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Unmasking Procrastination – How Delays Harm Your Health And 5 Tips How To Break Free

Soraya Mansour is the founder of Limitless Self. She is a RTT therapist, Clinical hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner. Through her practice, she works with clients with a wide range of issues ranging from depression, anxiety, procrastination. lack of confidence to addictions.

 
Executive Contributor Soraya Mansour

Ever find yourself staring at your to-do list at the end of the day, only to push important tasks to tomorrow? You're not alone. Procrastination isn't about laziness; it's a complex emotional response that can wreak havoc on your health and well-being. Dive into this article to uncover the true causes of procrastination, understand its impact on your health, and discover practical strategies to break free from its grip. Ready to transform your habits and reclaim your life? Read on and learn how to overcome procrastination for good.


Businessman sleeping with feet up at desk

It’s the end of the day and you’re staring at your to-do list. There’s something important to do that you’ve been putting off for the past week but now it’s late and you’re tired.


You sit on the sofa, switch on Netflix and convince yourself that you’ll wake up early to do it in the morning. But then you binge watch an entire series, leave the dirty dishes in the sink, and then crawl into bed. You wake up late in the morning and become increasingly frustrated with yourself for not getting it done.


If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Almost everyone procrastinates at one point or another. However, for many, the issue doesn’t interfere with their quality of life. But for those that procrastinate regularly, which according to research is 20% of adults in United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. This act of putting off tasks can have far reaching consequences.


What is the definition of procrastination?

I often work with clients struggling with procrastination. The word “procrastination” is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare — to put off until tomorrow. Putting things of creates the most pervasive myths about procrastination which is that it stems from laziness, lack of motivation, bad time management and character weakness. However, academic research and therapeutic experience reveal a more complex picture. In this article, I explain what causes you to procrastinate, I explore why procrastination is detrimental to your health, and I offer practical strategies to overcome it.


Before I look at what causes people to procrastinate, let’s look at the difference between simply being lazy and procrastinating:


The difference between laziness and procrastination


  • Procrastination is the intentional delay of tasks. Unlike laziness, procrastinators usually want to complete their tasks but struggle due to emotional and cognitive barriers.

  • Laziness, in contrast, refers to an unwillingness to exert effort, characterized by a lack of motivation without the accompanying stress or guilt. Lazy individuals prefer inactivity or low-effort activities and do not feel the need to change their behaviour. They lack the desire to engage in tasks, often choosing rest or leisure over productivity.


Addressing laziness typically involves strategies to enhance motivation and create a sense of purpose, whereas overcoming procrastination requires understanding and managing the emotional triggers behind it.


What causes procrastination?

Procrastination isn't just a mindset issue. While your thoughts and emotions do play a role, procrastination is primarily a physiological response. It occurs when your brain perceives a real or imagined threat. You might wonder how completing a task that’s been on your list for a week could be seen as a threat. However, in the clash between logical thinking and survival instincts, the brain’s survival mechanisms often prevail. When your brain feels unsafe due to stress, overwhelm, burnout, or negative emotions like anxiety or limiting beliefs, your autonomic nervous system triggers a fight/flight/freeze response. This leads to the behaviour of procrastinating, either by doing nothing or doing everything except what you really need to get done!


My personal journey

I can personally attest to the complex nature of procrastination. While studying to become a therapist while managing a busy household with five young children, I was anything but lazy. However, a fear of failure and imposter syndrome led me to channel all my time and energy into sorting out sock drawers rather than preparing my coursework. This avoidance continued for some time until I worked with a therapist to address my limiting beliefs about myself. Once these beliefs were addressed, the amount of time I was actively procrastinating dropped, I was able to prioritize my studies and finally qualify and work as a therapist!


Procrastination has a positive intention

In most clients that I’ve worked with, the behaviour of procrastination is there to punish, protect or prioritise them. This is because our subconscious mind always has a positive intention, even if the resulting behaviour is counterproductive. By understanding this, we can address the underlying emotional issues, facilitating lasting change. Here a couple of case studies where my clients’ names have been changed to maintain anonymity.


Susan's journey

Susan came to me because she was procrastinating in both her work and home life. During our sessions, we discovered that her procrastination stemmed from feeling abandoned by her father. This deep-seated emotional wound made her feel that she wasn't good enough, so she saw no point in putting in any effort. By procrastinating, subconsciously she was punishing herself. Through hypnotherapy, we addressed these feelings of abandonment, allowing Susan to develop a healthier self-image and more proactive habits.


Anna's transformation

Another client, Anna, sought help for attracting toxic relationships. She found that she was stuck in her life in general. She was working in a job that left her unfulfilled and spending her free time scrolling through her phone rather than engaging in her passions of painting and singing. Through regression therapy, we connected this behaviour to her traumatic childhood, which made her feel undeserving of good things. In her case, her subconscious mind was protecting her by keeping her small and not standing out. Addressing these root issues allowed Anna to make significant changes in her life, pursue her passions, and build healthier relationships where she was fully seen.

