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Mental Health: The impact of procrastination on mental wellbeing

While procrastination is not a mental health condition as such, it can have a significant impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

Procrastination is a habit of avoiding or delaying doing tasks or work; stalling on important decisions and activities, waiting until the very last minute of deadlines to do what is needed of you.

Procrastination can result in unnecessary stress, worry and anxiety, decreased productivity, poor performance at work and at home and can affect our mental well-being.

Are you a procrastinator?

Do you often struggle to settle down to work and planned tasks?

Do you struggle to start projects and work tasks?

Do you avoid important work opting to do mundane or unimportant tasks instead?

Do you often find yourself not doing what you said you would by the time you said you would do it?

Why do we procrastinate?

The reasons we procrastinate are often internal factors and they may include:

  • Perfectionistic tendencies: if you always want things just right and perfect, you may find yourself delaying tasks until all the conditions are ideal. Perfectionism is also often rooted in a fear of failure
  • Being a dreamer who doesn’t follow through to action: sometimes we like to dream and imagine what we want in life but never follow through with planning and hard work to make the dream a reality. We may procrastinate the difficult but necessary work that will make our dream and hopes come true
  • Anxiety and worry: if we have a tendency to worry a lot, we may struggle to make decisions and be confident to follow through and act on our decisions in a timely manner
  • Rebellion and defiance: sometimes if we are feeling unheard or misunderstood or feeling overpowered in our relationships, we may resort to passive-aggression to fight back. We may find ourselves consciously or unconsciously delaying or avoiding certain expected tasks in defiance to the person who is frustrating us
  • Poor time management: sometimes procrastination is just poor time management and overestimating the time needed to complete expected objectives. We often are under the mistaken assumption that we always have tomorrow to do what is needed of us.
  • Unclear priorities and objectives: If we are not sure of what the important objectives we have for each day, each week or season of time, we may fail to focus appropriate attention and energy to what is most important
  • Poor self-motivation: procrastination has been described as a failure of self-regulation and self-motivation
  • Self–sabotage: sometimes procrastination may be evidence of self-sabotaging where we do not believe we can or we deserve to obtain certain levels of success
  • Depression: the demotivation, physical and emotional fatigue that can come with depression can result in procrastination

Mental health impact of procrastination

While procrastination is not a mental health condition as such, it can have a significant impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

Procrastination undermines our trust in ourselves to deliver on the promises we have made.

This will eventually erode our self-confidence and sense of self-worth and self-efficacy.

Procrastination causes decreased productivity, meeting deadlines at the last minute or missing deadlines altogether, this will result in excessive stress and even anxiety.

Procrastination will often strain relationships at home and at work as trust is eroded when we make promises but repeatedly fail to fulfil them.

How can I overcome procrastination?

  1. Become aware of your fears and how they affect your motivation, are you being paralysed by your fear of failure or your fear of what people will think of you?
  2. Strive for excellence not perfection, excellence is doing the best with what you have and does not require things to be perfect.
  3. Plan and set realistic goals to make your dreams and hopes tangible realities. What do you intend to do, by when, with whom, following which steps? What is the clear objective for each day, week, season of time; what activities will you engage in towards your goals and objectives; what are the tangible outcomes are you expecting and working towards?
  4. Be accountable to trusted advisors and allow them to keep you in check
  5. Eliminate distractions such as doom scrolling on social media and frequent binge watching TV shows
  6. Value persistence, resilience and hard work. Work towards self-discipline, small consistent steps will go a long way to overcoming procrastination

If you think that you or someone that you know maybe struggling with a mental health problem linked to procrastination, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.

*Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse is a consultant psychiatrist. Feedback on WhatsApp: +263714987729; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chido-rwafa-madzvamutse-53529259/  ; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chido.rwafa )

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