‘Meh’, defined as “expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm”, describes perfectly the state of limbo between not being sad but not being happy either. It represents a state of lethargy or emptiness that’s difficult to shake, but isn’t so bad that it renders you unable to get out of bed in the same way depression can.
This feeling can stem from anything, from feeling uninspired at work or feeling like you aren’t enough. Mind coach Anna Williamson says that feeling overwhelmed by the constant stream of information, be it Instagram, the news or constant requests from your boss, can result in a feeling of inner emptiness.
“Burnout is a key cause for this in-between feeling,” Williamson. “We mustn’t be quick to self-diagnose, when in actual fact a lot of people just need to make the small tweaks and changes. Reduce time spent on social media and technology, and spend more time with people face-to-face, doing exercise, and getting outdoors.”
With building pressures from social media, it’s easy to fall into the self-doubt trap. Scrolling through your Instagram feed and seeing post after post of cool parties, elaborate dinners and once-in-a-lifetime holidays can leave you feeling ‘meh’, as if your life isn’t as noteworthy or interesting as those seen through an on-screen filter.
“When it comes to the shift in perspective, it’s really important to try and keep a level head,” says Katherine Ormerod, fashion influencer and author of Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life. “In the past, I have posted gorgeous, aspirational pictures to social media, while behind the scenes my life has been falling apart. I’ve smiled on the same days when I’ve been in hysterical tears. I’ve looked glossy and successful when my husband had just left me or I’d been made redundant. What you see is not always, or even often, what you get.”
Being happy and feeling your best all the time isn’t attainable, nor is it realistic. It’s a dangerous ideal – the pressures of perfection can leave us in a grey area with our mental health, neither happy nor sad, just flat. Take Bryony Gordon, journalist, author and mental health campaigner, who recently voiced her lacklustre mood on Instagram. She explained that feeling low needn’t be a precursor to conditions such as depression or anxiety, and that we should simply sit with it as a feeling and know that it will pass.
“I’ve been very meh today – meh often being the precursor to the dreaded blurghh of depression, but not always,” she wrote on Instagram. “Anyway, I’ve realised that the meh is just fine. Previously I would have fretted about the meh…
“Hello to anyone feeling the meh or the bluergghh right now, imagining that everyone but you is out there this sunny bank holiday enjoying themselves,” she said after highlighting that in earlier stages of her life she would have turned to drink rather than face her feelings. “Know that there are others like you out there, and that there will be other bank holidays. In the meantime, sit with the meh and the bluerghh, accept them for the time being, and know that they will eventually go. Have a cup of tea with the meh, watch a box set with it, read a book with it. Talk to it, see what it wants and why it’s here. Remember that the meh and the bleurghh are ok, even if they don’t feel that way at the time.”
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I’ve been very meh today – meh often being the precursor to the dreaded blurghh of depression, but not always. Anyway, I’ve realised that the meh is just fine. Previously I would have fretted about the meh. I would have drunk on the meh. I would have done anything not to feel the meh. Today I sat with the meh for some time, and then took it swimming in the cold unheated water of the local lido. The meh felt a bit better for that – certainly better than if I had thrown a load of alcohol on it. So that’s something. Hello to anyone feeling the meh or the bluergghh right now, imagining that everyone but you is out there this sunny bank holiday enjoying themselves. Know that there are others like you out there, and that there will be other bank holidays. In the meantime, sit with the meh and the bluerghh, accept them for the time being, and know that they will eventually go. Have a cup of tea with the meh, watch a box set with it, read a book with it. Talk to it, see what it wants and why it’s here. Remember that the meh and the bleurghh are ok, even if they don’t feel that way at the time.
Williamson recommends taking five minutes for self-care, even on the busiest days, which has lasting effects on our moods and perceptions.
“When things start to get a bit overwhelming, perhaps the stress button is being pressed a little ‘too’ much, and you feel things are perhaps getting on top of you, it is quite common to feel a bit blank, empty and a little out of sorts,” explains Williamson.
“Recognising this feeling is key, if we do something about it quick smart, there is every chance things will begin to improve quickly.”
As feeling ‘meh’ is a sign of a burnout, ask yourself what changes need to be made in the short term to help you feel back on track and experiencing different waves of emotion.
“It’s important to remember that having a range of emotions is really important, feeling appropriate levels of sadness, stress, as well as happiness, is important – we must ‘feel’ in order to know, recognise and regulate our mood and emotions,” says Williamson.
It’s vital to recognise that feeling a range of emotions is completely normal, without just focusing on feeling your best happy self all the time.
Rachel Boyd from Mind echoes Williamson, explaining that “our feelings about ourselves, our lives and our relationships with others can vary and might change over time too. And can be affected by the things happening around us.”
“This can sometimes make it difficult to know when thoughts and feelings might be a mental health problem.”
One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in any year, such as anxiety and depression. Sometimes, there are clear reasons or triggers for feeling a certain way, but in other cases it might not be so obvious. Mind advises that if you’ve been finding things difficult for a couple of weeks or more without much change in mood, or if feelings return often, it might mean that you need some further support.
Recognise that smaller changes can help the bigger picture, so pinpoint what would make you feel better. Perhaps ask your boss for a little bit of a break, speak to your family or people you trust to ask them for a bit of extra support.
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do something you had planned to. Try to treat yourself as you would treat a friend, and be kind to yourself.
- Exercise. Being active is good for your mind as well as your body. Regular exercise can lift your mood, help you sleep better. and give you more energy. It’s also proven to be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression.
- Figure out what makes you happy. Try making a list of activities, people and places that make you feel good, followed by a separate list of what you do every day. It won’t be possible to include everything, but try to find ways to bring those things into your daily routine.
- Try new things. Trying something new, like a new hobby, skill or even new foods can help boost your mood and break unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaviour.
- Keep a mood diary. This can help you keep track of any changes in your mood and you might find that you have more good days than you think. It can also help you notice if any activities, places or people make you feel better or worse.
If you do feel like you’re experiencing mental health difficulties, then speak to someone to make sure you get the right help for you. Whether that’s your GP, friends or family or a mental health charity.
Visit mind.org.uk/findthewords or call the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 for more information.
From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK