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Anxiety & Procrastination

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Updated June 10, 2008

Sometimes people with anxiety issues, or even generalized anxiety disorder, have problems with procrastination. Three major sources for this are: perfectionism, worry about results, and low self-efficacy. How to cope with anxiety

Perfectionism

Many times, people with anxiety also struggle with some degree of perfectionism. Worrying that something needs to be perfect to be valuable and worthwhile can leave someone paralyzed with inaction. The most important strategy for battling perfectionism and anxiety is rationally assessing the situation. Take a realistic look at whether something needs to be perfect or not, and follow the results of this assessment. Few things we will ever encounter in our lives need to be perfect. If the thing you have to do doesn’t actually need to be perfect, then try and get started with your best effort and accept that it will be good enough. An example would be allowing yourself to stop writing a paper after it has reached a point of "good enough" rather than rereading it a dozen times to perfect it.

Worry About Results

Another source of procrastination is worrying about what will happen after the event or work is completed. Sometimes we remain in a state of inaction as a way to avoid the results. The most important strategy in this situation is remembering that for most things, the results will come whether you avoid and procrastinate or not. Many people find it helpful to simply get started on something and get the news. The longer we put off potentially stressful results, the longer we have to live in a state of uncertainty and waiting, which is a huge source of anxiety itself.

Low Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is your beliefs in your ability to do something. Many times people procrastinate because they fear that they cannot do something well or because they do not know where to begin. Sometimes there is a reality that we are unable to perform well, and accepting that limitation or seeking help are important processes to begin if that is true. The key to accurately assessing our ability is to look back on similar things we have done and the results. If results are generally good, then use that knowledge as a source of strength to get started on the project. Additionally, if you struggle with finding out where to begin, often, simply beginning anywhere -- even with the easiest task -- is to get the ball rolling.

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