Languishing & Mental Health

I read this article by Adam Grant last week, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Our team had been discussing the new book The Heart of the Mission together, particularly the topic of relationship and sales. We were talking about the pastors, business managers, and finance councils we meet with – and how tired and disheartened many of them are right now.

I read this article about “Languishing” and thought, “Yes, this describes so much of what’s going on right now in the world.” We heard about this idea of “emotional burnout” related to the pandemic about a year ago. I know I experienced it – I spent hours and hours reading news articles about Covid cases, trying to understand just how it was transmitted and what I could do to prevent myself from getting sick. I remained physically healthy during those first few weeks – but emotionally I was done. I didn’t have any room for anything except worry and anxiety. So I took a break, I set boundaries with my devices. I did not need every single headline pinged to my phone the moment it was published.

Many of us got through that time of the pandemic – but the pandemic isn’t over, we’re still in it – we know a lot more, many of us are fully or partially vaccinated, millions have gotten sick and survived, millions haven’t. There’s still this hesitancy though to ‘get back to normal’ (even emotionally and spiritually normal) – and I think Adam writes eloquently about it. He says:

It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing.

Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.


If he’s right and most of us are experiencing this emotion, how can we get through it as a parish family? What can we do to bring our people through to the other side – to joy?

As per usual, I’ve got a few ideas where we can acknowledge this feeling and then choose to celebrate joy.

Many people missed celebrating milestones and accomplishments this past year – how can you celebrate those now? Throw a Birthday Party for everyone at the parish to celebrate another year in the books. Celebrate all of the Baptisms and Weddings from this past year at an upcoming Sunday Liturgy. Hold a graduation for everyone who graduated in 2020 and 2021. It’s not too late to celebrate!

Have a bulletin board in the gathering space asking everyone to write down an accomplish from the past year and post them for the congregation to see. They might be getting a new job, finishing a longed for home renovation project, buying a new house, planting a beautiful rose bush, seeing their child walk for the first time, finishing pre-school, learning to work remote, and so many more.

Provide resources for mental health awareness, education, and healing. Can your parish bring in a few counselors to provide help for those in need? Could you create a list of trusted therapists in your area? Even sponsor some individuals who can’t afford therapy with a scholarship?

Hold a parish picnic – very simply. Have everyone meet at a local park (or on your Church lawn if you have the space) with a blanket and their own lunch. You could have a water balloon toss or a limbo contest – something super simple that is lots of fun but requires little planning.

Whatever you do – choose joy!

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