Have you been wondering where your life rhythm has gone? Do you long for those good old days of a few years ago when you felt happier, scheduled, productive, and, perhaps, more fulfilled?
The last few years of dealing with the pandemic and, for some, what feels like one crisis on top of another, has been hard for many. Individuals who have had good mental and physical health in the past may now be wrestling with new feelings of distress as well as unexplained physical challenges and general malaise.
For many who have been working from home, though there are perks to doing so, one day can seem to loop into the next in one long sequence. Screen time becomes endless since it's the go-to for both business and pleasure for many. Even screen time is becoming boring for some who feel they've spent far too many hours on the couch. Relationships with significant others may feel strained since couples are spending so much time together, especially if both have been working from home. Many young people and single adults are suffering from social isolation.
Do you sense something's up within you along these lines, but you're unable to put your finger on what to do about it?
Good Reasons - The Culprits
If the above describes how you have been feeling lately, you might wonder if you are struggling with clinical depression, burnout, or if you need a job or relationship change. Indeed, you may be helped by making a change, but before you jump ship too quickly, take a moment to hear another viewpoint on what might be going on in your life. Once you see the bigger picture of what may be happening and put a label on it, perhaps you'll give yourself more grace to become restored and active again.
The Core of the Problem
So, what is at the core of this problem that you need to know about? Well, you may be happy to learn that the main culprits for feeling as you do may be less your fault and more connected to the stressful challenges the entire world has been dealing with. Yes, you are not alone in how sluggish you've been feeling. Simply put, there have been many crises in various places in the world that, even if you try to ignore them, you know are out there. And they have affected you.
Even if you have barely watched the news, you're sure to have had events of the day cross your path in headlines, sidebars, and social media conversations, whether you intended to engage or not. You don't need to take part in a protest to feel the effects of what the protest is about. You don't need to catch Covid-19 to have a heightened awareness of the life complications it can cause. You don't need to go to war to feel empathy and grief for those enduring such a challenge.
Whether these crises have only touched you on the surface or you've gone deeper, your inability to help solve these world problems can cause a source of distress and despair. The blockages in your life are also a source of frustration.
Many world issues will have challenged your morals and values too, bringing on another layer of tension. There are often sides taken to any issue. The temptation to debate is ever-present. Disagreements are dividing families and friends.
As a result of these mounting stressors, your limbic system may have become repeatedly active and overloaded. The result is that you are affected mentally and spiritually, which ultimately affects you physically.
New Labels - Crisis Fatigue and Languishing
As you try to make sense of the phenomenon you're dealing with, it may help you to learn about a couple of labels to assign. One term that may apply to you is 'crisis fatigue.' Crisis fatigue describes the exhaustion felt after dealing with a number of crises on top of another. This drained feeling might arrive after a day of Zoom meetings. It might hit you in the face in the morning when you'd rather roll over and not face the day after your morning alarm sounds. Grouchiness might take over when one more request is put upon you.
Striking back verbally or online may seem like the easy choice at times, but it won't help you make friends. You know you need help to cope and you long to get your energy and focus back. That means setting new boundaries about what and who you will allow into your life circle.
The other term for what may be happening is called 'languishing'. Languishing is a term coined in 2002 by sociologist Corey to describe a state of feeling empty, sluggish, and stuck in a rut. This phenomenon can be described as an overwhelming feeling of low energy and an unshakable lack of motivation. Languishing affects many because trust that the world is a good place has been challenged. It's hard to move forward if you feel another surprise attack may be around the corner. So, in a sense, you give up.
The point is, you didn't ask to feel as you do now. You want your social life back. Feeling like you could handle anything may have been your strong suit until now. Now you feel lost, wondering if you'll ever feel inspired again.
What to Do About Crisis Fatigue and Languishing
You could liken assigning a label such as crisis fatigue or languishing to getting an auto mechanic's report on the cause of your vehicle's clinking, banging, and flashing engine light. After a diagnosis, a few tweaks, and some patience, your vehicle will be running smoothly again. Similarly, your life tweaking can start now.
Repairs and solutions won't happen overnight. Nor should they. To make lasting change try taking one consistent intentional action at a time.
