Languishing: The answer to the question of lockdown lethargy

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People from all around the world have been experiencing symptoms that they couldn’t quite put their finger on. Trouble concentrating, a feeling of emptiness and many reporting that, even with the phenomenal success of the vaccine rollout, they weren’t excited about 2021. Staying up until 3 a.m. and staying in until noon was becoming the norm for lots of generally ambitious and motivated people.

The energy and hopefulness that people still had, suggested it wasn’t a burnout or case of depression. So, this led to a search for a new diagnosis for the population’s aimlessness, and it wasn’t long before the term languishing began emerging on the tip of everyone’s tongues.  

“It refers to a feeling of stagnation and emptiness as you find yourself feeling like you’re looking at your life through misted glass and torrential rain.”

The term ‘languishing’ originates from the Latin ‘Languere’, meaning to feel faint or weak. It refers to a feeling of stagnation and emptiness as you find yourself feeling like you’re looking at your life through misted glass and torrential rain. The term was coined by a sociologist named Corey Keyes who noticed how many people who weren’t depressed, weren’t thriving. Keyes believes that those who are languishing right now, are more likely to develop severe anxiety and depression disorders within the next decade.

The pandemic has caused unprecedented confusion for many people due to the significant changes in routine and lifestyle. It has taken large amounts of adjustment and flexibility, just to get to grips with the everyday struggle. The threat of the virus along with travel and mask restrictions has only added to the confusion as the population attempt to grasp what the ‘right’ thing to do is. Whether to visit their parents or children, whether to book a holiday for the upcoming summer and even whether to get the vaccine or not.

“It’s symptoms do not carry the same intense weight as those of depression or anxiety, but they are still preventing the general population from thriving”

Other names and descriptions for this feeling have emerged such as, ‘lockdown fatigue’ or ‘pandemic blues’, but all of these point towards the exact same feeling. It’s not a mental illness, as its symptoms do not carry the same intense weight as those of depression or anxiety, but they are still preventing the general population from thriving and carrying out their everyday tasks with vigour.

Reports have suggested that those who are susceptible to high stress and anxiety levels are more likely to be experiencing languishing, along with those who have a history of depression. Similarly, those with extroverted personalities are much more likely to languish than the introverts due to their sudden inability to socialise and energise themselves amongst other people. Those who spend most of their time outside, socialising and participating in activities have had the biggest change to lifestyle since the pandemic, and it has clearly hit them harder than expected.

“Adding the term ‘languishing’ into everyone’s everyday vocabulary will help to combat the toxic positivity and allow others to understand how their friends and family are feeling’

So, how can we stay out of the languishing zone? Psychologists have found that a successful strategy for managing emotions is to put a name to its face. Adding the term ‘languishing’ into everyone’s everyday vocabulary will help to combat the toxic positivity and allow others to understand how their friends and family are feeling. You don’t want to say your feeling depressed when you don’t suffer from the mental illness, yet you don’t want to say your ‘fine’ when you’re not. Let’s get languishing circulating!

Some of the antidotes to languishing are those healthy basics such as: exercise, relaxation, healthy meals, and socialising. Similarly, creative activities have been proven to be beneficial to languishers. Journaling, painting, and sculpting are all great remedies and turning one of these into your new favourite pastime could be great for your mental health.

“focusing on one thing at a time allows you to engage better and drive up your motivation and productivity.”

Finding meaningful work and new challenges are other great ways to remove those stubborn roots of languish. These can help you find your flow and elusive state of absorption where your sense of time, place and self dissolves. Equally, focusing on one thing at a time allows you to engage better and drive up your motivation and productivity. This is easier to do when you set boundaries and focus on having quiet time, allowing your efficiency to naturally increase.

Similarly, directing your attention on small, achievable goals can help you to achieve lots of small wins and triumphs, intensifying your sense of self-worth. It can help to pull you out of your slumping mental health and curb the downwards spiral.

Cognitive behavioural therapy services are a great place to look for help with your languishing, as they are lot less invasive than medication, which would seem unnecessary unless faced with diagnosed anxiety or depression. Similarly, services such as complementary therapy, including aromatherapy, reflexology, Reiki, Bowen therapy, massage and Qigong, are great places to start feeling more relaxed and begin to curtail your darker moods.

It’s important to make time for yourself and your wellbeing to improve your mental health. The pandemic has been an extremely tough time for everyone in many different ways, and, although it is beginning to look more positive, we can’t ignore the long-term effects. The population is well aware of long Covid and the negative effects of the virus, but they are forgetting that the long-term effects of lockdown can be just as damaging.

