How are you feeling these days?
If you are like a lot of people, the long slog of the public health emergency (which, unfortunately, continues) has been hard on you in any number of ways. Your work life has changed (and maybe changed again), dealing with your kids’ education has changed (and maybe changed again), even your weekly trip to the grocery store has changed (and maybe changed again).
But those are external changes. You may be experiencing some internal changes as well.
For example, you may be finding it hard to keep yourself motivated and on task. You might find yourself feeling both overwhelmed and underwhelmed—feeling as though you have way too much to do, but finding you have no interest in doing any of it. Maybe you feel tired or restless or burnt out or muddled—or all of those things at once. Perhaps you are having trouble finding a sense of meaning or purpose in your life.
In short, you are not, at the moment, flourishing. Sociologist Corey Keyes has a word to describe the opposite of flourishing: He suggests that the way you might be feeling as a result of the (ongoing) pandemic could be called “languishing.”
The sense that one is languishing rather than flourishing or thriving is not a pleasant one for anyone. But it might be particularly problematic for a person in recovery from a substance use disorder.
Languishing Is Mental Health Disorder Adjacent
While languishing is not a recognized mental health disorder, it has much in common with disorders like depression. As a result, therapy may be a good option for trying to overcome the feelings of disinterest and disengagement that characterize languishing.
Obviously, protecting and improving your mental health is extremely important, but there is another equally important reason to address symptoms of languishing: failure to do so could upend your recovery and lead to a relapse.
Languishing & the Risk of Relapse
How could this happen? Why would languishing lead to a relapse?
Well, at a certain point you might be willing to try just about anything–including a return to alcohol or drugs–to break through the feeling that everything is pointless and nothing truly matters. Or, you may become convinced that your recovery doesn’t really matter.
Either way, an ongoing feeling of ennui is an ongoing danger to your recovery.
Leaving Languishing to Languish
We have already mentioned that talking with a therapist may be a good first step toward leaving languishing behind. But that is not the only thing you can do. Other things to try include:
- Diving into something you find truly engrossing: Find a project—something innovative at work, or a hobby, or volunteer opportunity—that you can really sink your teeth into. The best way to overcome a feeling of disengagement is to engage with something that is important and interesting to you.
- Be patient with yourself and stick with good habits: It is completely understandable that after all we have been through for the last year and a half, we might feel a little (or a lot) off our game. Be patient with—and kind to—yourself. And lean into the kinds of habits that you know support your mental health: eat well, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, practice mindfulness, spend time with supportive friends and family (and go to your 12-Step or other program meetings), process your feelings in a recovery journal. All of these things and many more can help you keep moving forward, even when things seem extremely challenging. Moving forward can help you avoid moving backward toward relapse.
- Look for others who may be languishing: Sometimes spotting a friend, coworker, or relative who is having a similarly difficult time can be good for both of you. Having a chance to talk through your feelings and support one another can help you both come to grips with what you have been going through—and maybe find a shared path toward feeling better.
Don’t Languish If You Are Struggling With Drugs or Alcohol
At The Aviary Recovery Center, we always keep our purpose in the forefront of our minds. We are here to help you overcome a substance use disorder so that you can begin your recovery journey with confidence. We will also address mental health disorders (and adjacent issues like languishing) because good mental health and sobriety are intertwined.
If you need help, do not succumb to a feeling of helplessness. Instead, let us see you through detox and rehabilitation while providing the support and resources you need to maintain your sobriety over time.