Key areas to start your journey include these:
- Step back from what causes the stress.
- Have a health checkup.
- Edit your thoughts.
- Pick small goals to work on daily.
Stepping Back: If you know the things that trigger you to have mental or emotional stress, intentionally step back from them to protect your mind. Tell your loved ones certain topics are off the table. Spend less time reading social media posts. Limit time watching news reports or reading online papers. If you have been doing ongoing Zoom calls that wear you out, consider what you can do to limit them. Simply, the goal here is to set some new boundaries to help you recover.
When you do step back, change your focus to something more positive such as looking at the beauty of nature. Or you might enjoy special times of making home-cooked meals, playing a game of backyard horseshoes, kicking a soccer ball around, or becoming creative. All of these are ways of becoming mindful by focusing on what's in front of you.
Resting: Especially if you feel excessive fatigue, your body is telling you to rest. Your limbic system, the part of your brain responsible for your behavioral and emotional responses, will thank you for giving it opportunities to recover. Rest is essential whether in the form of naps, a good night's sleep, or taking meditation or relaxation breaks.
Perhaps you'll spend a day in bed reading or watching TV. Maybe you'll create a home spa day where you take a long shower or bath with a new soap and loofa. You might choose to rock in a chair on your porch or deck for a few minutes to break up time spent at your desk.
Simply put, after dealing with world crises, it's time to focus on your own well-being.
Having a Health Checkup: You can't help yourself without first assessing where you are. Do you have an underlying health condition going on? Are you, indeed, dealing with depression or anxiety that medical intervention or mental health therapy may help?
With many people taking up baking, stress-treating themselves, exercising less, and ordering takeout due to societal changes, it's only wise to check back in with a physician to ensure all is working well. Especially if fatigue has been an issue, it's important to rule out any clinical causes.
Once you know where you stand, you can better choose changes to make to your diet and fitness routines.
Edit Your Thoughts: With so many changes in your life, it's easy to find yourself overthinking. If you've lost friends or loved ones, it might be hard to shake grief. Being self-critical or focusing on negatives will not help you shake languishing.
Thoughts and feelings are not enemies and should be acknowledged and challenged. Whatever you make your focus will grow in your mind, though, so instead of letting your thoughts dominate you, question and edit them. When negatives cross your mind, distract yourself. Change the topic. Become mindful and present.
Checking your thoughts and redirecting them is one way of essentially rewiring your brain. It's called neuroplasticity. The process of editing your thoughts is one tool to use to retrain your limbic system, ultimately reducing the potential for stress responses going forward. In time, you'll be managing life with more hope and joy.
Picking Small Goals to Work On: A sense of accomplishment is extremely valuable if you're to get out of your rut and create life momentum. Choose a few small daily goals and check them off when completed. Don't go overboard, as doing so may increase your stress level. Give yourself three times the amount of time you normally would to complete tasks so you can pace yourself.
Small goals might include: making a grocery list, balancing your bank book, changing the sheets on your bed, or taking out the trash.
Larger goals might include: major house and yard work or repairs, using a pedometer or health app to record your steps, getting back to a gym to do a workout, or sorting your file system.
As you move forward meeting more goals, a new sense of pride will appear and give you a boost.
Feeling worn out and stagnant doesn't mean you're crazy or doomed. Real-life challenges have affected you making you vulnerable to crisis fatigue and languishing.
Yes, your life rhythm has been off. The good old days are gone. But now you have an opportunity to rebuild yourself into who you want to be next. This is a time when you can reignite your passions and find new focus.
Pat yourself on the back for all you've handled so far. Be kind to yourself, and look for new opportunities that may help you become a happier, more productive person going forward.
The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life
Corey L. M. Keyes, jstor.org/stable/3090197
The Limbic Loop - The Missing Piece Of Your Healing Puzzle?
Ann Shippy MD, annshippymd.com/the-limbic-loop-the-missing-piece-of-your-healing-puzzle/
Limbic System: Definition, Parts, Functions, and Location
By Olivia Guy-Evans, published April 22, 2021, simplypsychology.org/limbic-system.html