Hidden toll of the pandemic


Today, many of us are in the state of unfocussed emptiness, somewhere between the extremes of ecstasy and depression. Psychologist Corey Keyes named this state as Languish, characterised by total lack of interest and involvement- the neglected mid-state of the mental health.


Despondency, hopelessness and worthlessness have not made the kill, but the lack of joy and aim is very evident. It is our indifference to the state of mental stagnation and emptiness that is so dreadful, a harbinger of severe post-traumatic depression, fears Corey. Languishing is the hidden toll taken by the long-haul Covid pandemic.


The initial adrenalin rush of fighting this uneven fight led to anguish, which silently turned into Languish. The slow crawl of Languish defies all detection and inconspicuously manipulates the psyche. The year 2021 may be a witness to widespread ‘Languishing’ attacks.


Lack of concentration, engagement, and enthusiasm, disinterest in the present, dreamy behaviours and neglect of work could be the beginning of Languishing. Languishing is more common and widespread than we can imagine.


Can we reverse languishing? Is it possible to drive it out of our psychology? Yes, we can. And it begins by acknowledging its presence. It is not easy to detect the state of languishing due to its slow ingress. Be vigilant for the persistent early signs and recognise them as leading to anguish. Not looking forward to a new day, not realising that it is a dull and dreary life and left with no wish and desire for a happy and enthusiastic life could be the symptoms of a Languished state of mind. Just a reminder that this is not the state of hopelessness but halfway to it.


In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi offers the concept of ‘Flow’ as a powerful antidote to languishing. Flow is the feeling of being meaningfully immersed in an engaging challenge. Challenge and skill need to be balanced. A tough challenge is stressful, while an easy task leads to boredom. A challenge that takes you beyond your comfort zone, but is not overwhelming, could help you experience the blissful flow: the engagement and experience of the present. Doing five push-ups more than the maximum you have ever done, or cooking a recipe you never tried, can loosen the grip of languish on you.


Focus is another counteragent. Try to get back your focus by being conscious of your body and thoughts frequently throughout the day. Watch your breath, feel the breeze, recall the lyrics of any song or consciously watch the train of thoughts in your head. The idea is to be aware and mindful of your environment. A balanced diet with lots of fluids helps your body to be focused. Avoid multitasking and get fully engrossed in one activity at a time. Watch it, feel it, experience it, and get involved fully; however trivial the task may be.


Claim your personal time space, the time slot where no one can disturb you. But use this time to focus on sound and positive elements. Set up small goals and claim the trophies. It will help boost the crumbling confidence.


These small and personal efforts cannot drive the pandemic away, but they can help us find a way to accept the situation, come out of the Languish and not reach the undesirable extremity of mental health.