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Are You Fighting the Pandemic Blahs?

By Pam Dewey • pandemic blahs, pandemic and mental health, languishing, mental health care, self care, finding your flow, mental illness, mental healthcare, Covid and mental health • January 13, 2022

As the pandemic drags on, our ability to cope has been pushed to its limit and then some. While vaccines have created more freedom for many, life hasn’t exactly returned to normal. Many people are still working from home and aren’t traveling or going to many events. 

Is it any wonder you may find yourself feeling a little blah? Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant says the feeling you may be experiencing is languishing. In his Ted Talk, Grant states, “When you're languishing, it just feels like you're muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.” And while languishing isn’t unique to the pandemic, it’s certainly become common during this time.

Find your flow

The good news is there are ways you can alleviate this blah feeling. Grant also states, “In the early days of the pandemic, researchers found that the best predictor of well-being was not optimism. It was flow. Flow is that feeling of being in the zone, coined by the psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. It's that state of total absorption in an activity.” But bingeing a show on Netflix isn’t the healthiest way to lose yourself. It’s better to engage in an activity like baking, running or something else you really enjoy doing. 

Focus on small wins 

Finding your flow doesn’t have to be tied to a big project or even something productive. Maybe you always wanted to try making your own pasta, learn to paint with watercolors or take up swing dancing. You don’t have become the next Van Gogh or Julia Child. Set small, achievable goals, which provide a more immediate sense of satisfaction like learning how to make one kind of pasta well or painting the perfect peony. 

Do one task at a time

Another thing that might be contributing to your blah feeling is distraction. Grant states, “There's evidence that on average, people are checking emails 74 times a day, switching tasks every 10 minutes, and that creates what's been called time confetti, where we take what could be meaningful moments of our lives and we shred them into increasingly tiny, useless pieces.” Many of us are guilty of this. Try to remember the last time you watched TV without scrolling on your phone. When you don’t focus on doing one thing, you’re simply not giving your best effort. But when you’re mindful, you become more engaged with the activity. So you’re more likely to be successful and have a better outcome. 

Find purpose in what you’re doing

Whether you’re making pasta or learning how to dance, viewing your activity as something with meaning also helps you find flow, says Grant. Maybe you’re making pasta, so you can feed your family delicious, nutritious food. Or maybe making pasta gives you time to connect with your partner. When you assign meaning to what you’re doing, it helps keep you present and makes you appreciate what you’re doing more. 

If you feel like you’re languishing, combat this feeling by finding an activity to lose yourself in. Start small, so you can experience a more immediate sense of accomplishment. Just make sure you focus on that task and assign meaning to it.