During the quarantine on VICE, we had started a periodic appointment, a kind of corner in which to collect our thoughts, put them in the form of a question and let an expert figure to answer. Now, also through contributions from other VICE editors, the discussion has been expanded. From dealing with unrequited love to dealing with insufferable roommates, we’ll try to offer some advice. Today, let’s talk about what it means when you don’t feel like doing anything for long periods and how to recognize a deeper problem.
From lockdown on, I’m not feeling very well. It is not a question of solitude in the strict sense; rather, I have noticed that I no longer feel as motivated to socialize or live as actively as I once did.
If I had a choice I would watch Netflix all day, because it’s easy. But after a day of binge-watching I feel guilty for not accomplishing anything. I would like to do more things, but it is a huge effort.
I don’t know how to get out of this state. What causes it and how do I fix it?
from your short message it is difficult to understand exactly what you are going through. The emotional state you describe is generically defined as “languishing” (from languish, languire) a term used in this sense for the first time in 2002 by the American psychologist Corey Keyes and which some experts have defined as “the preponderant emotion of 2021. ” In short, it’s feeling “so-so” —not exactly burnout, but with a weird bad mood nonetheless.
Perhaps you feel that the hours pass one after the other seamlessly. Maybe you feel a block, but you lack the willpower to overcome it. Letting another afternoon disappear into the whirlwind of attention we call Netflix might be a form of minimal resistance, but as you say, it’s not a source of serenity.
According to Lidewy Hendriks, therapist at Dutch mental health platform MIND Korrelatie, you should ask yourself some tough questions to figure out if your “languid” state of mind is just a way to decompress or a symptom of a more serious matter like depression.
The key here is to understand why you prefer to spend the day on the sofa. Are you trying to avoid something or someone? Is your work no longer interesting? Do you feel a sense of disconnection from your group of friends? “If for more than two weeks you can’t find the motivation to do things you liked before, or you no longer enjoy doing what you loved before, it’s time to talk to your doctor or another professional who can help you. , ”Says Hendriks. These are often signs of something deeper.
That said, the reason you enjoy being alone watching Netflix is because it’s a comforting activity that doesn’t require a lot of effort. After everything that has happened in the pandemic years, including things we haven’t yet worked out as a collective, it’s understandable not to feel 100 percent the person you used to be. “We hear all the time of people struggling to get the proverbial engine going after last year,” says Hendriks. “I see more and more people in a state of deep distrust, including teenagers and children.”
This sense of distrust, the therapist clarifies, is also linked to the fact that you have not had the opportunity to learn and grow as you always have. “We have a natural inclination towards evolution and growth. And when we notice we’ve done a piece, we feel good, ”says Hendriks. “But to get that feeling, you need stimulation and evaluation time.”
The lack of stimulation from the outside world could be among the reasons for your recent sense of low motivation. Spending so much time indoors has probably given you an opportunity to reevaluate your idea of yourself, which can lead to existential crises and confusion. Perhaps, “you’re wondering who you are now, what your values and ideas are based on,” says Hendriks. “And if you don’t find the answer to these questions, you feel a sense of lethargy and fatigue. You have lost your anchor. “
Looking at the growing cases of burnout among very young people, Hendriks points out that sometimes not making 100 percent commitment is the healthiest thing to do. There is no need to be hard on yourself. Furthermore, some crises bring opportunities with them. “The pandemic has prompted so many people to realize for the first time what is really important to them,” says Hendriks.
Either way, you should take your current emotional state into consideration, because even if it doesn’t seem like a problem yet, the habits you’re establishing — such as exclusively binge-watching — could drag you into a depressive state in the long run.
“We live in a scenario that has lost its structures,” explains Hendriks. During the lockdown, people spent a lot of time on the sofa in their pajamas, and no one expected anything anymore. “This has created the habit of indulging in languid behaviors,” continues the therapist. “It can be nice to adopt them on a lazy weekend or when you go on vacation, but if you carry them for a long time, you forget that you also need more for a balanced life.”
Not participating in social activities for a while can make a person feel more insecure, isolated from friends and family, and increase the level of anxiety when deciding to go out again, explains Hendriks. To get out of this vicious circle, Hendriks recommends doing something that may seem unthinkable: “keep moving and create a routine,” he says.
One way to get started is to write a to-do list, because it’s easy to forget them when you’re not feeling mentally active. “Write these activities down somewhere and break them down into small passages,” Hendriks continues. “The smaller the steps the better, because you have a better chance of completing them. And that will inspire you to do it more often. “
According to Hendriks, structuring the day by planning these small activities is a good habit. But if you feel that it is not yet time to plan or execute specific activities, you can start with breaks from binge watching. You can schedule three meals a day and go out for an evening walk, for example. Or take up the time while watching something to break up the monotony a bit. So, little by little, you will have carved out a way out.