How to Persist Through Apathy

In the depths of depression and throughout the hills and dips of recovery, apathy is a frequent visitor. It steals motivation and leaves nothing behind. When this happens, it’s tempting to let it overtake you. I’ve found that continuing with a task despite apathy can help end a spell of it. Here are some of the ways I use to get me through a period of apathy.

Rewards

Whatever gets you even a little bit motivated can be useful when battling apathy. Granted, if you’re feeling apathetic, even the usual rewards might not have much of an effect. For me, I sit in the shade with a book and my dog. Maybe for you, it’s watching your favorite show or treating yourself to a delicious snack. Whatever it is, reward yourself for your hard work; apathy isn’t easy to overcome.

A Conversation With Future You

You might not care right now, but you might care a lot in the future. We like to think that we can predict the future, but the truth is that none of us really know what’s going to happen in a week or a month or a year. So, while this one requires a little hope for the future, sometimes all it takes is to allow for the possibility that things might get better; to admit that you’re not a fortune-teller. In fact, I’m working on this one right now.

Cultivate Satisfaction

I know what you’re thinking–well, I don’t know. (That’s another distortion.) But you might be thinking “obviously, if I’m feeling apathetic, I don’t want to do anything because I don’t get satisfaction from completing a task. Why would I do something that gives me no intrinsic reward?”

Well, that’s a good point. I’ll counter with this: an oyster creates a pearl when a grain of sand becomes lodged in its tissues. Layer by layer, the mollusk coats the grain of sand with calcium carbonate to protect itself from the irritating particle. What began as a negative from the oyster’s perspective is turned into something valuable.

Motivation often comes from the desire to solve a problem. Whether it’s a seemingly small problem like noticing that your hair needs to be washed, or a larger-scale problem like slipping grades that could affect your graduation, everything we do, we do to solve a problem. Every time you do something that moves you towards a goal, you’re building a metaphorical layer around the underlying issue. Every time you go to class even though you don’t want to, you’re building up to something great. Every time you go for a run even though you’d rather sleep, you add another layer of persistence to your pearl.

Often, it’s only after many layers, many instances of forcing myself through apathy, that I begin to get a glimmer of satisfaction. Sometimes, the only way to reach the other side of apathy is to just begin. Momentum only comes when you start to move.

 

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