Kate Hawkesby: Auckland's lockdown has me languishing

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Fri, 17 Sep 2021, 8:59AM
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Kate Hawkesby: Auckland's lockdown has me languishing

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Fri, 17 Sep 2021, 8:59AM

Day 31 in Level 4 for Aucklanders, and boy, are we over it. 

There’s actually a word for how we’re all feeling and it’s been called the dominant emotion of 2021. 

It’s called languishing. Psychologist Dougal Sutherland, who we had on the show recently, says "the psychological toll of Delta may start to show, even for those out of lockdown now." He said recently that apparently even people with no existing or underlying mental health concerns can feel this languishing. 

Languishing is basically just feeling like life is dull and meaningless, you can feel stagnant and empty. Everything seems foggy, Groundhog Day. I mean hello? Does that not sum up everyone in Auckland right now or what? 

This lockdown has felt harder, it's certainly been longer. But from the get go, we've been less enthusiastic about baking banana bread and doing home workouts, and we just seem more.. blah. Like we're over it. 

Sutherland says that "in the UK, increased levels of languishing were reported as lockdowns continued", and he says that Aucklanders "are at risk of experiencing a similar decline in their mental health as the groundhog days of an extended lockdown continue". 

Languishing is one thing.. but at the extreme end, of course, there's burnout and that's the worry for frontline health workers and other essential workers.  

Sutherland notes Andrew Little's comments recently around the high level of stress nurses and doctors are under in these trying circumstances. If you think back to just prior to lockdown, nurses were already exhausted and on the brink of further strike action, they were already, in many cases, experiencing burnout. So that's a much tougher road for them.  

If we look at it like a scale or a continuum, you've got flourishing up the top and languishing is the neglected middle child. According to American psychologist Adam Grant, it's the void between depression and flourishing. He describes it as basically the absence of wellbeing; you're just not functioning at full capacity. 

There is hope though, well mainly that coming out of lockdown cheers us all up immeasurably, but also that increasing vaccination rates eases our fear around Covid.  

For those feeling anxious, Sutherland says anxiety levels are likely to diminish as more people get vaccinated because the threat of an outbreak diminishes. Not that we won't necessarily get further outbreaks, but we will be learning to live with Covid more fearlessly by then with vaccination rates up. 

So, if you're feeling a bit 'blah', turns out there's a reason for it, a word for it, it's not uncommon, and you may just be perfectly healthy fit and well, you're just languishing right now.