Motivation gone...can't study, barely making it to class

It's very strange. I'm actually in a reasonably good mood, most of the time. I don't really feel sad or down. Yet when I wake up in the morning, it's like class is the very last thing I want to do. I just lie there in bed feeling almost paralyzed. I just can't force myself to get up and go to class, even if I do feel fully awake and no matter how long I've been lying there. It's not as if I'm asking myself "What's the point?" I like my classes and major (electrical engineering), actually. It just feels like there's this hugely powerful feeling, not necessarily a phobia but just as strong and irrational, that is just screaming that anything, anything at all would be more enjoyable. I can force myself to go if there's a quiz, but even the motivation to do that has been slipping lately.

And then I figure I can just make it up when I go to study. There's nothing at all critically wrong with my study habits and my courses aren't any more or less difficult than last semester, and yet it feels like all I can do is just stare at my book while the temptation to do anything else becomes absolutely overwhelming. I'm certainly not incapable of learning the material, when I can actually force myself to study (which it seems I can only do rarely) I pick up on it quite quickly. Most of the time though it feels like there's almost a block. I could read the material and write it down, but I can never remember it when I start working the problems, even if I'm working on the problems mere minutes after the reading and writing and least of all in class. I spent hours a day studying for my midterms, and I still barely passed most of them. This stuff is all well within my areas of interest, it should be coming very easily to me.

It's all very strange. Normally I'm a very willful person. Before this started happening I could easily make myself work productively for hours. I have no trouble keeping up vigorous exercise or sticking to a diet. I can practice music for hours, even if I have trouble keeping myself interested I manage to deal with it. It seems to be centered specifically on my classes.

My grades have been slipping drastically. I'm still passing and doing well enough, but my calculus grade is teetering dangerously close to being unsalvageable. A few of my teachers and my counselor have expressed concern, and I've just told them it's been due to health problems, even though I'm very sure they don't buy it. It feels like I can't talk about it. What will I say? "Sorry, I just didn't feel like getting up today?" I'm paranoid that they'll be ashamed or judgmental, even though I know that isn't a reasonable worry but that same irrational voice (not an actual voice though, I'm not hearing voices).

This started happening like 2 months ago. I don't know what to do...help me.

How far are you into your degree? Is taking a sabbatical year an option, or changing courses, or is it too late for that?

It's easy to get into a negative spiral of inactivity, especially when there's no immediate down-side to ignoring the alarm clock and staying in bed. I went through something similar when I was an undergrad. I found it difficult to get up in the morning, and besides I could usually catch up on lecture notes from friends, so I started skipping my 8:00am lectures. Pretty soon I was writing off 9:00 and 10:00am lectures too. My sleep patterns shifted and I found myself staying up until 3-4am every morning as a matter of routine - sometimes I'd be up playing Xbox, other times I'd be in bed desperately trying to feel tired but feeling more acutely awake than ever. Eventually it was a rare day that I turned up for morning lectures at all. Some of my friends tried the "tough love" routine on me and I found myself skipping lectures to avoid having to face them, too. I got further and further behind on the course material and even when I did occasionally motivate myself to try catching up, the textbook may as well have been written in hieroglyphics.

The best thing to do is to avoid getting into a downward spiral in the first place. Be tough on yourself. Set an alarm and put it on the opposite side of the room so you have to physically get out bed to switch it off. Force yourself to attend lectures. To begin with you might be there in body only, and you might not actually take in much of the material. That's not so important, what matters is getting into a positive routine. I'd suggest you do talk to your counselor, and be honest. Student burnout/disaffection is something they'll have seen before.

I'm with Batou on this one.

Experienced/still experiencing something similar - a lack of motivation and aversive behaviour when it comes to studies but one can readily spend hours doing pretty much everything else, productive or not, without that lack. It happened to me the second where the payoff for my work suddenly dropped drastically when I started working on my Thesis and ran into the kind of technical problems there that still annoy me today and I didn't get the satisfaction I usually drew from successfully completing my courses; And, given how long this has already gone on with you, the only thing I can tell you is the same as Batou: you have to force yourself and be careful not to descend into a downward spiral. The moment you actually work and you see some payoff by working should improve your motivation once more. Talking to your counselor might also help - and given that I've seen lots of people with similar problems until now, it's something not uncommon so don't be afraid to talk about that with a person specialized on that.

