How to Beat That Languishing Feeling
When 2020 ticked over into 2021, we were hopeful that the new year would be a better one. And for awhile, it did look promising—we were back to dining in, we could physically attend church again, and impending travel bubbles were announced. We were bubbling with excitement! Any day now, and life would be back to how it used to be.
Alas, the bubble’s popped and the recent news about the outbreak of new COVID strains, worsening cases, and heightened restrictions have made us feel like we’re right back at square one. And it’s not just COVID-19 that’s gotten us feeling down. There’s also the shooting rampages in the US, the military coup in Myanmar, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict . . .
It definitely feels like the world is spiralling out of control, and it’s hard not to feel completely helpless, anxious, or just plain exhausted.
Perhaps that explains the state of mind many of us now find ourselves in: feeling like we’re trapped in a cycle of uncertainty and have lost control over our lives, unsure when the world will ever get better . . . or if we’d ever get back to life as we remembered it before.
Sociologist Corey Keyes has coined a word for that collective emotion: languishing—“the void between depression and flourishing—the absence of wellbeing.” It’s a “somewhere in between feeling [that] dulls your motivation and disrupts your ability to focus.”
And yet the demands of our lives just aren’t letting up, and many of us now feel like we’re just stuck in the daily grind, dealing with strain after strain of bad news, with nothing to look forward to. What can we do to keep ourselves going?
Here are some tips to help us beat that languishing feeling:
1. Retreat into a safe space
With the current state the world’s in, we may no longer be able to turn to holidays or travel to get a break from our daily realities. But as King David reminds us in Psalm 62:5-8, rest isn’t just about finding a physical space (or escaping from one), but learning to make space in our hearts for God. A place that we can retreat into even in times of trouble, where we can find an unshakeable peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6):
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
If you’re feeling frazzled and worn out, why not take a leaf from our favourite Psalmist’s book and “pour out [our] hearts to Him” (v. 8)? Acknowledge the inner turmoil of disappointment, fear, and regret that might be churning in our hearts, and allow Him to lead us to “lie down in green pastures” and “beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23:2) that we may find rest and refreshment for our souls.
2. Balance the bad news with the good news
If all we’ve been consuming is just bad news, it’s no surprise that we’d feel like a puddle of gloom.
Theologian Karl Barth famously wrote, “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”
If all that bad news, toxic articles, or commentary on social media is affecting your mental health and making you anxious, turn off your notifications and set your devices aside. Take some time to soak in the Good News of the Bible, so you’d be reminded of how God has remained steadfast, faithful, true, and completely sovereign throughout human history.
If you need some extra help kicking your spiritual gears into motion, we’ve also got a range of Spotify playlists to help you start or end your day right.
3. Live your life backwards
We may feel physically or emotionally stuck, but we don’t have to be spiritually stagnant. Even though the times we’re living in are unprecedented for us, the Teacher in Ecclesiastes reminds us that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). And just as generations before us have endured through influenza outbreaks, world wars, and other disasters and emerged stronger from them, it reminds us that there is a time and season for everything—and one day, this season will be in the past.
While the future seems uncertain, we can still make the most of the season we’re currently stuck in and discover God’s purpose for it. Here are a few questions that might help us live more intentionally beyond meeting our daily needs:
- How would you live your life differently if you knew this season—impossible as it may seem for now—will one day be in the past?
- What would you want to remember as you look back on this time?
- How would you want God’s Word to have shaped your habits, decisions, and lifestyle?
4. Help each other see how God is still working in our lives
Flat, deflated, had enough. It’s understandable if you’re feeling all three and truth be told, it’s really hard to count our blessings or see how God can truly still be working in our lives in these moments.
But it’s during these tough times that it’s even more important that we stay connected with our spiritual communities and with God. If you’ve been avoiding that old-time friend’s invitation to jump on a Zoom chat, why not take up their offer and use the opportunity to pray for one another? There’s nothing like having someone to share your burdens with and pray for you to remind you that you’re not alone.
While you’re at it, initiate conversations with your friends or lifegroup mates that would help us see how God is working behind the scenes, and using these hard days to strengthen our faith, and mould and perfect us into His image (Romans 5:3-4).
Take time to ask each other some deep, hard questions, such as:
- How is your heart and faith this season?
- What are you really struggling with in this season?
- What are some practical ways I can love on you?
We may not be able to change our situation or our circumstances, but we can definitely lean into what God may be doing in this season, and invite Him to have full rein over our lives.
5. Stick with the things that bring you joy
Those muscles we worked so hard to build this time last year may be all wobbly now, and the baking tools and painting equipment we’ve accumulated may be lying under a thick layer of dust. But with restrictions tightening up again, we all need some simple things to brighten up our mundane days at home. So whether it’s starting on that stash of books on your to-be read pile or finishing that 1,000-piece puzzle you’ve yet to assemble, there’s no harm in picking them up again and rebuilding those habits.
Now might even be the time to start a new hobby, master a new dish, or pick up a skill you didn’t get to last year! Working on these little things will help us keep moving, and give us something new to look forward to. Who knows, you might even discover some secret talents or hidden gifts God has blessed you with.
6. Pile on the acts of kindness and generosity
While some of us may relish having a simpler social calendar or working from home again, there are many amongst us who might be disappointed with the new restrictions—whether it’s because the latest news has disrupted their wedding plans once again or they may not live in the most conducive environments or have the best relationship with their families.
If we’ve experienced the warmth of our friends’ acts of kindness and generosity from the past, now’s the time to set aside our own self-interests and look into how we can extend God’s love to others as well (Philippians 2:4). Take time to check in on your friend’s mental health, offer a listening ear, or get a meal delivered to that family that’s struggling with the demands of working from home and helping their kids with home-based learning.
7. Establish a rhythm that works for you
Just because working from home has made it harder for us to segregate our personal and work spaces, it doesn’t mean we should feel obliged to do more work whenever we can. In fact, it’s especially during these times when life is challenging and unpredictable, that we should set a routine to help reduce our stress and have some measure of control over our day.
Take the time to build a routine that works for you—don’t worry if it looks different from your friends’—and make sure to set proper boundaries, eat well, and get enough rest.
You might even find it helpful to keep a journal or record of the things you’ve achieved in a day, or that you were grateful for (simply surviving a week without dining in counts too!). These little achievements and things may seem small, but when we look back on what we’ve done, we might truly be able to see how God has brought us through each day and provided for our every need (Psalm 103:2).
Most importantly, don’t forget to pray (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)! Prayer helps us remember who’s truly in control of our lives—and knowing that our lives are in the hands of a God who’s still in control of all things can help tide us through the uncertainty of this season (Ecclesiastes 3:11-13) as we wait upon Him.
If you’re unsure how or what to pray, here’s a prayer to help you get started:
Glory be to God … I am truly blessed with this piece of word.