If you have found yourself languishing, start the conversation with yourself, friends and family and begin to work through the different ways in which you can emerge from this slumber.

The Year of the Flood; Dystopia or reality?

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Due to both University reading and personal interest, I’ve found myself delving into the world of dystopian literature more than ever. Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood has become anew favourite of mine as I found myself flying through its 500 odd pages. Set during a period of biological catastrophe, The Year of the Flood is the second novel in a trilogy based on different angles of this make belief world. However, having not previously read Oryx and Crake, I could only interpret the novel as a standalone piece of fiction.

Reminiscent of Atwood’s own The Handmaid’s Tale and other dystopian novels such as A Clockwork Orange, the plot is packed with sexual violence and oppressive figures. With a page count of over 500 pages long, the two central characters have ample room to breathe, grow and let their personalities seep onto the pages. The reader watches Ren grow from child to adult as the plot forms a feeling of Bildungsroman. Her life is tumultuous and unforgiving as she experiences upper class life, an existence in the Pleeblands, and of course, the agricultural cult, ‘The gardeners’. She is emotional and it’s difficult to remove yourself from her pain as she is abandoned by her parents, loses her friends and suffers through a painstakingly long heartbreak.

Toby is arguably a character residing on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. Feared by the children of ‘The Gardeners’, she is an extremely head strong and resourceful character. Orphaned as a teenager, she picks her way through low life jobs whilst forcing herself to make money in less than desirable ways. Her entire narrative is a sad and lonely one, filled with isolation and a lack of love. The moment she finds Ren in the Year 25 (which we were all anticipating) was the first time I felt like she was no longer on her own. Ren and Toby, however oppositional, are the perfect companions. Their mix of experience and their complimentary balance of emotions creates a partnership and level of camaraderie that I believe will continue long into their fictional future. Atwood’s mastery of these characters was sensational. I laughed, I cried, and I felt my heart break along with them. This is one of the few novels that I was mightily disappointed to see the back of.

When it comes to the dystopia genre, one of the most important things to consider is that it is not so much science fiction, but a potential reality. Atwood has always famously said that she does not want her writing to be referred to as science fiction due to her contextual influence’s roots in real life. The Handmaid’s tale famously echoes the Salem Witch trials, Biblical stories, ancient monachal practices and it’s not hard to see similar influences in her other novels. When reading The Year of the Flood I could sense the contextual influences of both feminist and eco critical movements from the worlds past and present. Equally, the corrupt patriarchal forces strongly echoed those we have seen around the world and we are no strangers to religious cults and barbarians.

Reading this novel in today’s climate whilst residing alongside the infamous COVID19 global pandemic, the idea of the ‘waterless flood’ can easily cause a few grimaces and raised eyebrows. Written over a decade ago, the parallels of nose masks and keeping distances from each other in order to protect yourself from germs and unsanitary living, sits uncomfortably on the chest. How many pandemics will we go through before we face an event comparable to the ‘waterless flood’? When will be unable to prevent the population dropping like flies? Atwood’s decision to leave out the key details and explanation into the nature of the disease until halfway through the narrative adds immensely to the unnerving build up of tension and feeling of unknown. The story behind the pandemic begins to slowly unravel as we are drip fed an insight into the nature of the waterless flood, and this does little to put us at ease as we sympathise with the character’s hardships and feel their pain.

One of the more ‘dystopian’ features of The Year of the Flood is the unique blend of original vocabulary that Atwood has created. The literary technique creates a barrier between the reader and the fictional world, removing any feeling of reality. I was quite interested in the inspiration behind the made-up words such as garboil, bimplants, but when breaking the syllables down, its not too difficult to work it out. I still can’t believe it took me nearly half the novel to work out that violet biolets meant toilets! The single changed letter clearly makes all the difference…

Despite Atwood’s rejection of the sci-fi label, the freaky words and animal hybrids (rakunk and bobkitten) does little to veer away from this label. It paints the society as apart from the one we are so familiar with today and slightly removes the possibility of our society facing a similar future. There is a lot we can take away from the novel and its warnings against unnatural experimentation and corrupt government. Atwood almost implements the features of a fable into the narrative with the moral possibly being based on leaving nature and wry science experiments alone. Well, it’s convinced me, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the other two novels in the trilogy.