I once heard a pastor say that the way we do one thing is how we do everything. I really didn’t like him for a few days after that particular message because I didn’t want to accept the truth contained within that powerful statement. I didn’t want to have to change my unhealthy behaviors because in some areas of my life they were working for me (or at least I thought they were working for me). One of these behaviors was apathy.
It’s so easy for me to become apathetic, uninterested, and unexcited by life. I can grow unhappy with how things are going and instead of taking steps to change what I dislike, I check out. Trying somehow feels overwhelming and just too difficult, so instead, I retreat. I isolate and insulate and opt-out of whatever is going on. I put myself on auto-pilot and let myself go.Do you ever get stuck in the cycle of apathy? Sarah does. Click To Tweet
Looking back, I have been able to identify a number of times when I have repeated this apathy cycle. And that’s just what it is—a cycle. I do the same thing every time without fail. And my guess is that it’s the same with you. Your cycle of apathy might not look exactly like mine, but I can almost guarantee that you have a pattern that you follow. I’m going to share mine with you and hoping that it will trigger something in you so that you will sit with the Lord and begin processing through your own cycles with him.
The Cycle Begins…
For me, the cycle usually begins with something going wrong. The “what” might change but, there’s always a negative, stressful, or painful event that kicks it off. It might be that I have a headache for days on end that won’t go away. Or it could be a particularly stressful season at work that I don’t cope well with. Or I might just get busy and neglect my relationship with the Lord.
No matter the catalyst, the next step involves me turning off my emotions. For most of my life, I felt numb. I didn’t really feel any emotions because it was just easier not to. When I’m going through a difficult time, I regress to that same pattern. I disconnect from my emotions, instead of actively working to reintegrate my emotions back to myself.
Next, I isolate myself from community.
I’m a pretty introverted person, so it’s not always obvious at first when I begin to isolate. I seek to spend more and more time alone so that I can conserve the little energy that I do have. Pride tells me that I don’t have a problem and shame tells me that no one will understand, so I keep struggles trapped safely within.
Hiding is a way to keep my apathy hidden and tucked away in the corner while I appear, on the outside, to still have it all together.
Ah… Comfort Food
The next step in my apathetic cycle is that I stop taking care of myself. I seek comfort in food, eating pizza, burgers, fried food, and any bread that I can get my hands on. I eat out a lot and cook very little. My budget goes out the window and I find myself stopping at a coffee shop every morning for breakfast instead of making my own.
I also stop exercising because I don’t see myself as worthy of caring for. These bad food choices and lack of movement cause my daily physical pain to increase, which negatively impacts my mood. I also stop doing basic things around the house: I don’t do dishes, I don’t clean out my car, I find excuses not to do laundry.
Taking a Look Around
Another pastor once said that our external environments reflect the state of our internal environment—and when I’m on the downward spiral of apathy, my external environments get gross.
Because I don’t fuel my body properly and I stop actively depending on the Lord, exhaustion overtakes me. I feel the crippling weight of everything resting on my shoulders, so I find myself retreating to my bed, though I am unable to sleep. I spend my time watching television and movies, entertaining myself and distracting myself from whatever negatives are going on in my life, mind, or body. Usually, I am able to trick myself into thinking that it’s “self-care”, but once I get to the 2nd or 3rd week of this behavior, I can’t continue to believe the lie I’m selling myself.
Apathy is a Choice
Then I’m faced with a choice: do I want to deal with this issue or do I choose to continue in my apathetic slump?
Honestly, sometimes I choose apathy. I decide that reintegrating myself into one whole human being who cares about herself and the world around her is just too hard. I find my complacent bubble of isolation comforting and comfortable. I like the illusion of protection that it provides and I seek refuge in it. Those are the times where things just get worse and worse until finally I am pushed out of what’s “comfortable” and forced to take steps toward what’s healthy.
The beautiful thing about coming out of apathy is that it’s not complicated—it’s hard but it’s very simple. There isn’t a magical formula that needs to be followed in order to free yourself, it’s just a matter of doing practical steps every day to keep yourself focused on the right things instead of getting lost in the wrong ones.
4 Steps To Digging Yourself Out Of A Hole Of Apathy
Digging myself out of the apathy hole always involves the following:
1.) Relying on the Lord instead of Myself.
This means that I have to bring him back into every part of my life, instead of just keeping him in a box over to the side. He isn’t just limited to Sundays but is invited into my day at work, my choices of entertainment, my stewarding of my body and my health, and into my decision-making process. I choose to fix my thoughts on him instead of myself and trust that he is God and I am not.
2.) Taking Care of my Physical Body.
The Lord took such care when he created us. We’re not compartmentalized beings, but everything we do or don’t do affects our bodies—our entire bodies. When we eat the correct things, it can help our bodies work more optimally and can have a profound impact on our mood. Exercising can help us understand how we are put together and how they are meant to function as one whole unit instead of separate pieces.
3.) Seeking Community Instead of Avoiding it Like the Plague.
When apathy comes, I don’t want to be called out. I also don’t want anyone to see me struggling. Pride rears its ugly head and convinces me that I’m better off alone, which is a lie from the pit of hell. Coming out of my apathy hole requires me to openly and honestly tell someone else about my struggles. Usually, I will text or call a friend and tell her all about what’s been going on. And, most of the time, she knew that something was up long before I did, but was gracious to me while I figured it out for myself.
4.) Helping Another Instead of Entertaining Myself.
We weren’t created to merely exist, but we are meant to live a life of productive beauty. We are made to create and called to serve others. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and our own issues and forget that there are people out in the world who can benefit from our help, perspective, encouragement, or even just a smile. During tough times, one of the best things for me to do is help someone else, though that’s usually the last thing I want to do. There’s something incredibly powerful about stepping outside of yourself to serve another.
It’s A Daily Choice
These are things that I have to choose to do every single day. I haven’t been able to find an immediate fix to this problem, but I have to humbly return to the basics that I know I need to do. I don’t want to do these things, especially at the beginning of breaking the cycle but, by faith, I push through. I don’t do these things out of rote or on auto-pilot, but I do them because I know that’s how God has called me to live. And it’s amazing how perseverance, faith, and a deeper dependence upon God develops as I walk away from apathy and walk toward him.
I used to heap loads and loads of shame on myself when I discovered that I had fallen into the apathy trap again, but I’ve learned that that’s not what the Lord does. He doesn’t beat us up for allowing ourselves to be tricked again, but he lovingly beckons us to come back to him. When we take positive steps out of apathy, he celebrates and cheers. He welcomes us back with open arms and rejoices when we choose to follow him instead of relying on ourselves.
Apathy is very real and your struggle with it is real, but we don’t have to be slaves to it. The Bible tells us that we are more than conquerors through him who loves us, so we don’t have to be defeated by complacency. We are victorious in Christ—let’s choose to live in that freedom today.
Join the Conversation
I would love to hear from you. Do you struggle with apathy? What steps help you get out of the pit?
Join the conversation in the comments below4 Steps to digging yourself out of a hole of apathy. Click To Tweet
Stop Breathe Believe® is a simple yet powerful practice that can help us stop the stream of thoughts flowing through our minds and become aware of the one unhealthy thought that needs replacing, breathe our way to a state of calm openness, and move forward with the help of a compassionate belief statement that brings release from the unhealthy thought that’s hindering us. Whether as a life raft that gets you through a crisis moment, or a long-range tool that supports you in changing entire patterns of unhealthy thinking, Stop Breathe Believe can help you become healthier in your thinking, more intentional in your thoughts and behaviors, more aware of your feelings, and thus more mindful of the beauty of the present moment.