Procrastination: The art of putting off until tomorrow what you could have done today. Procrastination: The bane of every anxiety disorder sufferer’s existence. Procrastination, oh how I hate you!
If I had to name the one anxiety disorder-related characteristic that’s caused me the most suffering, I’d undoubtedly have to choose procrastination. It’s the most tenacious, devilishly tricky, and just plain stubborn coping strategy I’ve ever had to train myself out of.
Yup, procrastination and anxiety disorder is a real bitch. Fortunately, there are simple ways to overcome procrastination and do the things that scare you.
How Procrastination and Anxiety Disorder Keeps You Stuck
For example, right now, I don’t want to be sitting here writing this blog post. I’d much rather blow it off so I can go watch television. I hate blogging! I hate writing!
Why? Because it scares me. I think I suck at it. Every time I sit down in front of this stupid computer, I have to push through the fear that says I suck, my writing sucks, the Driving Peace program sucks, and nobody gives a crap about what I have to say anyhow.
I probably don’t have to tell you how old that gets.
In his book Monkey Mind, Daniel Smith says there are two types of anxiety sufferers: stiflers and chaotics. I’m a stifler. All my anxious friends are also stiflers, probably because chaotics freak me out too much to be friends with.
“Stiflers are those who work on the principle that if they hold as still, silent, and clenched as possible they will be able to cut the anxiety off from its energy sources, the way you cinch off the valve on a radiator.”
– Daniel Smith, Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety
Sounds like a very good description of procrastination, doesn’t it?
5 Simple Ways to Overcome Procrastination and Anxiety Disorder By Doing Something That Scares You
If you live with anxiety disorder for any significant length of time, you develop little coping strategies for dealing with procrastination — little tricks and mind games that help you slither out of its seductive, rubbery grasp. It’s sad that we have to develop coping strategies for what is essentially a self-destructive coping strategy, but there you go.
Trapped within the vice-like grip of paralyzing anxiety, here are five little tricks I’ve learned to beat back procrastination and keep life from sliding into complete disarray:
- Plunge right in. — Also known as the brute force method, this is where you turn and just do something that scares you without giving yourself time to think about it. It’s like a punch-drunk amateur boxer throwing hay makers. It’s not pretty, but it works.
- Sidle up to it. — When force doesn’t work, try guile instead. That’s how I managed to write this blog post. Instead of writing about procrastination and anxiety disorder (which is what the post is actually about), I started by writing about how much I hate writing because it’s something that scares me. In fact, “I hate writing” were the first words I typed. By writing about hating to write, I was at least doing the thing I was procrastinating about: writing. The rest of the post just sort of flowed from there.
- Limit your exposure. — If you have to do something that absolutely terrifies you, like, say, going into a crowded supermarket, do it for five minutes and then walk out. Hell, do it for one minute and walk out! You’ll still be terrified, but only for one minute. A mere 60 seconds. Piece of cake. It’s easier to do something really scary if you know it’s not going to last very long.
- Ask for help. — Easier said than done, right? Not asking for help is probably the second most frustrating characteristic of anxiety disorder. So, chain #1 and #4 together. Brute force your way into asking a friend to go into the store with you, then go in there for one minute. And asking for help doesn’t necessarily mean asking another person to help you, either. “Help” can take many forms. For instance, I desperately clutched my copy of The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook every time I went out in public for months. Just holding the book in my hands helped me feel like I wasn’t so alone.
- Avoid distractions and keep on going. — Sometimes you get on a roll once you’ve overcome the hump of procrastination. Turn off the phone and just keep going when you find yourself in that situation. My motto is to get as much done as possible for as long as I possibly can. Like a starving dog that stumbles across a juicy deer carcass, I treat getting on a roll like a stranger crashes a wedding reception. Eat and drink as much as you can before they throw you out.
Procrastination is basically just a short-term solution to doing the things that scare us. Unfortunately, healing from anxiety disorder of any kind involves doing rather than waiting, acting rather than analyzing, and wading in instead of simply watching.
The good news is that, like procrastination itself, doing something that scares you becomes easier the more you do it. It’s the getting started part that’s hardest.
Now, if I can just figure out how to make myself go to the gym…
PS – How do you deal with procrastination and anxiety disorder? Got any useful tips or insights you’d like to share? Like my Facebook page and join the discussion. We’d love to see you there.