4 Ways to Overcome Apathy
Apathy is the pits. It's not sadness, not anger, just a void of any emotion or motivation. It feels like there's no point in trying and things aren't even enjoyable anymore. It's a heaviness in the heart and a time of numbness and just going through the motions. It's an absence of joy.
The good news is, apathy isn't permanent.
It often comes after a prolonged period of chaos as your dopamine has been swinging up and down until burnout. It can happen after normally minor things all go wrong at once and become overwhelming, when you just don't feel like getting caught up in friend or family drama anymore, or if you come to a point in a relationship where you realize there's no point to arguing anymore. You'd think being past these things would make you happier, but aside from a temporary feeling of relief, it doesn't feel better. This is because your serotonin stores have shrunk during the chaotic times and so what used to feel peaceful or even normal just feels kind of "there."
You might really benefit from therapy and/or medication even temporarily to help adjust those neurotransmitters. If you aren't in a place where you can get therapy or would like to try some things you can do on your own, these are the things I do daily that help keep me out of apathy or to shorten the duration of it when it happens.
1. Go for a Walk
Walking, even 10 minutes a day or 15 minutes every other day has so many benefits to your whole body as well as your mood. Our veins only go one way, so walking is a phenomenal way to increase circulation not just during the walk, but after, too via increasing muscle tone. This also increases resting metabolism, meaning the metabolism we have 24 hours a day. Walking is low impact and releases endorphins; the feel good hormones. They also decrease the stress hormones and provide natural pain relief. Even if you don't feel like going for a walk, get your shoes on and take a quick on every day because you know you'll feel better afterwards and long term.
2. Come to Your Senses
Our sense of smell and taste bring our awareness physically into the present moment. The sense of smell is the only one that bypasses the brain's thalamus, which is the processing center. Even if your mind is caught up in some tangled thoughts, a fresh herb or spice will bypass that and break the train. Ayurvedic spices like cardamom and cinnamon are great in home baked goods. 5 spice combines all the five tastes and really wakes your mouth and stomach up, improving circulation and digestion.
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3. Stop and Smell the Roses
Roses, or any other wonderful smells, especially essential oils which are concentrated plant extracts, contain chemicals that act on our brain in positive ways. Slowly inhaling them is what aromatherapy basically is, whether they are in a diffuser, lotion, or natural perfume or soaps. Lavender has been studied and shown to help with anxiety and insomnia. Bergamot (Italian Citrus) has also been shown to help stress-induced anxiety as well as mild mood disorders. Mint has been found to increase focus and cognitive ability, as well as to decrease mental fatigue. Having an essential oil soap in your shower can turn that into a daily aromatherapy ritual where you can cleanse your body as well as your mind. Try picturing the soap washing away any bad energy and take some deep breaths to fully enjoy the experience.
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4. Breathe Right
We all know how to breathe, we've been doing it since the day we were born. But did you know that controlling your breathing can have amazingly beneficial benefits to your mind? We breathe differently when we are stressed, under immediate threat, relaxed, or happy. Our body responds and reacts on a loop and releases corresponding neurotransmitters to suit the current perceived need. Chronic stress is complicated, but one way to counteract it that is free, easy, and can be done all day long is a simple breathing exercise.
Breathe in through your diaphragm so your stomach expands, slowly and deeply counting in to three. Hold for just a split second, and exhale slowly to a count of five, the last count or two really feeling the squeeze in your lower ribs and your muscles tightening. The long exhale signals your brain to release acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for how happy you feel and serotonin production and regulation. You can breathe like this for a short time, any time you remember, during your daily walks, or all day long. It also brings your attention to the present moment and gives an overall feeling of being centered, especially when things seem out of control.
Most people will have times of apathy here and there. During hard times, after chaotic times, during and after break ups, job loss, or even family drama, apathy happens. It is sometimes unavoidable, but you can still do some simple things to keep your mood from going down that road or to help you navigate your way back out. If you make decisions from a lower state of mind, you'll be more likely to be reactive or just try to get away from something short term. The patterns will be more likely to repeat. You'll make better decisions from a higher state of mind, and those will be much better in the long run.
During apathy, looking at the past and future can feel like being in a hall of mirrors. It's so suffocating that it's hard to remember a time when life was any different, or to imagine a time when it won't be this way. But your mind is playing tricks on you. It hasn't always been that way, and things will get better. You've got to know and believe that even if it doesn't seem so right this moment. Take good care of yourself, and know that you will make it through.
Note: This article was not written by a medical professional and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult your doctor or therapist for any medical advice.