Clearing the Fog

Up until just over fifteen months ago (yes, it really has only been fifteen months), working from home was something a lot of people aspired to: the flexibility of waking up and choosing your hours; not needing to commute; and generally having more control over the hours in a day. One global pandemic later, and a lot of people are now aspiring to a return to the office, or at least, some sort of hybrid model away from the comfort (read: confinement) of their own homes.

Because the reality is, the lines between work and home have blurred to a point where “working from home” has just turned into “working home”. Days go both slowly and quickly at the same time, and routines we used to hold sacred have been thrown out the window. There seems to be an inability to switch off from work, but in some ways, there also seems to be a prevailing inability to switch completely on either.

I recently stumbled upon an article that introduced me to a new word that seemed to sum up this tension perfectly. One word that completely encapsulates the zeitgeist of the last few months: languishing.

In a widely circulated article, New York Times journalist Adam Grant went on to explain this collective fog we’ve been experiencing – how we’re not quite depressed, but not quite thriving. We’ve been languishing; stagnating in the in-between; in “the absence of well-being”. This feeling goes far beyond our ability to be completely productive in a professional sense, it also affects our drive to socialize or to be present. This increasing indifference to our current state has led to a global state of “meh”.

Instead of looking for motivation or seeking out adventures within our limited parameters, a lot of us have been finding control in what we know: seeking solace in TV-shows we’ve seen a handful of times already; procrastinating through reminiscing; scrolling through endless feeds of regurgitated content. We’re by no means productive, but at least we feel in control. We’re in the driver seat with nowhere to go.

So how do we combat this ongoing shoulder shrug?

 

  1. Acknowledge distractions are a part of our reality

We first have to acknowledge the fact that even before the pandemic, we were quick to look for distractions. Aimlessly scrolling through social media apps? That’s not new. Procrastinating? Daydreaming? Not new either. The problem now is that our distractions are no longer an escape from reality: they are our reality.

  1. Find the small wins

To help shift us away from this perpetual lethargy, we have to somehow re-focus our fragmented attention. Grant suggests a “small win” – a new project, a meaningful conversation, crossing something off your to-do list. These small steps can help us get over that despondent hill to reach the proverbial mountain, ready to tackle new steps as we get out of this year-long funk.

  1. Change it up

As the world opens up around us, a change of pace and a change of scenery can help us re-direct that attention. Consider the height of the pandemic – for most of us, going to the grocery store was the one and only time we could leave our homes. A lot of us saw it as a weekly highlight, or, depending on where you were this past year, even a monthly highlight. The everyday became the best distraction.

  1. Celebrate the mundane

But while we wait for circumstances to revert to a normal that we can understand, or to a normal we can more readily thrive in, finding more ways to engage in the “everyday” we’re comfortable with can help us combat languishing. This “everyday” can be anything as mundane as going out for a coffee, or finding somewhere to work that isn’t the kitchen table. It’s reclaiming our space and our time in small incremental steps, giving us the small wins we need to get out of this perpetual lethargy.

Confronting and accepting that we feel a little “off” in the context of a global pandemic and ongoing shutdowns requires a bit of a reboot. Collectively, we’re more sensitive. We’re on edge. We’re waiting for something, but we’re not sure what it is.

 

By acknowledging that our realities have become warped in the last months, and that we’re seeking out distractions as a coping mechanism, we can more readily appreciate what we do have, and what is helping us get through. Re-focusing our attention in this way, or pursuing “small wins”, means we don’t need to wait for a return to the status quo, we can start shaping our own “new normal” through small changes (or big ones – you can do it!). We can celebrate the ordinary, not just the extraordinary.

 

Let’s go get out of this fog!

Margo Hermans. OCTOBER 01, 2021

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