When New York Times first published a piece on sedation – a term coined by sociologist and psychologist Corey Keyes, PhD, which has gained greater importance in the pandemic – it felt like a sigh of relief. Finally, there was a word to describe how we have all had the last year. Baptized as the “neglected middle child with mental health,” it may be the label you tried to attach to the “feeling of stagnation and emptiness” you experienced when COVID-19 weeks turned into months. The good news? There are steps you can take to feel better.
What is language?
Language is “a prolonged state of ‘blah’ or feeling of low, dissatisfied and lack of motivation,” Christina Cruz, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and mindset and trust coach in Oregon, told POPSUGAR. You may also feel lethargic, cynical, short-lived, chronically overwhelmed or stagnant.
Dr. Cruz explained that lethargy is by no means a new phenomenon. “Just looking at the symptoms of lethargy will tell you that we have struggled with weakness probably at different times in our lives,” she said. However, it has grown exponentially over the last year in the midst of so much anxiety, confusion, fear and stress. COVID-19 also removed many of the outlets and coping mechanisms that people stood on to deal with these prepandemic symptoms, from happy hours with friends to long sessions in the gym. Dr. Cruz said this has caused the symptoms of lethargy to feel more intense than ever before.
Neha Mistry, PsyD, a therapist in Texas, noted that while pampering can make you feel empty, it is not a mental illness or mood disorder. “It does not necessarily evoke feelings of hopelessness, guilt and prolonged periods of low depression, as clinical depression does,” said Dr. Mistry to POPSUGAR.
Think of crumbling as the place between feeling really depressed and thriving, added Kelly Vincent, PsyD, a licensed psychologist in California. You are not depressed, unable to get out of bed, but you are not living to your full potential either. To be classified as a clinical mood disorder, the symptoms would have to interfere with your ability to walk around your day, Dr. Vincent. “From what current research says, sedation does not destroy a person’s ability to function or cope. Instead, it seems to dampen their emotional state, outlook on life, and motivation.”
How to deal with the symptoms of language
The first step in dealing with drowsiness – or big, unpleasant feelings – is to acknowledge it. “This last year has been intense, so it makes a lot of sense why you might be struggling with motivation and finding a new groove,” said Dr. Vincent to POPSUGAR and added that “normalizing the experience can reduce the intensity.” These expert tips will help you find a way to feel more energetic and fulfilled.
- Focus on your basic needs. Dr. Cruz recommends asking yourself: Am I eating enough? Do I prioritize sleep? Did I drink plenty of water today? Do I take breaks during the day to regroup or have social interaction? What is one thing that brought me joy today? This simple task can help you feel more centered and in control.
- Participate in activities that once brought you joy. “I have clients who used to find joy in walking and running, but when COVID-19 hit, they slowly lost their motivation to continue doing things that once brought fulfillment or relieved stress,” said Dr. Cruz. Now is the time to (surely) return to the things that made you happy.
- Continue the hobbies you had while staying at home. Did you knit or fell in love with baking? Perhaps learning to master a new TikTok dance or training challenge was a source of happiness and achievement. Whatever has helped you through the past year, keep doing it. As Dr. Mistry noted, it is important to put your phone down and close your work email from time to time.
- Create a helpful, focused morning and night routine. They help fuel your motivation and ensure you get adequate sleep, which is essential to feeling best.
- Validate your feelings. “What you can name, you can tame,” said Dr. Mistry. “Having the language to identify how we feel can help us talk about it, better understand it, and finally do something about it.” Regularly remind yourself that there is a reason you feel this way, and let it nurture your efforts to take better care of yourself.