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Procrastination has been linked to poor mental and physical health

Avoiding certain responsibilities might feel rewarding in the moment, but it’s likely worse for our mental and physical well-being in the long run.

A breadth of studies have shown that chronic procrastination isn’t just bad for our to-do lists, but also for our mental and physical health in the long term.

While most of us give into procrastinating every now and then, the consequences become a lot different when we make delaying everyday tasks a constant habit.

This is because the human brain is a complicated network of reward systems – and short-term returns are the low-hanging fruit. Completing easy tasks triggers a boost of feel-good hormones almost immediately. This keeps us afloat, if you will.

But when it comes to mustering up the motivation to obtain a reward that arrives a month or year from now? Well, our brains already don’t love that in day-to-day life. When we persevere, however, the payoff is extremely beneficial for our future levels of self-esteem.

For that reason, psychologists have long been investigating what chronic procrastination reveals about our mental states. Given that our minds and bodies influence one another – they’re now looking deeper into what its negative physical effects are too.

Figuring out the relationship between mental health problems and chronic procrastination has been likened to the ‘chicken or the egg’ dilemma.

This is because many people who suffer from disorders such as depression, OCD, ADHD, and more, report difficulties with starting and completing tasks. Racing thoughts, looming anxiety about getting started, fatigue, boredom, or perfectionism can make even the simplest chores seem impossible.

For these individuals, procrastination is a side effect of a far deeper issue.

On the other hand, some people regularly choose ‘chilling today and worrying tomorrow’ over getting started now. This group can become anxious when having to deal with yesterday’s tasks once again.

Over time, feelings of stress and guilt can accumulate from leaving things until the very last minute.

For this reason, psychologists agree that procrastination is directly related to our individual ability to manage and regulate emotions. They say that completing a task – especially one we dread doing – is a key demonstration of adequate emotion regulation.

It’s likely we all have a lived experience of this.

Cleaning house and doing laundry isn’t always the most exciting way to spend our evenings or weekends. But getting it done does give us an emboldened sense of accomplishment.

Filing a tax return ­– though tricky, intimidating, and boring – arms us with the knowledge that our future self is better off and reinforces us with the confidence and knowledge needed complete a similar important task later on.

By sharp contrast, chronic procrastinators are less likely to make adequate time for completing even the most pressing of tasks. The consequences of putting off these kinds of things will eventually lead to more stress and anxiety down the line.

The manifestation of these emotions is what makes overcoming the root or habit of procrastination important. Its repercussions extend far beyond being labelled as a ‘productive person,’ and veer more into the realm of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Because chronic stress, as we know, is no laughing matter.

Procrastination is commonly observed among university or college students who believe they have more time to accomplish assignments than they actually do.

Having to cram hours of exam studying into one day or pull all-nighters to complete essays can take a real physical toll – as someone who’s done it and crashed for 15 hours the next day, I can confirm.

One study into the physical consequences of procrastination has looked at university students as an example. After a nine-months of observing 2,587 students, individuals who regularly put off the completion of academic tasks reported higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Their overall health was less than optimal too, as chronic stress wreaks total havoc on our bodies.

Stress can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, rapid weight changes, sleep problems and more. Numerous psychological papers warn that chronic procrastinators are also more likely to delay seeking mental or medical help when they need it, exacerbating the problem further.

If you’re worried, you’re not alone – the occasional procrastinator in me is freaking out too, but there is good news. Cognitive behavioural therapy has proven to be extremely effective for people looking to rid themselves of this negative habit.

For those who can’t afford therapy, it might be time to channel that energy into checking out this guide to beating procrastination, like, now!


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