As a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate, if anyone asked me how my Ph.D. has been so far, I'd say it's been quite a rollercoaster ride with its fair share of highs and lows. Somewhere in between those highs and lows, and especially since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, I also found myself feeling "meh." Although I was surviving my Ph.D., I wanted to do more than just survive—I wanted to thrive.

After listening to the podcast "Fighting that "meh" feeling of languishing" earlier this year, I was able to articulate a feeling of languishing that I've noticed at different points throughout my Ph.D. Based on what I've heard from others, this is not an uncommon feeling. This feeling, also commonly referred to as feeling "blah" or "meh" lies in between depression and flourishing and might feel like you are stagnating. When someone experiences this, their productivity is likely to dip by reducing their motivation and ability to focus. This lethargy can also affect how our friends and family, who spend time with us, feel.

Researcher Corey Keyes was the first to formally study this emotion and describe its effects on mental health and well-being. Being able to label our emotions is the first step toward using effective coping strategies to manage them. This is why understanding what languishing is and its effects on you might help put things into perspective.

In a recently published New York Times article, author Adam Grant suggests that one way to cope with languishing is to practice being in "flow." Flow refers to being completely immersed into what you are doing while losing track of time, space, and self. Whether you listen to one episode of a podcast every day or play a game of Sudoku on your train ride home, being completely absorbed in a meaningful activity at a given time can combat that "meh" feeling. One way to immerse yourself in an activity is also to make sure that your environment is distraction-free. Several phones now have the feature to use "work" or "night" mode that ensures you don't receive notifications or receive only ones that you deem important during those hours. An app that I have used in the past, called "Flora", plants a virtual (or real) tree if you don't use your phone for a set amount of time and it can feel very rewarding to not only have that tree planted but also derive joy and motivation from making progress on a task.

When we are fighting this feeling of languishing, small wins can go a long way! Taking up tasks that are challenging and meaningful enough but not overwhelming can be key. This month, Fahima shares some excellent tips on self-care strategies that you can use as a graduate student that can also help you feel less "meh" and move closer to flourishing and thriving in grad school.