How to Prevent Anxiety From Causing Procrastination

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Procrastination can be a common problem for many people with anxiety-related conditions, including panic disorder. There are numerous symptoms of panic disorder and common anxious personality traits that can contribute to procrastination.

Listed here are some obstacles that may get in the way of your progress toward your goals and responsibilities. Read through them and consider if you are allowing these potential roadblocks to lead to procrastination.

How Anxiety Causes Procrastination

Anxiety can lead to procrastination for a number of different reasons. Some of these include:


Having an anxiety disorder puts one at risk of perfectionism. While it might seem like this perfectionism is a positive attribute, having such high standards can increase the risk of procrastination. Perfectionism can cause you to:

  • Feel defeated when things don't turn out exactly how you wanted them
  • Put off tasks because you know you don't have the time or energy to do them to your standards
  • Engage in poor reasoning and self-talk, including the use of "should" statements (“I should complete this task perfectly or not at all.”)
  • Experience self-criticism that derails your efforts to achieve your goals


Worrying can also keep you from accomplishing your tasks and goals. Sometimes our worry about the end results will keep us from completing certain responsibilities.

For example, you may put off going through your bills out of worry about if you will be able to pay them. Perhaps you have been putting off certain self-care activities or talking to your doctor about panic disorder because you are nervous about the outcome of these tasks.

Perfectionism also can lead to procrastination when you need to have everything line up perfectly before you feel ready to work on a particular task. You may always be waiting for the “perfect time” to start working on a goal.

Feeling Overwhelmed

When faced with a large task, it is easy to feel discouraged by the amount of work ahead. Procrastination can be a sign that you simply don’t know where to begin. Putting things off may temporarily make you feel better, but in the long run, it will most likely add more stress and anxiety to your life.

Fear and Low Self-Esteem

Sometimes we are held back by our own negative beliefs and overpowering fears. People with anxiety disorders are often prone to poor self-esteem and can find it difficult to overcome negative thinking patterns.

Self-doubt and fear can make you feel that you will fail at reaching your goals. For example, you may jump to conclusions, believing that you don’t have the skills needed to accomplish your goals.

Dealing With Perfectionism

Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to help deal with worry and perfectionism that contribute to procrastination:

  • Don't wait for perfection: When you are dealing with anxiety, you might find yourself putting off tasks until you feel like you have all of the tools, information, or time to do them perfectly. By waiting for everything to be in order, you are actually putting off any progress and giving in to procrastination.
  • Notice your worries and perfectionist tendencies: To begin to move past these issues, start thinking about how worry and perfectionism may be holding you back.
  • Get comfortable with making mistakes: Give yourself permission to make some mistakes. Assess if perfection is necessary and even possible.
  • Tackle tasks instead of worrying about them: It can be helpful to just get started on a stressful task rather than continue to worry about it.

The more we put things off, the more anxious we begin to feel about them. Think about what tasks you have been avoiding and begin to take action towards completing them. You may be surprised by how less anxious you feel when you begin to work on your goals and responsibilities.

Coping When You're Overwhelmed

At times when you feel overwhelmed and uncertain of where to begin, just start somewhere.

Pick out one small thing that you can complete toward accomplishing your larger goal. It may be helpful to list out the many small steps that will lead up to accomplishing a greater task.

In order to get started:

  • Look at the big picture
  • Examine all of the steps that are involved in completing the task
  • Make a list of steps and the order in which they must be completed
  • Estimate how long each step will take
  • Set a timer and work on the project for a specific period of time
  • Write them down and track your progress

Goals often become much more manageable when you break them down into smaller parts.

Overcoming Fear

To get past your personal fears or negative self-concepts, begin to assess if you really do not have the skill set needed to complete a specific task.

To get started, ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you learn and develop these necessary skills on your own?
  • Is there a way you can delegate your tasks?
  • Do you know anyone you can recruit to help out?
  • Is it possible to hire someone to assist with getting the job done?

For example, let's say you have a goal of doing more physical exercise, but fear and self-consciousness keep you from going to the gym. Is it possible that you can ask a trusted friend to go with you? Does the gym offer a guide or trainer to help you become more efficient in using the equipment? Or maybe you would be more comfortable exercising at home.

When fear and low self-esteem are leading to procrastination, try to push past negative thinking and find creative ways to accomplish your goals.

A Word From Verywell

Anxiety can contribute to procrastination for a variety of reasons. Perfectionism often plays a role, but sometimes people just feel overwhelmed by the task before them. Fear and poor self-esteem can also contribute to procrastination.

The problem with using procrastination as a way to avoid the things that are making you anxious is that it makes anxiety worse in the long-run. Instead of waiting until the last minute, and adding even more stress to your life, finding ways to deal with anxiety and overcome the urge to procrastinate is a more effective response.

Breaking up tasks into smaller steps and taking it one step at a time can be effective solutions, but experiment to find what works for you. Many people find that setting a time and just getting started can lead to the progress they need to lessen anxiety and get things done.

Press Play for Advice On Dealing With Procrastination

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares ways to stop procrastinating. Click below to listen now.

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3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. De palo V, Monacis L, Miceli S, Sinatra M, Di nuovo S. Decisional procrastination in academic settings: the role of metacognitions and learning strategies. Front Psychol. 2017;8:973. doi:10.3389%2Ffpsyg.2017.00973

  3. Henriksen I, Ranøyen I, Indredavik M, Stenseng F. The role of self-esteem in the development of psychiatric problems: a three-year prospective study in a clinical sample of adolescents. Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 2017;11:68. doi:10.1186%2Fs13034-017-0207-y

By Katharina Star, PhD
Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness.