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  • The Bear

Is it Ok to not be Ok !

I keep hearing people say that it is ok not to be ok, I’ve pondered on this and came to the conclusion it isn’t ok not to be ok, it is ok to admit your not ok but the not being ok bit doesn’t really sit right with me. Surely we all want to be ok, ask anyone if they are ok and mostly they will say ye I’m fine, rarely does anyone say nah I’m not! So I thought I would start by putting my hand up and saying actually I am not ok and I am not ok about it. I honestly don’t think I’m alone here, right now is anyone ok, everyone I know is or has been struggling in some way over the last year or so, a worldwide pandemic will do that to you.

If I am honest with myself though I was struggling before the pandemic hit us all, I had a tough few years experiencing a fair amount of loss and grief in a fairly short amount of time and then found myself laid up with a back injury for 3 months and then bang this thing called COVID came around the corner and decided to alter all of our lives, I remember the first few weeks working from home sat across the dining table from my wife and saying to each other this will all blow over in a few weeks, how wrong we we’re and nearly a year and a half later we are still getting back to a near normal or a new normal whatever you want to call it. Restrictions are easing and the government say we need to learn to live with it, which is what we will do. But coming back to being ok or not, I’ve thought on that quite a bit, I don’t think I am depressed but then I don’t think I am flourishing which apparently is the two ends of the scale. However if I look at my needs based against Maslow’s Hierarchy where he wraps it all up in a nice little pyramid for us then I assume my needs are being met so I should be well on the way to self actualisation! Theories are just that though aren’t they, theories!

If we could all put ourselves in a neat little theoretical box we would all be happy and flourishing. That’s not to say I am not happy though, as I am, what have I got to not be happy about , I have a lovely life, an amazing wife, two gorgeous daughters, great friends, my basic needs are all met, good job (well I’ll get to that shortly) I’m fed and watered, I get exercised regular, lots of material things etc, so yes I am generally happy, shouldn’t complain really. Just to touch on the job thing, I have a good job, I have spent many years getting to where I want to be in my career but now unfortunately, possibly because of the pandemic or it might have happened anyway I find myself at risk of redundancy, I’m not alone in this, a huge percentage of my organisation are going through this together, review, restructure, consultation, flatter structure, cost savings, new ways of working, you know all the usual buzz words that go along with a change process, so actually I’m not too happy about that one just now, but then maybe I should be, does it present new opportunities, it may do but I’m not there yet!

Where I am at right now is something they are calling languishing, it’s not a new term as such, it’s been around for a while but it appears to nicely sum up where we are all probably at right now. In a recent article in the New York Times, organisational psychologist Adam Grant, PhD, wrote that languishing is "a sense of stagnation and emptiness." While you're in this state, you may not see the point of things or anticipate any forward direction or fulfillment in your life. You're not necessarily feeling hopeless—just a bit "blah." The term "languishing" was coined by sociologist Corey Keyes, PhD. His research has suggested that the absence of a mental disorder does not necessarily equate to mental health and well-being. Positive emotions, life satisfaction, a sense of meaning, interactions with society, and positive relationships are all concepts that are tied to our sense of mental well-being, people who are languishing tend to be scoring poorly across those domains. At first glance these symptoms these might seem to point to being depressed—but they're not. However even though depression would not be diagnosed with a mental health condition it points to the conclusion you could be very far from getting the most out of life.

Rather than looking at mental health along a one-dimensional spectrum—with one side representing a diagnosable mental disorder and the other side, mental well-being, some researchers are thinking about it differently. They see it in four quadrants along the dual continuum of mental health and mental illness. Imagine a cross formed by one horizontal line and one vertical line. The X-axis draws the continuum between mental illness, while the Y-axis draws that between well-being. People high in mental health and well-being are "flourishing," while those with low levels of well-being—but no diagnosable mental illness—are "languishing." When COVID-19 upended society, it also threatened our lives and those of our loved ones. Many people have found ways to adjust to the changes and for some unrelenting fear and dread can sink us into a languishing state. As scientists and physicians work to treat and cure the physical symptoms of long-haul COVID, many people are struggling with the emotional long-haul of the pandemic, It's still too early to ascertain all of the effects that the pandemic has had, and will have, on languishing. However, a recent Italian study found that healthcare workers who were languishing in the spring of 2020 were three times more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. In the study, the authors concluded that "actions aimed at providing adequate training, protecting more vulnerable workers’ categories and promoting positive mental health may mitigate the negative psychological impact of the pandemic, and help plan for a post-pandemic phase."

Languishing may go unnamed and understudied because of its insidious and quiet nature. One thing that is clear is that combating it could lie with us as individuals and in some of our personal practices, such as carving out time to immerse yourself in an activity that you enjoy. I have some ideas to lift myself out of the blah that I’m feeling and I want to share some of that with you all in my next post. So if you are resonating with some of what I have said and feel that you too are not ok and this languishing thing could sum it up then keep your eyes out and I’ll be back with you shortly.

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