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How to Overcome Apathy

Apathy refers to a lack of motivation or goal-directed behavior. Apathy can also affect emotional expression, making it difficult to enjoy relationships or the movements of everyday life. Apathy itself isn't a mental health condition, but it often coincides with depression, anxiety disorders, early substance use recovery, and PTSD. But instead of feeling sad or angry, many people with apathy simply describe the feeling as a persistent state of numbness.

How to Deal With Apathy

Apathy may fluctuate and can be situational or general. Situational apathy occurs in response to a specific stressor, such as the end of a relationship or feeling burnt out in your job. General apathy is more pervasive and chronic. It doesn't have a defined beginning, middle, or end, and it can ebb and flow over time.

If you're struggling, here are some tips that can help:

Start With a Physical Exam

Although feeling apathetic often accompanies mental health conditions, it can also be a symptom of several underlying medical issues, including:

  • neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis

  • endocrine disorders like diabetes or hypothyroidism

  • nutritional deficiencies

  • fibromyalgia

  • chronic fatigue syndrome

  • sleep apnea or insomnia

  • autoimmune disorders like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis

If you notice other symptoms, make a note of them to share with your primary care physician. In general, it's also a good idea to get bloodwork done annually.

Focus on Making Small Changes

If you experience apathy, you may feel stuck with feeling unmotivated in daily life. This is normal, but it's important to be realistic with how you break through your 'stuckness.'

Some people gain some momentum to do something "big" and then they make a massive to-do list. But, after a few days, they feel burnt out again. This can create a vicious stop-start cycle, and that can feel discouraging.

Instead, consider breaking down larger goals into smaller tasks. This can help you feel more empowered, particularly if you're able to stay consistent with them.

Try to Find Flow

Flow refers to a psychological state of full immersion. When you're in a state of flow, you're totally preoccupied with the task at hand. You're not thinking about anything beyond the present moment.

While flow doesn't necessarily "fix" apathy syndrome, it can instill a sense of meaning and excitement. This can reinforce positive feelings, and it may lead to making more dramatic and significant lifestyle changes.

Seek Novel Experiences

Many of us move through everyday tasks on a sense of auto-pilot. While this isn't inherently wrong, it can be extremely beneficial to try something new.

Keep in mind that 'novelty' doesn't need to be dramatic. Even taking a new route to work or trying a new restaurant can stimulate creativity, excitement, and a desire to grow in a new direction. Subsequently, the more you can expose yourself to new people and ideas, the more immersed you may feel as you move through life.

Focus on Someone (Or Something Else)

Spending time volunteering or helping others can help break up apathy. It always feels good to make the world a better place, even if your actions feel small. Deliberate care for others also stimulates a sense of meaning and reduces the focus on your own ego- you're giving part of yourself to someone else, and they may take your generosity to pay it forward.

Get Physically Active

There is extensive research highlighting how exercise can improve your overall well-being. Even if you feel unmotivated to work out, disciplining yourself into this habit can reduce or even eliminate apathy. Like anything, the goal is to stay consistent. You don't have to commit to anything extreme- even just 20-30 minutes a day can make a big difference in how you feel.

Seek Professional Support

Persistent apathy can make it challenging to enjoy everyday life, and it can also compromise self-care and reinforce negative self-talk. This becomes a vicious cycle that often feels challenging to get out of.

Seeking support from a mental health professional can help you better understand your apathetic feelings. It also provides you with a safe and supportive space to learn new coping skills to identify your needs and better manage your emotions.

Strengthening Your Mental Health With Resurface Group

If you're experiencing emotional apathy, you're not alone, and it is possible to experience positive feelings again.

At Resurface Group, we are dedicated to you and your loved one's well-being. We provide customized support for clients experiencing substance use and mental health disorders.

Contact us today to learn more about our dynamic programs.

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