Mandatory Disclosure

Rewire Your Anxious Brain Part 3

Getting Free of Things That Hold You Back :Procrastination and Worry (Part 3 of Rewire your anxious brain)by Mugdha Chandorkar, Child Counselor

In the previous chapter, we evaluated the accuracy of your negative thoughts. We also examined your negative core beliefs and developed more realistic alternative beliefs. I asked you to continue keeping track of situations that made you anxious, to examine your thoughts in those situations, and to keep a log of events that supported your new beliefs. How did your homeworkassignments go? Please write down your thoughts about the work you completed last week in the space below.

In this chapter, we will consider two obstacles to overcoming anxiety:
Procrastinationand Worry. These issues tend to be common roadblocks regardless of the type of anxiety you experience. First, let’s have a look at how anxiety relates to procrastination and what you can do about it.

  • Procrastination

We all know what it means to procrastinate. A long to-do list lies in front of you, but instead you find yourself surfing the Internet or watching your favorite TV show.

Do you find yourself procrastinating because of your anxiety? Do you put off making phone calls, take too long to get started on work projects, or fall behind on household chores? Do you struggle with specific tasks or activities? Record your thoughts in the space below.

How Fear holds you back

Anxiety is a contributing factor to procrastination. When you feel anxious, procrastination can bring about a temporary sense of relief. Unfortunately, procrastination leads to more anxiety, as you fall behind on tasks and pressure mounts. Procrastination resulting from anxiety can be related to a fear of failure or disapproval, it may involve putting off tasks that cause you anxiety in the moment, and it can also just be a bad habit that you have developed.

Fear of failure

Fear of failure or disapproval closely resembles perfectionism. Do you feel like things should be done in a certain way and question your ability to complete them in this manner? Do you second-guess yourself, feel paralyzed, and avoid acting for fear you will fail? Do you worry what others will think about what you do? Examples of this type of procrastination include trouble getting started on projects and avoiding tasks that involve social contact.

This type of procrastination is rooted in fear, insecurity, and self-doubt. You might jump to conclusions and think you are not capable of reaching your goals. Thoughts such as “I must complete this task perfectly or not at all,” or “I have to get this right, or people will think I am incompetent,” may be common for you. However, most of us do not have time for perfection—so tasks end up left undone.

Information overload

Anxiety can also lead to procrastination if your working memory is overloaded. If you have trouble concentrating and aren’t getting enough sleep, daily activities such as managing homework, having proper meals, or attending online classes may feel like too much. When your mind isoverloaded, it probably feels like everything is too complicated and you don’t know where to start.

Intolerance of uncertainty

You might procrastinate because you need to feel in control and certain. For example, you might put off making decisions because you don’t feel that you have enough information. Then if a deadline eventually looms, you find yourself pressed for time and rushing to make choices. You might even avoid planning altogether so that you can’t be held responsible for a bad outcome. This type of procrastination is endlessbecause it never feels like you’ve done enough.

A bad habit

Sometimes, procrastination becomes more of a bad habit than anything any new task that you’re given seems too hard, so your instinct is to delay getting started until you feel more confident or ready. You might even identify yourself as a procrastinator to the point that it becomes part of your personality.

Overcoming Anxiety related Procrastination-

  1. Make a list and prioritize tasks. Review your list often and ensure that you are working on the most important tasks. Plan to spend a certain amount of time every day on each task.
  2. Start somewhere. If you don’t know where to start, break tasks down into small steps. Then complete the first step of a task.
  3. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Realistically assess whether perfection is necessaryor even possible. Ask yourself what the best, worst, and most realistic outcome would be if you did not do a task perfectly.
  4. Reward yourself for completing difficult tasks.
  5. Don’t blame yourself. Though on the surface, procrastination appears to be a problem of time management, it is often much more complex.
  • Worry

Worry is a central feature of all anxiety disorders. Anxiety will cause you to worry about what other people think of you. If you have generalized anxiety disorder, you will worry about all aspects of your life. Though it may feel like you are working on a problem when you worry, it’s not a productive activity that will lead to positive results.

Worth the worry?

Sometimes we worry about things we can control. Other times, we worry about things that are outside of our control. Worrying can be useful if it leads to you acting or solving a problem. On the other hand, chronic worry serves no purpose other than to cause you emotional pain. Focusing on worst-case scenarios doesn’t make them any less likely to happen—it just causes you additional stress.

Take a moment and think about your top worries. Ask yourself, is this problem current or a “what if” scenario? Ifit is a “what if,” how likely is it to happen? Is there anything you can do about the problem, or is it outside of your control?Also consider what you think it means to worry. Do you believe that worrying helps you solve problems?

Worry triggers?

Let’s take a moment to think specifically about your worrying. When do you tend to worry most? What do you do when you worry? Are there certain people in your life who make your worries worse?

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” —Winston Churchill

Moving away from worry

Just like procrastination, worry is sometimes a bad habit. While the work you have done up to this point changing your negative core beliefs will help you worry less, it will also take some practice to get out of the worry habit.

One way to break the worry habit is to find new habits to replace your worrying. For example, Sam’s therapist suggested that he go for a walk if he was worrying during the day or get up and read a book if he found himself tossing and turning at night.Note that the goal here is not to stop working on the problems that cause you worry. It is better to problem-solve within a defined period than to worry endlessly. You can address your worries during a set time of the day. For now, try your best to let them go.

Have you noticed anything that helps reduce your worry? Could watching a funny movie distract you from your worries? Would doing something creative like writing or painting help you move away from your worry habit?

In the space below, come up with five activities that you could do instead of worrying. Try to think of activities that you could do both at home and at work.


Expressing your feelings

Sometimes we worry because we are keeping our feelings bottled up. When we worry, we temporarily suppress feelings that we are afraid to experience.

In this sense, we are worrying to find a way to express the frustration that we feel.Is there anyone you can talk to who helps you worry less? Have you tried writing down your thoughts in a journal? Have you ever kept a Gratitude journal to balance out your worries? Often, we find that our worries grow if we keep them to ourselves. Sharing them with others orexpressing them in writing may help you gain perspective.

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” —Erma Bombeck


Set aside a time to worry each day. If you found yourself worrying at other times of the day,jot down the worry for later consideration. Before going to bed, make time to jot down any potential solutions that you can identify. And then transfer any tasks you identified over to your to-do list.

Review and Reflect

This has been a productive read! We’ve discussed procrastinationand worry, and how they may be related to your anxiety. We’ve also identified strategies that you can use to reduce their impact on your daily activities.

Activity plan

  1. Continue to complete the Worry Diary and Challenging Your Thoughts forms (which we did in the last month).
  2. Make a to-do list and apply the procrastination strategies to accomplish your most urgent tasks.
  3. Practice deep breathing for five minutes each day.
  4. Schedule a worry period each day.