 

What are the negative effects of procrastination on health?

Now that we’ve looked at what procrastination is, and what causes it, let’s now look at how consistently putting tasks off can be detrimental to your health:


1. Increased stress levels

Delaying important tasks creates mounting pressure as deadlines approach, which triggers the body's stress response. This results in the release of stress hormones such as cortisol after releasing its “fight or flight” hormones, such as adrenaline, so you continue to stay on high alert and ultimately get the task done. But at what risk when this is a regular pattern?


Why it's bad: Chronic stress has been linked to numerous health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, digestive issues, and a weakened immune. It also contributes to mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression.


Tip to change: This is not when I will advise you to manage your time better, because as you know now, the acting of constantly procrastinating comes down to emotional management and unprocessed fears not to time management. So even if you blocked out the whole day, you would prioritize scrolling through funny videos on YouTube just to avoid the task! It’s important to some inner work.


Start journaling. You don’t need to think about it too much, just put pen to paper and write whatever comes to your mind about what you usually procrastinate about and what feelings.


I always recommend my clients start the day by mediating and do so for the 30 days that we work together. This can be just 5 minutes to start with until they build it as a habit over the 30 days. Research has shown that 30 days is how long it takes to create a new habit. Meditation and mindfulness are great to become an observer of our thoughts rather than becoming consumed by them. A deep state of relaxation reduces overall stress levels and increases your ability to focus.


2. Poor sleep quality

Procrastination often leads to late-night work sessions or cramming to meet deadlines, disrupting sleep patterns and diminishing sleep quality. This cycle is not a result of laziness but rather an attempt to cope with the anxiety of unfinished tasks.


Why it's bad: Poor sleep quality affects your physical and mental health. It can lead to fatigue, a weakened immune system, weight gain, and an increased risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Moreover, it impairs cognitive functions like memory, attention, and decision-making.


Tip to change: Self-hypnosis can be used to create a bedtime routine that promotes relaxation and better sleep. Additionally, use NLP anchoring techniques to associate your workspace with productivity and your bedroom with relaxation, helping to separate work from rest effectively.


3. Decreased productivity

When tasks are delayed, the time pressure increases, often resulting in rushed, lower-quality work, which further fuels the cycle of procrastination.


Why it's bad: Decreased productivity can lead to a cycle of negative self-perception and heightened stress. This can harm your professional and personal life, as you struggle to meet expectations and deadlines.


Tip to change: Visualize yourself successfully completing tasks and experiencing the positive outcomes. A study by of university students by found that those who imagined a version of themself merely two months in the future “from a third and a first-person perspective” for 10 minutes twice a week were found to be less likely to procrastinate. Doing this for 5 minutes at the start of your day is a great way to set yourself up for success.

 

4. Negative impact on self-esteem

Procrastination can erode self-esteem and self-worth. When tasks are not completed on time, it often leads to self-criticism and feelings of inadequacy. This negative self-talk reinforces the procrastination habit, creating a vicious cycle.


Why it's bad: Low self-esteem is linked to various mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. It can also affect relationships and overall life satisfaction.


Tip to change: Instead of focusing on past failures concentrate on your strengths and past successes. Self-hypnosis can help you access your subconscious mind to reinforce positive beliefs about your abilities and worth, breaking the cycle of negative self-talk.


5. Compromised physical health

Procrastination often leads to neglect of self-care practices such as exercise, healthy eating, and regular medical check-ups. This neglect is not due to laziness but rather the result of being overwhelmed by tasks and deadlines.


Why it's bad: Neglecting self-care can lead to various physical health problems, including obesity, heart disease, and a weakened immune system. It also affects your energy levels and overall well-being.


Tip to change: Incorporate self-hypnosis to establish a strong, positive routine for self-care. Use visualization techniques to see yourself engaging in healthy habits and enjoying the benefits. Remember to be kind to yourself.


Final thoughts

Procrastination is not a sign of laziness, but a complex behaviour often rooted in deeper psychological issues. Understanding this can help you approach the problem with more compassion and effective strategies. By using hypnotherapy and NLP techniques, you can address the underlying causes of procrastination, reduce its impact on your health, and develop healthier, more productive habits.


Embrace the journey of self-improvement with an open mind and the willingness to change. With the right tools and mindset, you can overcome procrastination and lead a healthier, more fulfilling life.


If you’re ready to become unstuck but need some help book a clarity call with me. Let's work together to uncover and address the root causes of your procrastination and create lasting, positive change in your life.

 

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Read more from Soraya Mansour

 

Soraya Mansour, Self-empowerment | Mindset Transformation

Soraya has faced and overcome significant personal challenges that have deeply shaped her journey and professional ethos in helping her clients. Combining a deep appreciation for the mind-body connection with scientific rigor, Soraya offers holistic therapy to guide clients toward profound and lasting change. She works with clients with a wide range of issues ranging from depression, anxiety, procrastination. lack of confidence to addictions.

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