Sometimes, my thoughts and emotions race faster than I can catch them. There are times I feel motivated to help myself, so I turn to writing in an attempt to understand my feelings. Other times, though, I couldn't care less to sort my life out.
Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It's the lack of purpose, motivation, and joy in life – and it triples the odds that we’ll cut back on work. It makes us steep slowly into a more anxious and depressed version of ourselves.
The truth is that I’ve felt extremely languished and lonely as a result of the pandemic, and I know some of you feel that way too.
We experience an overwhelming number of emotions, sometimes even within a single day. Personally, they range from guilt stemming from not doing “enough”, to frustration from not being appreciated enough. Often, these emotions metamorphosize into a deep sense of loneliness and a feeling of being misunderstood.
These days, I often find myself demotivated as I perceive the tasks and routines that entail my day as absolutely pointless and meaningless.
My eagerness to flip this around led me to find work at a mental wellness startup called YANA: You Are Not Alone. A huge part of my job involved conducting market research with students – people like myself – and what I found over the course of 22 in-depth interviews changed my perspective on life and mental health entirely.
To begin with, I realized that whatever I was feeling was extremely normal.
Loneliness is more common than we think
These heartfelt conversations opened my eyes to the amount of people who had hidden struggles – from social issues to losing a loved one; to toxic patterns like comparing, overthinking, and berating themselves. Most of them were rooted either in the feeling of loneliness, or fear and anxiety regarding one’s purpose in life.
It was very surprising for me to see that so many people struggle so deeply with different aspects of their life. The same people who seem to have it all together, who have the perfect grades and numerous co-curricular activities face challenges that many of us would have never thought of.
One of them told me about not being able to get over the fear of losing her family members after having so many personal losses. To me, she always came off as cheerful and happy! Little did I know that she was facing her own struggles; pain and loneliness stashed behind a smile. Though the interviews were eye opening, they did leave me feeling helpless. I wondered how I could help or even alleviate the intensity of their challenges.
However, through my conversations with them, I saw people lightening up and feeling liberated having shared their stories. Perhaps it was the fact that I was an outsider there to listen, or more importantly, the fact that I was a human being – not just a call center or a bot on the other end.
This experience taught me to deploy empathy and realize that people’s actions towards me are often influenced by their past experiences and beliefs. It opened my eyes to the importance of kindness when dealing with others and how this simple virtue would make the world a much better place to live in.
We don’t talk about our feelings enough.
A study conducted by UCLA professor of psychology Matthew D. Lieberman found that naming our emotions help reduce their intensity.
I believe we need to feel it in order to heal ourselves, and the first step towards doing that is self-awareness. Verbalising our thoughts and emotions helps us compartmentalize the pandemonium within our minds and figure out the fears and insecurities that they originate from. It initiates the process of developing our mental wellness further and growing into stronger, more resilient individuals.
However, the barriers that stop people from seeking external help are deeper than we think.
They include: downplaying and belittling one's own problems in comparison to more “serious” ones, affordability of the service, its accessibility, lack of self-awareness, societal perceptions, privacy and confidentiality, fear of judgment, being vulnerable in front of others, and not wishing to burden someone else with our “first world” problems.
Many of the people I interviewed hadn’t spoken to their friends about their issues as they didn’t want to be a burden to them, or they didn’t want to be that “whiny” friend. They felt like their issues were either smaller than that of their friends or that their friends wouldn’t understand where they were coming from as they hadn’t gone through anything similar.
Today, one simple Google search would open us up to so many options that enable us to chat with a random stranger at an affordable fee. Whether you’d be more comfortable with a friend or someone new, verbalising your emotions is the first step to mental wellness and learning from your experiences.
For example, some people find it easier to open up to a stranger who has faced similar experiences rather than a friend who is not in the same boat, and some even enjoy indulging in forums that deal with particular challenges. It opens us up to new perspectives and a third person heuristic. It helps us take more proactive steps in the direction of our mental health when we know we’re being supported by someone whose only intention is to help us.
We all need that push and external voice sometimes. It’s not easy to live within the clutter of our own mind. Talking it out helps us gain clarity and reduce the intensity of our emotions!
There is always someone out there willing to listen
There’s always some form of help out there. You might not receive it from the people you most expect it from nor from the people you’ve helped the most. However, there is always someone who can be patient with you and help you out of a low point.
There are numerous platforms where we can express ourselves. These range from apps like Intellect, Calm, and Hapi, to listening and counselling services like YANA, heyy.life, Safe Space, to organizations like Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Silver Ribbon and more!
Lastly, rewire your mindset.
Do yourself justice to allow yourself to seek this cathartic experience of simply having a sincere conversation with anyone you think could be of help. Don’t let one past experience define your future experiences and love yourself enough to place your mental wellbeing above all!
Life is what we want it to be and what we make out of it. Believing that we are lonely in this journey is a mistake many of us make.
Seek help and allow yourself to grow into your best version.