Slaying the Dragon of Procrastination

Written by Janine Canaday, LPC, LCPC

It’s Thursday, you have a project that is due tomorrow and you have not even started to think about how you will complete it. Time is ticking away. Minute by minute, hour by hour. You know that you need to work on it, but cannot seem to get yourself started. This seems to be a familiar feeling that happens more frequently. You have a task, assignment or project that needs to be done, but any ounce of motivation has escaped you. Binge watching Netflix specials or funny cat videos seems to be more appealing and less taxing on your mind.

So….you decide to give in to the temptation of procrastination. “I will just do it later.”

The dragon of procrastination makes you believe that in the moment, doing it later is a better option. Only for you to feel more stressed, anxious, frustrated or depressed as a result of waiting until later.

What is procrastination, really? It is often characterized by the avoidance of difficult tasks or purposefully finding distractions. It is the reflection of the struggle of self-control and the inability of accurately predicting future feelings and desires. You may say, “I will just do it tomorrow or later” insinuating that you already know you will have the desire to do it then. In reality, you do not know this for sure. There may be the presence of fear of failing/succeeding at a task or a belief that you work better under pressure, therefore you put it off.

Procrastination is not a problem of productivity, but a battle of the mind.

We all procrastinate to some degree, but some suffer from it. When stress and conflicting emotions presents themselves, procrastination seems like a harmless way to cope. Most of us would rather feel better in the moment forgoing the consequences of dealing with our feelings later. We essentially experience a struggle with managing our emotions effectively, not our time.

We must shift our inner voice from I “have to” to I “want to.” Improving our emotional regulation, or ability to cope with our emotions in a healthy way is essential.

You can start here:

1. Appreciate Yourself- Reframe from thinking negatively about yourself for procrastinating. Beating yourself up about it can lead to feeling stuck in ruminating about procrastination. Replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk. Being kind to yourself helps to build a strong foundation of resilience against the dragon.

2. Practice Mindfulness- Being more aware of your thoughts helps you to be more reflective of the feelings you are experiencing. Present awareness creates a deeper level of understanding of your emotions, therefore reducing procrastination. Instead of avoiding or amplifying your emotions, deal with them in the present moment. Acknowledge your feelings, feel what you need to feel, process them and then make a decision to move forward.

3. Take Action- Introspection will get you but so far. You must take the first step. Break down your goals into achievable small steps. Set deadlines. Prioritize. Just start. Be proud of yourself doing it now.

Slay.

If you or someone you know is experiencing challenges with managing emotions in healthy ways, please seek support. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with me, please contact me!

The Trap of Self-Comparison

Written by: Janine Canaday, LPC, LCPC

Suzie is a senior in high school and has a 4.2GPA, is captain of the cheerleading team, dates the school’s star basketball player and is expected to attend an Ivy League college in the fall. She genuinely has a kind heart, enjoys rescuing puppies and volunteering at the local nursing home. You think, Suzie has it made. She has everything going for her and is a far better person than you will ever be. You make B average grades, are ranked 3rd on your tennis team and are awaiting to attend one of the best schools in your state. You have a magnetic personality, are very artistic and know how to play the guitar. But, your grades are not like hers, you do not have a popular boyfriend like she does and you feel like a failure. You spend a good portion of your day thinking about all of the ways that she and other girls like her have it better than you. You have fallen into the trap of self-comparison.

This trap is big, sharp and it sucks. It pokes at you and constantly reminds you of where you think you fall short. It makes you feel deficient and inadequate. Society has strategically placed many of these traps in places or situations that you frequent such as social media, magazines, school, work, restaurants, billboards, movies, television, music, social gatherings and so on. Our minds are constantly being bombarded with images and messages on what is considered ideal, top of the line or acceptable. Anything less than that is not good enough. When you are confronted with so many opportunities to compare who you are and what you have, it is hard not to internalize the feelings of “less than” or “lack.” In the end, comparing yourself to others only validates the insecurities, self-doubt and fear that resides within.

Over time, you may start to notice that your mind looks for reasons to compare in order to prove the negative and irrational thoughts that you created about yourself. The reality is though, self-comparison is completely unfair to you. It causes you to focus on certain characteristics about a person that only paint part of the picture of who that person is. Yes, Suzie may be great in some areas, but that does not diminish the areas that you really shine in. We all have our strengths and areas of improvement which do not make us better or less than each other.

Society tries to enforce a greater than/less than model of living when we should strive towards embracing the idea that there is room for everybody at the table. We all have something to contribute, learn, teach and share. This is what makes each of us unique, valuable, purposeful and special.

Focusing on where you think other people shine blocks your ability to see your own light.

How do I stop falling in the trap of self-comparison? I’m glad you asked.

1. Become Aware. Self-awareness is half the battle. You are one step closer to overcoming this struggle when you can recognize that you are placing inaccurate judgment on yourself based on the unfair ideals of society. Pay close attention to your self-talk and inner critic. Be mindful of what you are feeding your mind and soul.

