Depression is a clinical disorder. Interest in life disappears and sadness is felt acutely, he explains. There are also clear signs of depression such as sleeping too much or too little and expressing hopelessness or suicidal thoughts.

Keyes elaborates on the key difference between languishing and depression. When someone feels depressed, they often don’t want to leave bed, he says. When a person feels languished, they proceed going through the motions of life. And according to Keyes, finding a flow that excites you is key to flourishing and promoting good mental health.

“Languishing is neither feeling good nor sad,” he says. “It’s feeling really nothing.” When you hear your inner voice saying “Meh” to plans or ideas or when you know you could do more but lack the motivation to do much of anything, you’re probably languishing. Simply put, you’re, well, blah…

Knowing that there is a term for how some of us feel is one thing. But, what about that rubber band and resiliency? I doubt that anyone who was fully engaged in life pre-covid wants to remain in this suspended state of “eh!” Nor do we want to come out on the other side of this pandemic dis-interested in the life we once grabbed with such zeal.

However, resiliency isn’t just about returning to normal or adapting. It’s also about the ability to recover. An over-stretched rubber band can return to a functional state but maybe not to its original form. Just as a rubber band, we’ll recover but to what level of functioning?

Elizabeth Edwards, author of Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities, once said, “Resilience is accepting your new reality. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put something together that’s good.”

Edwards’ advice for adapting to the new normal which we realistically face, is to redefine what “good” looks like. The good ole days were good, but the future does not have to be “less good.” This period of languishing gives us permission to reshape how we wish to envision our future and even how to redefine who we are.

Now, that’s a project that worth embracing! If those 52% who were surveyed are correct in thinking it’ll be a year, or never, before returning to pre-covid lives, imagine who or what we could become. Stay tuned…

If readers have 5 minutes, this link will bring you to Adam Grant discussing “languishing.”



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