Languishing: The Hidden Struggle Against Our Mental Health

By: Louis Chesney
Boy laying on back in grass field using headphones

Now, well into the pandemic, it’s clear that many people are exhibiting signs of mental or financial distress. Even those who seem fine and capable might still be experiencing a pervasive feeling of emptiness and stagnation as though some unexplained invisible force saturates their lives. For this article, we want to unravel this invisible force we call languishing. Not only do we see languishing occur in our personal lives, but we are seeing it within the workplace as well.

The term languishing was coined by sociologist Dr. Corey Keyes and defined in the American Psychological Association dictionary as the absence of mental health, characterized by lethargy, apathy, listlessness, and loss of interest in life. Languishing can put you at risk for subsequent mental health challenges. Because the pandemic has disrupted the usual rhythm of life, languishing impacts us all, so do not blame yourself for this feeling.

According to positive psychologists like Dr. Kristin Neff, attitudes and behaviors that can relate to the feeling of languishing include the following:

  • Emotional numbness – indifferent to the success or failure of your individual or team efforts
  • Lack of self-assessing ability – not seeing and understanding your strengths and weaknesses and, respectively, what you are doing well and what you can improve upon
  • Feeling incapable of helping self or others perceiving yourself as helpless, incompetent, or flawed or not able to handle specific situations or individuals
  • Fear of dependency – not asking for help when needed because you believe that others do not want to help
  • Poor self-discipline – difficulty in starting or completing tasks

Think of mental health as the foundation of a house and think of yourself as the house. It is possible to build a well-constructed home on a weak foundation. The house can look well-adjusted on the surface. However, the whole house will collapse when the foundation cracks or separates due to chronic stress conditions. Many of us languishing seem well-adjusted on the surface, so it’s not until we have experienced chronic stress of the pandemic in the workplace or at home that we have come to realize our foundation’s structural flaw.

RethinkCare is here to help you build a stronger foundation. With our wellbeing digital mini-courses, you can:

  1. Achieve centeredness through mediation
  2. Learn to self-monitor behaviors
  3. Journal to listen to your emotions
  4. Choose from an array of topics based on personal needs and professional goals
  5. Develop strategies to address life and work stress

You will ultimately build neuropathways that make you more mentally resilient to chronic stress.

Dr. Corey Keyes has said, “We wait for people to break down and park ambulances at the bottom of the cliff.” We can avoid tipping the scale among flourishing, languishing, and mental illness by proactively caring for our mental health.

To learn more about RethinkCare, view Why RethinkCare? and to learn more about the new RethinkCare platform, request a demo.

About the Author

Headshot of Louis Chesney from RethinkCare

Program Manager at RethinkCare

Louis Chesney is the Program Manager of Neurodiversity for RethinkCare, overseeing the day-to-day operations and expansion of RethinkCare’s neurodiversity course content and consultation approach. Before joining RethinkCare, Louis championed and led a hiring program for autistic adults at a global technology company. He continually aims to make a positive impact on those who are underserved. As an individual who experienced selective mutism first-hand, Louis inspires and actively contributes to the current work. He co-authored “ECHO: A Vocal Language Program for Easing Anxiety in Conversation,” a Plural Publishing book designed to help older children and teens needing social communication support.

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