From Languishing to More Ease

December 13, 2021 by

By Cawood Fitzhugh

We all went into this pandemic together.  Quarantine, washing hands, wearing masks, experiencing profound fear, increasing anxiety, showing compassion all became a collective consciousness for many of us.  News reports flashed from around the world of people in isolation, trying to make the best of it. “Some Good News” with John Krasinski, videos of Italians singing from balconies, folks in NYC cheering on healthcare workers, photos of loved ones outside of nursing home windows waving to relatives locked inside were all broadcasted this time last year.

Now that the pandemic dynamics have shifted with vaccine success, we are attempting to return to “normal” which has been anything but normal!  Re-entry has been a solo experience for many of us, with each of us re-entering at different times and at different paces. This experience has felt isolating at times with new feelings of unexpected loneliness.  In addition, feelings of uncertainty have arisen as we have tried to navigate this new normal, adding more stress to an already stressed-out baseline.

New terminology has evolved this past year, including “languishing”. Languishing is the void between depression and flourishing – the absence of well-being. It’s a sensation of stagnation and emptiness and is thought to be the dominant emotion of 2021 per Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist.  He says, “It’s the result of so many of us being on high alert in flight, fright or freeze and the result of being on such adrenaline rushes to now coming back into a slow and steady chronic state of anguish as the Pandemic continues to affect our work performance and ultimately our wellbeing.”

In our mindfulness classes, we pay attention to transitions through awareness of what is happening as we shift from one position to another.  We pay attention to our bodies, our minds, and our hearts, noticing these shifts.

It is imperative, as we begin to navigate through what remains of this pandemic, to pay attention to our own transitions.  How we move through this, what support systems are in place, where we are placing our attention, and HOW we are tending to ourselves and others, is important for us as individuals and for us as organizations if we are to flourish. Naming our traumas, frustrations, feelings of support or lack of support- especially among our health care workers- is important in our own healing.

Last year will not just “go away”.  It was very real, especially for those of us on the front lines of this pandemic. We were all affected by the last year and we continue to be affected by its aftermath, in addition to the new challenges we face trying to function optimally again as individuals and as businesses.

Mindfulness, paying attention to the present moment nonjudgmentally, can help us navigate this turbulence by changing our relationship to this stress.  There are many mindfulness techniques that can be used throughout the day to help bring our reactivity down a bit.  New research is being done- that seems to be promising- evaluating short moments of mindfulness, practiced many times a day, and the positive benefit this can have on our nervous system.

Here is a technique for breathing you can use to help with anxiety.  It is the five finger breathing exercise with Jud Brewer, a neuropsychiatrist and one of my mindfulness instructors.  Remember, it’s small moments many times a day!

Five Finger Breathing

The UVA Mindfulness Center is committed to supporting healthy work-life balance.  Our eight-week courses for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness for Healthcare Workers have been shown to help improve our relationship to stress.  These courses are open to the public and the University.


As we all move through what remains of this pandemic, give yourself the gift of wholeness and health this holiday season by compassionately paying attention to transitions in yourself and in the workplace.  Set aside time in your schedule for your own well-being each day- doing the five finger breathing, practicing STOP or RAINS (if you have taken one of our courses) or doing some mindful stretching or chair yoga daily at your workspace.


Everything shifts and changes and so will this pandemic. In the meantime, it’s important to be gentle with ourselves, caring for ourselves and others as best we can

Filed Under: Monthly Musings