It happens to all of us every now and then — at certain points in our lives, we feel stagnant. We feel like we’re doing too may things and not enough at the same time; we feel like we’ve accomplished so much, but at the same time haven’t accomplished anything of value. And while I have tried to figure out ways to deal with these feelings (keep an eye out for Thursday’s post!), today I wanted to write about how that makes me feel because here’s a secret: part of the reason I feel stagnant is because in many ways, my mental health is improving. And while that can be good, I don’t know what to do with that.
When I talk about my own mental health, one of the words I use most is the word stagnant. I’m not sure why this became such a commonly-used word, but I use it all the time: when I’m talking with friends or family, when I’m in a therapy session, even when I’m just talking about mental health with people. I think it’s because for me, being stagnant is a double-edged sword.
There are multiple definitions in the dictionary, but the definition of the word stagnant to which I’m referring is defined by Merriam Webster is “not advancing or developing.” A person becomes stagnant when they reach a point where they are not advancing to what’s next, and feelings of stagnancy can have a negative impact on our mental health.
But since stagnation has become common in my adult life, I’ve reflected on this feeling and how it affects me. And here’s my 10,000-foot level approach to stagnation: it’s not necessarily bad. But the approaches I’ve seen to stagnation have turned it into something to be feared and a challenge to overcome, and to turn something that’s so human and simple into a battle to be won – well, it’s why people think that we need to have life hacks for something that happens to everyone throughout our lives.
Because here’s my main point that flies in the face of everything I’ve been told about stagnation: it can signal growth. The challenges I face with my mental health today are not the same challenges I had a few months ago, and they (hopefully) will not be the same challenges I face a few months from now. But this feeling is a clear signal that I’ve grown in some way, and that’s the confidence I need to continue to explore the unknown and grow on my mental health journey.
Everyone feels stagnate at different points in our lives. Sometimes it’s not just what we do about that, but our perspective that matters most. But there’s no way you can understand where you’re going without knowing where you’ve been, and the reminders of where I’ve been on my mental health journey have made these moments of stagnation much more positive than they used to be.