21 Ways To Stop Caring So Much (About Everything And Everyone)
How Learning to Care Less in All Aspects of Life Can Be the Ultimate Healthy Boundary
I ‘m taking a personally led crash course in how to stop caring (or, at least, care less). It’s called the “Hide Alerts,” and I love it. I have an empath’s heart, an anxious idler’s brain, and the lungs of someone who visits the gym once every three weeks, so—rest assured—I get drained running around, trying to fix everyone’s problems and meet every expectation foisted on me. That’s why keeping push notifications—text, email, social media, you name it—to a minimum whenever possible is a basic for of self-preservation. While what works for me may not work for you, what’s key for setting any healthy boundary—personal, professional, or otherwise—is striking the sweet spot of, “I can care about you and still care about me.”
“Some boundaries are specific, like blocking someone on social media,” says clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. “Other boundaries might depend on how you’re feeling that day. If you’re having a low-stress day, you might have more time to listen to someone’s problems, but when you’re already having a stressful day, you might only have so much to give.”
Of course, the natural caretaker may have a hard time turning people down and steering clear of emotional vampires, and the conscientious employee have a hard time not bringing home work. So if you’re find it hard to emotionally and physically de-invest and understand how to stop caring so much, find tips below for setting up little fences in both your personal life and your career.
How to stop caring so much about what your peers think and expect
1. Look back at your history with someone
Are you drawn to constant complainers who don’t have a vested interest in returning the favor when you have something you want to vent about? Be aware of those who take without giving, and adjust your expectations—and the amount of emotional energy you’re willing to devote to them—accordingly.
“If they have a pattern of showing up when they need something, but they’re ‘super busy, so sorry!’ every time you need something, you might need to stop answering their texts unless it’s an emergency,” says Dr. Daramus. Of course, if their behaviors honestly don’t bother you, continue doing whatever makes you happy. Otherwise, consider this a classic case of the power that can come from being able to care less.
2. Don’t put more work into someone than they’re willing to put into themselves
Having someone in your sphere who, say, spends all of your quality time complaining about her good-for-nothing ex, but next thing you know, they’re back together (again) is exhausting. When you see your support and thoughtful advice go ignored time after time, it’s time to learn how to stop caring so much and instead provide distanced support.
“If you start feeling frustrated because someone is in pain about a situation, but nothing ever changes, you can always just listen without trying to ‘fix’ anything.” —Aimee, Daramus, PsyD
“If you start feeling frustrated because someone is in pain about a situation, but nothing ever changes, you can always just listen without trying to ‘fix’ anything,” Dr. Daramus says. “You can also let them know that you’ll be there whenever they’re ready to make changes.”
3. Focus on simultaneous self care
“If a friend needs you, and you feel too drained to cope, another option might be to do some [quiet] self care together instead of having an exhausting conversation,” says Dr. Daramus.
This is a good deflection that allows you to be there for someone, offer a calming sense of peace, and also restore rather than exhaust yourself. Suggest the two of you do something that will help you both feel better. Find a shared interest—whether that’s more of a cathartic night out or a cozy night in—and something that might keep conversation to a minimum, and you’re good to go.
4. Be specific about what you can offer, and set limits
“Don’t offer anything that’s too much for you right now,” Dr. Daramus says. “It’s better not to offer at all versus offering some help and then not following through or getting angry and refusing their calls because you feel used.”
To get comfortable with this boundary, Dr. Daramus suggests a basic, two-step pattern: empathize, then tell them what you have to give. A examples? “I’m so sorry you broke up, that’s painful. Want to meet at the coffee shop for an hour after work?” Or, “I’m too drained for anything heavy. Want to go to a class at the gym and then use the sauna?”
In Your Personal Life
1. Create and enforce boundaries.
Unfortunately, not many people actually take the time to think about their boundaries and define them. That’s an important step to take because it removes the confusion and ambiguity that often comes with emotional situations. It’s easy to make bad decisions when you’re flooded with stress and emotion.
For example, you have a boundary where you do not want to hear your friend complain about their relationship because they do nothing to change it. So when your friend starts moaning about how terrible their partner is, you don’t need to entertain the conversation or invest extra energy into figuring out whether or not it’s acceptable.
2. Don’t over-invest in other people.
People who care too much will often find that it’s not a reciprocal relationship. They will devote excessive energy to worrying and fussing over the people they care about, while those people won’t devote nearly as much energy back.
Sure, they may care about you a lot; they may just not be wired in the same way that you are. Frankly, most people are primarily concerned with themselves and their own problems, first and foremost.
A good way to manage these relationships is to exert an equal amount of energy. Don’t spend your time chasing after people constantly. Put about as much energy into the relationship as they do.
You shouldn’t make it a tit for tat thing. Like, if they call me once, I’ll call them once. People get busy with life and sometimes get distracted. But it does become a problem when you’re the one putting in all the effort and work.
3. Minimize your contact with negative people.
Stop and make an assessment about the people you spend time with. How do they make you feel when you leave their presence? Do you feel happy and energized? Or do you feel drained and negative? Are you walking around with negative feelings because they are loading their problems and worries onto you?
