Have you noticed yourself having trouble focusing, feeling unmotivated, and experiencing an overall sense of “blah” lately? If so, you’re not alone.
Now that we are coming to a new chapter of the pandemic and restrictions are being loosened and rules surrounding masks are letting up, more and more people are experiencing a state of being called languishing. The term “languishing” was coined by sociologist Corey Keyes, PhD. It is described as a sense of stagnation and emptiness, and while you’re in this state, you may not see the point of things or anticipate any forward direction or fulfillment in your life. This is not depression nor is it a state of mental wellbeing, it’s somewhere in the middle, a state of “blah.”
When reflecting on the past year, it can be easy to see where this state of languishing might come from. For most people, they have spent the past year in a high state of alert within their autonomic nervous system. Our fight, flight, and freeze response has been switched on for an extended period of time due to various social stressors and traumas and our bodies and minds are exhausted in return. Therefore, it’s no surprise that when we are told to let go of this activation and go back to a state of “normal” that it’s not going to be an easy transition for many people to return to a state of social connection, rest, and calm. For many of us, we will need more time to adjust and to let our nervous systems understand that we are no longer in the same amount of danger as before.
There are different techniques that can be applied to our daily life to help our nervous system feel safe to rest and connect with others again. SCOPE is a list of regulation techniques that comes from the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute. Try inviting these techniques into your daily routine as well as when you’re feeling activated in order to help regulate your nervous system.
S: Slow down. Take 10 steps very slowly, noticing any sensations on the bottom of your feet.
C: Connect to body. Cross your arms and ankles, tuck hands under armpits, lower head, and breathe .O: Orient. Slowly look around, noticing colors and shapes. Let your gaze rest on something pleasant or comforting, like a brief visual vacation.
P: Pendulate. Notice a place of ease in the body and a place of tension. Slowly shift attention between ease – tension – ease.
E: Engage. Engage socially. Connect with someone who can support you.
A technique that was created by Steve Haines that is described in his book, Trauma is Really Strange, talks about using the mnemonic O-M-G, not ‘Oh my God’, but Orient – Move- Ground. O-M-G is a useful tool that covers principles to use when you feel activated. It can work in emergency situations and can be used as a practice in easier times to build resilience.
O: Orient. Orient to the space and people around you. Establish where you are and who you are with, right now. Come into the present. Notice and name three things in your environment that you are drawn to.
M: Move. Move to maintain conscious connection with the body. Wiggle your toes, push your legs into the floor, rub your hands together. Practice expanding with the breath. Expand your arms out wide with the inhale, then move your arms back in on the exhale touching palms, and repeat. Visualizing yourself moving can be just as effective as actually moving, so imagine running on grass with the wind on your face.
G: Ground. Come out of thinking and expressing emotion, and into a simple, detailed exploration of safe, specific sensations. Feel your feet on the ground, your seat muscles in the chair, your back supported by the couch. Know that you are ok because you can feel your feet touching the earth, your skin touching your clothes, and the air coming in and out of your lungs.
I invite you to experiment with these various tools and techniques and to find ways to fit them into your already existing routines and habits. By adding new behaviors to already existing ones, it will make it easier for you to actually do them. Always remember to utilize your local mental health therapists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, yoga teachers, fitness instructors, etc.
You are not alone in your journey for calm, regulation, and healing.