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 towards your goals and responsibilities. Read through them and consider if you are allowing these potential roadblocks to lead to procrastination.

Worry and Perfectionism

Having an anxiety disorder puts one at risk for suffering from perfectionism to some degree. Your personal demand to be perfect can be contributing to your struggle with procrastination. You may think that perfectionism is a positive attribute.

However, setting yourself up to such a high standard can hold you back from completing your tasks and can often lead to feelings of defeat. It is possible that you may be unknowingly using perfectionism as a way to procrastinate getting your work done.

Perfectionism can surface in many different forms. It can often come out through your personal self-talk and reasoning. For example, perfectionism can take on the form of should statements. You may think to yourself, “I should complete this task perfectly or not at all.” Such self-criticism adds pressure to your life and can derail your attempts at reaching your goals.

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.

For instance, you may tell yourself that you cannot work on relaxation techniques until you have read several self-help books for panic disorder. Or maybe you tell yourself you are too busy right now to seek out professional help for your condition. By waiting for everything to be in order, you are actually putting off any progress and giving in to procrastination.

Similarly, worry can 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.

One of the biggest problems with both worry and perfectionism is that they can make you too afraid to move forward at all. To begin to move past these issues, start thinking about how worry and perfectionism may be holding you back. Give yourself permission to make some mistakes. Assess if perfection is necessary and even possible.

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 it. 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.

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.

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.

For example, let's say that you have a goal to build a social support network. Simple tasks to get you started can include: Determining who you already know that can be a part of your support system, joining a support forum or asking your doctor where you can find group therapy. Goals often become much more manageable when you break them down into smaller parts.

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.

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.

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

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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.