Anxiety, Procrastination and Me – AKA the Unholy Trinity
This is the third instalment in a rambling, barely coherent series I’m writing about anxiety. You can have a cheeky flick through the other instalments here. I might reference them from time to time.
First of all, the disclaimer. The only thing that qualifies me to write this post is my own experience. That’s it. Just an anxious gal trying to share some stuff she’s worked out, in hopes it’ll help someone else out, and maybe they’ll share some stuff too.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about that thing where you really, really need to do something (or want to do something), but you just can’t bring yourself to. Why is it? Are you scared? Do the consequences of not getting it done just not bother you enough? Fear of failure got you down?
I think there’s probably a couple of reasons why this happens, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The bottom line is definitely anxiety. But depending on what it is, there’s different reasons your anxiety ignites when you need to do the things. Whatever the things may be.
I’ve found a few different reasons why this happens to me, and what I’ve found I can do to kind of wheedle my way out of the anxiety trap and get something, anything done.
It doesn’t always work. It just doesn’t. Anxiety is a fickle and complicated thing, it can be inconsistent, and it can be different from day to day. But some days, even when you don’t think it’s possible, you can flip the table on it and get some shit done.
Here’s the stuff in list format (because we all bloody love lists, right?).
1. Fear of failure. Straight A student most of my life, I found school easy and my place was firmly at the top of my class. I was also extremely opinionated and a bit of a know it all, I’ll admit. When school got harder, I actually had to start putting in a lot more effort than ever before, and although I mostly kept my grades up, I was terrified I was going to slip back down the rocky precipice. Failure was a fate worse than death.
This probably affects me the most now, as well. Whether it was going for a new job or promotion, or making a new friend, or even trying a new recipe (lame), I adopted a sedentary “never try, never fail” attitude that was completely unlike myself. It’s so easy to fall back on that. Whenever I did talk myself in to applying for a new job, it sent my anxiety into absolute overdrive. It meant sleepless nights, it meant not eating more than a bowl of cereal all day. It meant cancelling plans with friends and family until I knew if I had the job. Even though I always, always got the job.
See, it doesn’t matter if you know you’re good at something, it doesn’t even matter how confident you actually are. Your anxiety will tell you you’re not, and it will tell you you shouldn’t have bothered because you’re only going to let yourself and everyone down.
Tip: Bother. Try. Be kind to yourself, because whether or not you get the job/grade/cake right doesn’t change your value as a person. This is a really really hard lesson, because I have spent most of my life grading my self-worth off of my achievements, and I know this is a common theme (why do so many high achieving people have anxiety? hmmm~).
You don’t need to put pressure on yourself for things to go right in your life. If you’re scared that trying will equal failing, it’s actually OK to not do it just then. Tell yourself that – it’s cool if I chill. This pressure is unsettling me and I don’t feel good right now. Once the pressure is off, you can start to build yourself back up to the point where you feel better about going for it. Take a step back, until you feel ready to take a step forward.
Note: This might not be an option for everyone, especially you 17-18 year olds dealing with exams this year. You don’t always get given the step to step back. To you, I say high school is not the end, it’s not the be-all and end-all. You can still get where you need to go, even if you somehow fail every single one of your exams. I know it doesn’t feel like that, and that’s not what your teachers or parents will tell you, but as someone who had to take time off school because of health issues, and still got into engineering school – you can do anything. Just be nice to yourself first and foremost.
2. Fear of nothing in particular. This is the one that gets me, because rationalising it is hard, there’s no obvious solution, and people just don’t understand unless they’ve been there. This is the one I spoke about in my first anxiety post. It’s the one that causes you to stay stuck inside your room the whole day, barely functioning, accomplishing very little. Nothing major or dramatic needs to have happened. Your life could be going perfectly well. You can feel like you’re in a good “place”. You might not have had any anxiety for months. It’s the one that makes you cancel your plans and write the day off. You know that doom-and-gloom bad things won’t happen if you step outside, but for some reason it feels like something bad is going to happen regardless. It can be crippling, and extremely isolating. Sometimes it has an easily identifiable trigger, sometimes it doesn’t.
The only way I can combat this one is by taking care of myself as best I can, and waiting it out. Accept that this is how you’re feeling. Once you’ve done that, see how you feel about getting on with your originally planned day, and if you can’t, that’s alright. This is just how it’s going to be for a little while.
Again, be kind to yourself. Guilt is pointless, useless – throw it in the bin. Accept yourself and the situation, even if the situation is you watching Netflix, drinking tea and only eating porridge for a fourteen hour period (if it sounds oddly specific, that’s because it is). Getting back on that horse isn’t always possible straight away. Once you’ve realised that, it’s all a lot easier. Point is, be kind.
As always, let me know your thoughts.