2. Look Within. Define your self-worth based on what you know to be true about who you are. Take inventory of the progress you have made, the last few chapters of your story or the season of life you just powered through. Focus on the strengths you possess, the value you add and the improvements you want to continue to make. It is only a fair comparison when it is against yourself.

3. Minimize Triggers. If you know that social media or certain magazines/shows/places trigger feelings of inferiority or inadequacy, minimize the amount of time that you spend in those areas. Replace that time with more productive ways of thinking, habits, and behaviors. Spend the time focusing on building yourself up and working towards your goals.

4. Accept Imperfection. We all have flaws. No one is perfect. Someone who appears to have it all also has her own set of challenges and struggles. It is ok. Show yourself some compassion. Embrace your challenges and celebrate your wins. They are unique to you and are what sets you apart from everyone else.

Life is not a competition. It is a journey. Define your own path.

If you or anyone that you know struggles with self-comparison, low self-esteem, depression or anxiety, please seek support from a trusted individual. If you would like more information on how I can help you to better manage the challenges in your life, please contact me!

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I See That You Have Roaches: A 5 Step Guide to Eliminating Those Pesky Insects We Call Negative Thoughts

Written By: Janine Canaday, LCPC

It is the middle of the week and you are sitting down at your dinner table trying to enjoy your meal, but you cannot help but notice a tiny dark shadow moving swiftly across the floor. It starts to move closer to your direction and suddenly stops to signal the attention of his other friends; more roaches. They start to scatter quickly across the floor on a mission to steal your food and destroy a nice recipe that you just tried for the first time.

Your kids are not aware of the circus happening around them and continue to devour the delicious food before them that is quickly turning into bones and crumbs. They do, however notice a change in your facial expressions and body language signaling that something is not right. Shear panic runs across your face as you watch more and more roaches march around in your kitchen, coming from all directions, as if they live there and own your house. You start to feel overwhelmed and at a loss of how to handle this situation which appears terrifying and unsettling. Your kids do not see what you see, but they do try to offer sympathy and a sweet gesture of asking “Are you ok, Mommy?”

It is not long before you realize that the masquerade ball of roaches that you see is really the feeling of stress and overwhelm that is happening in your mind. Your thoughts are racing and on a mission to steal your short moment of happiness and . Bills have been piling up, your workload has increased at the job and sign of a raise is not in the near future. Your kids are doing well, but you still feel a sense of inadequacy as a parent because you compare your child’s develop to that of little Johnny across the street.

Your husband works late hours and quality time with him seems almost nonexistent. The weight of your current situation hits you all at once. Mixed emotions of depression and anxiety consume you and negative thoughts about how you will not be able to to fix it start to attract more negative thoughts suggesting that you are a complete failure all around.

Now, you have 1 of 2 choices. You can either allow those negative, self-defeating, dream killing, intrusive and pesky thoughts to spiral out of control, or you can stomp those unwanted roaches out and squash their mere existence! Here are 5 ways to do this:

  1. Challenge negative self-talk. -Start to train yourself to become aware of the negative thoughts you are having. Ask yourself, “Are these thoughts helpful?” “Will these thoughts improve my situation?” “Are they going to change my situation in a positive way?” If the answer is “No” to your challenges, then you affirm they are negative thoughts and move towards changing them to positive thoughts.
  2. Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations. -Start changing the language that you use in your mind and with your speech. You can start with, “I will get through this situation.” “This may be a setback, but I will find a way to make this work.” “I am stronger than I think.””This is difficult and uncomfortable, but it is only temporary.” “I choose to see this challenge as an opportunity.”
  3.  Breathe deeply. -Breathing this way helps to regulate and relax the body as well as helps to gain peace and clarity of mind. Sit still and comfortably in your chair, close your eyes and put one had on your chest while the other is on your stomach. Breathe deeply, slowly and quietly through your nose and feel your stomach go in. Breathe out through your mouth and feel your stomach go out. Your hand on your chest should not move. You can practice this a couple times a day for 5-10 minutes to start.
  4. Identify solutions that are manageable.– It is easy to become overwhelmed when we think about ALL that we have to do. Break it down into small, manageable goals or a To-Do lists that you can achieve. After you have written down your goals, talk it out by yourself or with someone that you trust to come up with the best solutions to achieve the goals. Complete one goal and move on to the next one.
  5. Engage in enjoyable and productive activities. Your time is valuable. It is often the case that we spend a lot of time engaging in unproductive behavior, ruminating on how we are going to figure it out, coming up with reasons why it will not work, and getting trapped in the lies of excuses that we feed ourselves. All of that energy that is put into unproductive thinking can be reinvested into productive, positive and fun energy that fuels a fresh perspective, forward thinking and problem solving skills.

 

So…..the choice is yours. You can allow roaches to run your havoc in your mind or you can squash their very existence and allow positive thinking to take up a dwelling place.