Overcoming anxious procrastination in five easy steps!
Even though I am perfectionist, I am also a procrastinator.
That seems contradictory, but it actually isn't. Both perfectionism and procrastination can stem from the same source: anxiety. True, not all procrastination results from anxiety. Being tired, depressed and distracted are examples of other reasons I have procrastinated. Also, Netflix binges. Can't forget those. But let me not procrastinate on my point here. Most of the time I procrastinate because I have anxiety about the task at hand. Take this blog post, for example. I love writing, especially about therapy related issues and I feel good after someone tells me that reading my post helped them in some way. But when I sit down to write at the computer this is what my head sounds like:
"What if I can't think of anything to write about?"
"What if what I write is stupid?"
"What if no one cares to read it anyway?"
"What if everyone thinks I'm a hack?"
"What if I make a ton of grammatical and spelling errors and I don't catch them and everyone thinks I am an illiterate asshole and no one wants me as their therapist????!!!! (Talk about going down the rabbit hole with that one!!)
Good thing I am able combat this anxious thinking with the tools I have learned both professionally and personally in my own therapy, otherwise I would NEVER get anything done.
I have compiled a list of five ways to combat anxious procrastination and hopefully they will help you combat your anxious thinking as well.
1. Make a list, schedule, outline. In other words, be prepared!
Sometimes the sheer magnitude of the task at hand seems so overwhelming that the anxiety can take over. Instead of the rational side of the mind identifying individual actions, the emotional side sees an impossible goal. When you break down the task necessary into smaller steps, the ultimate goal doesn't seem so beyond your ability. I know what you are thinking, because this is what I always think. What if I have a million goals? It's not that simple!! The answer is, yes it is! Even if it takes you two hours to outline all of your goals broken down into steps, you will have a roadmap right in front of you, so that you can take the pressure off your brain to remember and organize everything.
2. Ask for help
Now that you have all of your tasks written out, you can find people to help you with them. I know, I know, it's like we have the same thoughts.... I don't like/want to ask for help. To some people asking for help feels like a failure. People like me, for example Who are not thinking rationally. When I am thinking rationally I know that I am lucky enough to have people in my life who are willing and able to help me, especially since I do the same for them. Asking for help benefits you and the people closest to you because when you are more relaxed, you feel better. And you are more pleasant to be around. Asking for help is a strength and a skill to help you reduce your anxiety.
3. Learn and use anxiety reduction techniques
There are a plethora of ways for people to cope with anxiety. Mindfulness, yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, running, cleaning, roller derby, chanting..... There is no end to the possible ways to reduce anxiety. Each individual is different and needs to find what works for them. I personally like breathing and positive self talk in my moments of overwhelming anxiety. Some people may find that the anxiety is too overwhelming and have difficulty doing this on their own. In those cases, speaking with a therapist, family member or clergy person may be the first step in learning how to manage anxiety.
4. Be your own cheerleader
The negative voices in our minds can often dictate the outcome of our actions. If you don't believe that you can do it, and put yourself down while you are trying to do it, how in the hell are you supposed to succeed? Think about how you would encourage a child to complete a difficult task. Would you berate them and tell them you know they are going to fail? How would those words impact a child's success? Although it sounds cheesy to say, we all have a young, scared child inside of us that voices our irrational fears. Speak kindly and encourage that child if you want to see your own success.
5. Just Do It
Nike has it right. Sometimes you have to just do it. What ever the action or task at hand is, just go for it. Once you get started, you just might find that there was nothing to be anxious about to begin with. Like how I am feeling right now, now that this article is almost over. I had so many worries and here we are at the end and I survived and I even think I did a good job.
Now, on to the next task......