I'd also advise you to look at this thread here. It's from a year ago and essentially tackled the same topic. The practical tips I posted in there should also work for you :)

Sounds like sophmore slump, who knew it came back after high school right? College students come in three varieties the ones that seem to have no problems ever, the ones that get to university and blow it all on partying, and then those of us that care but loose motivation.

I was definitely in the third and second category for awhile but it changed when I switched from Community college to a legit university. I went from a 3.1 to a 3.8 and I think the biggest thing was just the change itself. I kept telling myself I'm gonna be different when I go to legit university, I'm gonna actually stay awake in classes, I'm gonna focus, and I'm gonna like what I do. Seems like that cheesy self-motivation bullshit people try to peddle to make you feel better but it worked for me.

Set yourself up for a complete 360 and force yourself to enjoy it by saying you do enjoy it.

I know exactly what you mean. That's me on most days, in fact probably on all days. And I actually like my classes too, the information we learn is really interesting, the books I am assigned to read are really good... And yet I hate going to class, I hate doing homework, I hate studying. And worst of all, I hate doing it even when I have absolutely nothing else to do. I will simply sit around and waste time on the internet, bored, rather than do the reasonable thing and work. It's maddening, but damn difficult to stop.

The best advice I have for you is to find some way of assuring you behave the way you want to. Schedule breakfast with a friend before your class, so you'll have extra motivation to get out of bed, or other similar tactics to make it more difficult for you to simply choose not to go. And perhaps most importantly, make a strict schedule for yourself and actually stick with it. Don't deviate from it for any reason, short of something truly drastic, and over time it will actually get easier and you'll have greater reserves of willpower left for other things. I haven't been able to implement this step myself, but I have it on good authority that it works.

dmase:
Sounds like sophmore slump, who knew it came back after high school right? College students come in three varieties the ones that seem to have no problems ever, the ones that get to university and blow it all on partying, and then those of us that care but loose motivation.

I was definitely in the third and second category for awhile but it changed when I switched from Community college to a legit university. I went from a 3.1 to a 3.8 and I think the biggest thing was just the change itself. I kept telling myself I'm gonna be different when I go to legit university, I'm gonna actually stay awake in classes, I'm gonna focus, and I'm gonna like what I do. Seems like that cheesy self-motivation bullshit people try to peddle to make you feel better but it worked for me.

Set yourself up for a complete 360 and force yourself to enjoy it by saying you do enjoy it.

I agree - you can't just do something because you're told to do it. You have to enjoy the time you spend doing it. Find a project for yourself that you can apply what you're learning towards. Build something. Honestly, I don't think the grades are that important - if you pass, you pass. But when you get into the field, you're going to be tested on whether you actually know your stuff. Rote memorization won't help you for long. If you have some project you're passionate about, useful information is going to stick with you. And you'll probably learn at a rate you didn't think was possible.

You said you're doing electrical engineering, so find a cool tutorial online to get you started. Build a robot! Just something that seems cool to you, that reinforces what you're learning while you actually enjoy the time you're putting into it. As you do schoolwork you may even start to think "here's some information I can apply to my projects"!

I'm on the tail end of this exact same problem as I approach graduation in High School. My schoolmates tend to call it senior-itis, but associate it with the time after Christmas being more appealing for other things as opposed to school, when in reality you just don't want to get up. I literally had a mirror-image situation to the one you're facing now. Grades slumped, friends were being questionably logical, ect.

Anyways, really the only thing for it is getting up regardless of what's happening. Personally, I accomplished this through a combination of my alarm clock, phone and the morning traffic through an open window. That and I do NOT allow myself to think about what was ahead. I get up, first thought is shower. Second thought is breakfast. Third thought is where I left shoes. Only once I'm on the way to school and wondering why I stuffed so many things into my bag that morning (I walk there) do I allow myself to think properly about the day ahead.

This section is concerning

"A few of my teachers and my counselor have expressed concern, and I've just told them it's been due to health problems, even though I'm very sure they don't buy it. It feels like I can't talk about it. What will I say? "Sorry, I just didn't feel like getting up today?" I'm paranoid that they'll be ashamed or judgmental, even though I know that isn't a reasonable worry but that same irrational voice (not an actual voice though, I'm not hearing voices)."

The only way a counselor can properly help you with your issues is if they know exactly what you are doing and why you are doing something.

Tell the counselor "Sorry, I just didn't feel like getting up today?"
The counselor didn't get this job to judge people but to help them. You're basically wasting time if you are telling him/her misinformation. They won't be able to help you properly unless you're honest about your issues.

 

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