Science and Sensibility

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Stop Procrastinating and Overcome Your Anxieties and Fears

Techniques to stop procrastinating on ending your anxieties.

If you suffer from the same anxieties, you've probably put off facing what you fear and hope that you'll stop feeling anxious if you wait long enough.. You may worry about dangers that are just not there. You may fret over the possibility of feeling anxious. Anxieties, such as dread of making a mistake, being rejected, or looking foolish are all parasitic because they drain your resources.Procrastinate on facing your parasitic anxieties, and you will normally continue to feed the parasites..

When procrastination follows anxiety, this is an example of secondary procrastination. This refers to a situation where you put off many things because of your anxieties about them, and you simultaneously put off combatting procrastination.  This combination can originate with primary procrastination (anxiety is the consequence of procrastination), but more often secondary procrastination is a byproduct of painful conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or angst.

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Let's look at the steps George took to break his anxiety and procrastination connection. Perhaps you'll see something in what George did that opens the gate for you to get on a path toward positive personal change.

George saw fictional dangers everywhere. Because he thought he'd flop at making small talk, he avoided his co-workers' lunch invitations. Instead, he procrastinated on facing this fear by playing computer games. He worried about getting hit by lightening. He spent his spare time watching the weather channel so he could avoid thunder storms. He pondered the possibilities of making mistakes and looking like a jerk. So, he rarely spoke up to express an opinion. He dreaded approaching women for a date. He got drunk first to "get courage" then acted jerkily. If he had to speak before a group, he feigned illness to get off the hook. While awaiting inspiration to overcome his public-speaking and other fears, a shadow of procrastination surrounded him.

Parasitic anxiety is normally accompanied by a discomfort-dodging form of procrastination that roughly follows this pattern:  you feel uncomfortable about an activity and divert your attention to safer or more comfortable activities. You will many times come to points where you can choose to confront your anxieties or dodge them. George could choose to wait for a written guarantee that says that he could small talk brilliantly. He could avoid thunder storms. He could wait for the perfect woman to knock on his door. However, he could teach himself to deal with his combined parasitic anxieties and procrastination. George executed this choice. Here is what he did:

1. He set concrete, measurable, meaningful, and achievable goals, such as to go to lunch twice a week with his coworkers.

2. He worked at one goal at a time. For example, he join his work associates for lunch at least twice a week. 

3. He thought about his thinking, learned how to separate his anxiety thinking from the reality variety, and used his realistic thinking to compete with parasitic anxiety thinking.

4. He flinched but lived through his anxious feelings without bolting. This decision led to greater tolerance for tension. (When you don't fear the feeling of anxiety or fear, you are likely to experience less tension.)

5. He acted as if he was in greater command of himself by taking proactive steps to do what he would do if he was not anxious. For instance, he followed action steps by going to lunch despite his fears.

George persisted in teaching himself to stop procrastinating on overcoming his anxiety. He faced his fears. He made great progress turning his life around. 

If you want to learn more about how to stop procrastinating and kick your parasitic anxiety habit(s), see Knaus, W. (2008). The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety

(C) Dr. Bill Knaus

Bill Knaus, Ed.D., is the author of more than 20 books; one, "Overcoming Procrastination", was co-authored with Albert Ellis.

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