Addressing Autumn Anxiety & Languishing: How to Help Employees Flourish
As cold weather approaches, many people experience a mental health shift that can take a toll on overall employee health. While fall brings joyous occasions and reasons to celebrate with family, the stress of Q4 and end-of-year pressure can feel overwhelming for some. Many are experiencing feelings of anxiety, burnout, and languishing.
On top of these normal events, we’re also still experiencing the effects of the pandemic. As Forbes notes, “This puts employers, managers and leaders in a unique position. While your organization needs to keep generating revenue, you can’t ignore what’s happening right now. Indeed recently published their 2021 Employee Burnout Report and it indicates that 67% of the workers surveyed feel employee burnout has gotten worse since last year. Despite the vaccine and discussion of returning to work, the overall mental health of most employees is well…languishing.”
With this in mind, employers have an opportunity – and even a responsibility – to provide additional support to employees during this difficult time. But what does that look like in action?
Autumn Transitions and Employee Health
For some people, the changing seasons and fast-approaching new year can bring on a feeling of languishing. Languishing is a new term that people are using to describe the dull, “blah” feeling that affects motivation, drive, and ability to focus. People who are languishing may struggle to describe why they’re feeling this way, but it often stems from feeling disconnected and lackluster.
On the emotional spectrum, languishing lies in the middle, between flourishing mental health and depression. It can present itself in a variety of ways, with some people experiencing it more heavily than others. People may report feeling low, empty, or detached, rather than feeling any strong positive or negative emotions. This can manifest in real life as avoidance of tasks or social events, as the person struggles to feel excited about anything – even things they previously enjoyed.
Languishing can be especially harmful to employee health as there’s no notable distress causing it. Without an obvious cause to point to, employees may begin to doubt their professional abilities and lose confidence. Feeling disconnected from their purpose and stagnant in their job may also make them feel unsettled in their jobs.
On the other end of the spectrum is “autumn anxiety”. This is an increase in anxiety that happens at this time every year, and it can occur for a variety of reasons. The pressure of the upcoming holiday season, dissatisfaction with what was achieved over the summer, and the stress of Q4 and end-of-year results are all potential causes.
Similar to languishing, autumn anxiety comes from within, without an obvious external cause. People who experience this yearly anxiety will notice a low mood, irritability, fatigue, disinterest in daily tasks and activities, anxiety, rumination, and depression.
- A lack of sunlight, which causes lower levels of serotonin.
- Lower levels of vitamin D.
- Increases in melatonin, which leads to feelings of fatigue and depression.
- Less time outside and less exercise due to more severe weather.
- Transitions and changes to the schedule, which can cause additional stress and impact sleep.
Anxiety can be especially rough on employee health as people begin to feel trapped inside, without enough to do. With a lack of activities, it can become habitual to worry and ruminate, getting stuck in a negative thought pattern. With the other impacts of autumn anxiety considered, especially an inability to focus and a lack of motivation, it can feel almost impossible to get out of the negative feedback loop. While people with autumn anxiety want to do a great job at work, they can easily get stuck in this negative pattern – especially as the stress of the changing season mounts.
Supporting Mental Health During Autumn
Understanding what your employees are going through is the first step in supporting them during this time. Leaders are likely experiencing similar effects, so it’s just as important to understand these issues for your own mental health.
According to CNN, “research shows that 55% of the workforce is languishing, or feeling stuck. However, when employees who are languishing feel supported, their productivity can improve. As leaders, we can buffer the impact of suffering and prevent burnout before it even gets to that point.”
So how do we break free from languishing and autumn anxiety?
Find a Creative Outlet
Getting creative can help people engage their minds and provide a fun activity to focus on. It can also help remind them why they love certain hobbies and reinvigorate creative passion. This can help them break through ruts at work, too – finding new creating solutions both at home and at work. Learning a new skill, journaling, painting, drawing, practicing calligraphy – these can all be great creative outlets!
AccessElite is offering an upcoming live virtual wellness event centered around art therapy that can help employees, or anyone experiencing languishing, find a way to express their feelings and begin healing. You can check it out here.
Get Some Natural Light
A lack of sunlight and vitamin D are major causes of languishing, autumn anxiety, and seasonal depression. Try to get more time outdoors, near a bright window, or with a light box that mimics the sun. You can also encourage employees to get more natural light by hosting meetings and lunches outside – weather permitting.
Support Physical Wellbeing
Eating a nutritious diet, getting adequate exercise, and sleeping enough are all incredibly important for mental health and overall wellbeing, regardless of the time of year. People should aim for 30 minutes of physical activity each day and about 8 hours of sleep each night. We can also make eating healthy more exciting by celebrating fall foods that you may not have been able to enjoy over the summer – like warm soups, roasted veggies, and homemade holiday desserts. You can encourage your employees to get in the kitchen and enjoy creating healthy foods with one of our upcoming seasonal events.
Languishing and autumn anxiety can make people socially avoidant, but this is a time when connection is needed the most. Feeling connected to family and friends makes people feel supported and safe. Make a point of reaching out to a loved one and setting up a social get-together at least once a week. Encourage employees to do the same by working on employee engagement.
Part of moving from languishing to a better mental health space is finding time to reflect and plan for the future. However, work doesn’t always afford you the space needed to accomplish this. As leaders, we need to set our own boundaries and respect our employees’ boundaries.
Per Harvard Business Review, “We all need to set boundaries that give us the chance to think about where we are and where we want to go. Setting boundaries helps us maintain our time, energy, and emotions. Ask yourself: Where am I feeling resentment and frustration regarding my time and energy?”
If you struggle to set boundaries and maintain them, this is a great place to ask for support from your coworkers. Share your boundaries and ask what theirs are. If you see a coworker allowing a professional boundary to be crossed – or crossing their own boundary – let them know! They should do the same in return – it’s a two-way street.
Boost Employee Engagement for Mental Health
For some, talking to your employees about languishing and autumn anxiety can feel difficult. However, this time of year presents an opportunity to show employees that you care and are here to support them. This is a great time to dig into employee benefits and make sure that there are measures in place to support employees during transitional times such as this. It’s also the perfect time to work on employee engagement and center activities around mental health and overall employee health.
Make sure to check out the upcoming AccessElite events, which are carefully crafted to increase employee engagement in a fun, creative, and thoughtful way. These shared experiences can help boost mental health as well as team morale, making a better work environment for all.