Recently I attended a workshop by BrittFrank who wrote The Science of Stuck: Breaking Through Inertia to Find Your Path Forward.
I was struck by how she defines and treats procrasintation and find the ideas helpful for my clients with anxiety and adhd
Parasympathetic and sympathetic anxiety.
Britt tells us there are two kinds of anxiety sympathetic anxiety where your feel sort of wired and jacked up and parasympathetic anxiety whereyou feel shut down and immobilized. You don’t feel good or safe and you are unable to do anything.
The sympathetic response is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to stress or anxiety. It is characterized by an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, as well as a release of stress hormones. The sympathetic response prepares the body for fight-or-flight by increasing its ability to deal with danger. In some cases, the sympathetic response can be beneficial, such as when it helps us to perform better in an emergency situation. However, if the body is constantly in a state of anxiety, the constant activation of the sympathetic response can lead to physical and psychological problems. Therefore, it is important to find ways to reduce stress and anxiety in order to avoid activation of the sympathetic response.
When you are in anxious response driven by this state you are more frenetic.
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s anxiety response. This system is active when the body is at rest, and it helps to regulate functions such as heart rate, digestion, and blood pressure. When the body encounters a stressful situation, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks into gear and helps the body to respond. This system works to counteract the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system helps to keep the body in a state of balance, and it play an important role in maintaining overall health.
Britt believes that procrastination is actually often an anxiety response driven by this shut down parasympathetic state.
While we usually think of procrastination as a moral failure, something that we might lable lazy or unprorductive or unmotivativated. She says these are judgements and are actually not biologically accurate.
I can’t agree more. Especially with my adhd female clients who I have often seen fall into an anxious avoidant cycle.
The cycle of procrastination, criticism and avoidance drives shame and makes you more immobilized.
These labels and things we say to ourselves when we are engaging in what we call procrastination, and what is actually often anxiety, make things worse.
What we should actually be doing is asking ourselves how to rest and revive ourselves because we are in shut down.
These interventions look like compassionate self talk and self care.
If you can get in the habit of thinking of procrastination as an anxiety response, and a biological one, then you can begin to help yourself return to a sense of safety to help yourself feel more level headed and calm to address the task at hand, or help make that task less overwhleming.
It might be your first clue as someone with adhd, that you don’t understand the task, it needs to be broken up, externalized, you need help, or it needs to be clarified
I like the idea of understanding procrastination as an anxiety response, rather than as a moral failure, and I have had success helping my clients with this reframe.
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