It’s good to be a supportive friend, but some people just love wallowing in their misery. The easiest thing to do is to pull back and create some space so that you’re not devoting so much of your energy to them and their negativity.
4. Focus on what you can control.
None of it matters because all of it is outside of your control. A person who wants to make bad decisions will. That’s not something you can control. You may offer some guidance or perspective, but you can’t be invested in the outcome of their choices.
5. Learn to say no.
You must be able to say no otherwise people will continuously intrude on your space. And to be clear, these aren’t necessarily bad or toxic people either. It’s just that no one can really know what you’re thinking or how you feel unless you can clearly communicate.
Once you start saying no, you will likely find that the people around you change their behavior. Some people might even get angry with you because your agreeability and care are no longer at their convenience. So let the trash take itself out. The people that genuinely care about you will adjust, even if it’s a little bumpy.
6. Remind yourself that no one is perfect.
Lower your expectations. People get things wrong a lot. Just think about how many things you’ve gotten wrong in your life and realize others are going through the same. It’s okay. People, including you, need room to stretch their wings, fly, and sometimes crash and burn.
7. Surround yourself with things that make you feel good.
The emotions behind caring are generally outgoing in nature. You are investing your time, thoughts, emotions, and energy into the things you care about. The problem is that you cannot pour out of yourself indefinitely. You must be able to refill your emotional reservoir when you’ve poured out of it.
One way that you can do that is by surrounding yourself with things that make you feel good. That will differ from person to person. Maybe it’s a job well done, a clean house, art, gardening, or exercise. Maybe it’s spending devoted time with loved ones where you can enjoy their presence. Maybe it’s traveling and experiencing something new and interesting.
8. Don’t dwell on judgments.
The problem with judgment is that we are often forming our opinions from an emotional place. It may be a gut reaction to a situation that invokes a sharp emotional response. Or maybe you’re better about not emotionally judging circumstances. Maybe you take the time to look for evidence to support your judgments.
Here’s the problem with being over-invested in judgment. Judgment assumes that you are qualified to make that judgment. But what if you’re not? What if you only know half the story? What if you’ve been fed lies? What if your perception or emotional reaction is wrong? At that point, you’ve judged and devoted that emotional energy to the situation for no reason at all. And you may not even be right.
Treatments That Can Help
If your inability to feel interested and concerned is affecting your ability to deal with your daily life, it is important to take steps to address the problem. And if these feelings are accompanied by other mental health symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness, irritability, changes in appetite, problems sleeping, or anxiety, talk to a healthcare provider.
A healthcare professional can evaluate your symptoms and determine if there is an underlying medical or mental health condition that might be contributing to what you are experiencing. The treatment that they recommend will depend on your diagnosis but may involve medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that focuses on helping people learn to identify underlying negative thought patterns that contribute to mental health problems. Once people learn to recognize these thoughts, they can work with a therapist to develop more positive ways of thinking.
How to Begin Caring Again
If you’re struggling with feelings of apathy, disinterest, and lack of pleasure, seeking professional treatment should be your first step. In addition to working with a doctor or therapist, you can also take steps on your own to improve your mood and take a greater interest in the world around you.
Consider the Causes
Think about recent events in your life that might be contributing to what you are feeling. Have you been coping with a great deal of stress lately? Did you experience some type of disappointment or setback in your personal or professional life?
Vary Your Routine
Strategies that might help include trying new things, talking to different people, or making plans with a friend. Practicing gratitude can also be a great way to notice, appreciate, and take an interest in the great things in your life.
Take Care of Yourself
Feeling like you don’t care about anything often extends to not caring about yourself either. But a poor diet, lack of sleep, limited exercise, and other unhealthy habits can make feelings of apathy and lethargy even worse. Prioritize self-care and spend time each day making sure that you have what you need to feel healthy and well.
Try Small Steps
Big projects often feel overwhelming when you are struggling with a lack of motivation and interest. Focus on breaking up projects into smaller steps so that you can tackle them a little bit of time.
Research suggests that people who are prone to apathy have a much more difficult time initiating behavior. This inability to get started can then contribute to even more feelings of apathy because the situation seems overwhelming or unchangeable.
Focusing on smaller, more manageable steps may help address this problem. You might not have the energy to take on the entire project all at once, but making a little progress each day can help you stay on track and may eventually help you feel more motivated and accomplished.
Worrying about the past and the future can create stress and even a sense of hopelessness if you feel like nothing you do will make any difference in how things turn out. Mindfulness can help you focus more on the present.
Instead of being consumed by thoughts about things you can’t change and a future you can’t predict, your energy is better spent focusing on the things you can do in the present moment to help yourself feel better.
Talking to a friend or loved one may also be helpful. Social support is critical for mental well-being. You may find that having people who can offer validation and encouragement can help you feel more inspired and interested.
There are things you can do to care more. Treating underlying causes, getting out of a rut, caring for yourself, and getting support are just a few steps you can take that may make a difference.