Blog : DBT

Change Your Thoughts: Procrastination

Change Your Thoughts: Procrastination

Do you ever feel like it is impossible to get started on a task? Are you so worried about measuring up to the expectations that you or others have put on you, that you procrastinate on the projects you know that you should be working on? People who procrastinate have higher levels of stress and anxiety. You may know that putting off important tasks is what is causing you anxiety, but you might feel as if you can’t stop. This is a result of the thoughts and beliefs you have about yourself and the work that you are doing. With effort, these thoughts can be changed, and you can free yourself from the mental prison your procrastination has put you in.

It is important to know that procrastination is not a flaw in your character, and it doesn’t mean that you are a bad person who can’t take care of yourself or function in society. It is actually something we do when we are trying to cope with negative thoughts and feelings. The core of this issue is not being able to regulate your emotions. You might feel that the task is boring, difficult, or just downright unpleasant, and that gets you stuck in a cycle of procrastination. This is surface-level. Procrastination can also run deeper than this. You can be struggling with feelings of self-doubt, low self-esteem, or anxiety. You may feel that you aren’t smart enough to complete the task, or that you won’t be perfect at it, so you shouldn’t bother doing it.

Here are some ways you can change your thoughts and avoid procrastination:

Think of your future self as a friend and not a stranger

Not thinking about how your actions will affect your future self can impact you greatly. Instead of focusing on the long-term consequences, we hone in on our short-term needs and end up putting things off to ease our anxiety in that moment. This only harms us, giving us an underlying current of stress that we can’t exactly put our finger on. You don’t need to beat yourself up about this because it’s just the way your brain is wired. The task that you are putting off is now a threat to your mind, activating the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for the flight or fight response. It helps to not be so detached from your future self and thinking that completing your task is a problem for somebody else. Instead, show your love for yourself by making the effort for your future self. You are always your own partner.

Forgive yourself when you procrastinate

It is normal to procrastinate–everyone does it. If you shame yourself when you do it, however, you will fuel the cycle even further. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding in the face of your mistakes and perceived failures. Having compassion for yourself and being non-judgemental is a way to get past your procrastination, and will prevent you from procrastinating in the future because it decreases negative emotions and increases feelings of self-worth and optimism. If the root of procrastination is low self-esteem, you can boost your self-esteem immensely when you are patient and kind to yourself, even when you make mistakes.

Cultivate curiosity

When you feel like you can’t focus on the task at hand or your other important projects, curiously examine what sort of thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. What sensations do you notice? Where do you feel them? When you observe the thoughts you have about procrastinating, what happens to those thoughts? Do they go away, intensify, or cause other emotions to come up? Do they shift as you continue to focus on them? This doesn’t have to be from a place of fear, but gentle curiosity.

Get started on tasks by committing to only work on them for a few minutes.

If after a few minutes you still don’t feel like finishing the task, you can be proud of yourself for putting in five minutes of work into the project. However, many times, this is just the push we need to finish what we have been putting off. Doing this is a great way to get yourself out of the rut that procrastination causes because you aren’t putting an insane amount of pressure on yourself. Instead, you are allowing yourself to ease into the task, and giving yourself an opportunity to exit, which lowers your expectations and the pressure those expectations put on you.

Through all of this, it is important to remember that you aren’t perfect, and the people that love you unconditionally do not expect you to be perfect. Making mistakes is a part of life, so if you are doubting yourself and afraid to do something wrong, try giving yourself a little more love and understanding. Mistakes can be your greatest teacher, and if you keep procrastinating and you never try, you’ll never experience those wonderful learning opportunities.

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Alli Cravener is a social media coordinator and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University and has found her niche uniting concept and content in the realm of mental health and the expressive arts. Alli’s interests include painting, history, learning about other people, and wearing the color pink. She likens herself to a “mouse in a palm tree”, and she loves it that way.

What’s Opposite Action?

What’s Opposite Action?

We experience a wide range of emotions daily, and yet, our culture encourages people to shove these emotions down by overworking, scrolling endlessly through their phones, watching hours of TV,  or using alcohol and drugs. This is because our society views being in touch with our emotions as a weakness.  When we avoid our emotions, we don’t immediately get the emotional signals our body sends to us, however, that doesn’t mean that these messages aren’t still being sent out. Instead, it stalls the feeling, and later on when you’re feeling particularly vulnerable, you’ll be overwhelmed by anxiety, depression, headaches, and stomachaches and you aren’t sure where they stem from at that moment because it’s from something you ignored earlier. It is important to address these challenging emotions as they come up rather than pushing them away. You can do this by using the DBT skill “Opposite Action.” So, what is opposite action, and how can you use it?

Opposite Action is the intentional attempt to act opposite of your emotional urge.

When you experience a strong emotion, an action urge usually follows closely behind. For example, when you feel scared, your action urge might be to avoid, escape, and hide underneath the covers all day. When you feel depressed, that action urge might be to isolate yourself from your friends or wallow in self-pity. When you are using opposite action, the goal is to deliberately contradict the emotional urge that you have and address your emotions in a healthy way instead of harming yourself or others further.  It also remedies the suffering you might feel because of the distressing emotion.

 Here are some ways to offset the common emotional reactions that you may experience:

Fear

Instead of avoiding your fear, confront it. This will help you build mastery over that fear so that it doesn’t effect you as badly.

Anger

If you are feeling overwhelmed by anger, instead of lashing out, take a second to walk away from the situation and take a deep breath. Find a way to feel some sort of empathy or sympathy for the person that you are angry at. Try to approach this from a place of love and understanding.

Sadness

If you are feeling sad, you might feel the need to avoid what you are sad about and isolate yourself. Instead of doing that, address what you are feeling sad about either through journaling or talking to a friend, and spend time with the people that love you to find common humanity and remind yourself that you are not alone.

Shame/guilt

If what you did warrants a consequence, accept that consequence without beating yourself up about it. Ask for forgiveness and try to make an attempt to repair what went wrong. It is important to forgive yourself and let it go. 

It is extremely important to not equate the opposite action skill with suppressing your emotions. The point of using this tool is to gradually change the emotion, making the experience more positive and eliminating unnecessary suffering. This skill is best used whenever your emotions cloud your perception of the truth. Sometimes a strong emotion will encourage our brains to create stories about the situation that aren’t even true. When you use opposite action, instead of denying the emotion that you are experiencing, you are simply challenging it and proving the story wrong.

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Alli Cravener is a social media coordinator and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University and has found her niche uniting concept and content in the realm of mental health and the expressive arts. Alli’s interests include painting, history, learning about other people, and wearing the color pink. She likens herself to a “mouse in a palm tree”, and she loves it that way.

“Is This True?” And Other Thoughtwork

“Is This True?” And Other Thoughtwork

Our thoughts have a big impact on the way we feel. Some of these thoughts aren’t even true, but are a result of the stories and beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us. Without the proper tools, sometimes these thoughts are allowed to run like a tape in the background. This can take a huge toll on your mental health. We are sharing 5 DBT methods that will help you make changes in your brain and live a happier life:

Checking the facts

Have  you ever had what felt like a knee-jerk, emotional reaction to something and then later regretted it? Checking the facts is a DBT skill that helps you pause before reacting to something. When you are experiencing a powerful emotion, it can be easy to let those emotions cloud your judgement. When this happens, pause, step back, assess the situation, and ask yourself “Is this true? Is the way that I am feeling or thinking about a situation factual?” After you ask yourself this, check the facts to prove whether or not your response is appropriate. What is great about this method is that it encourages you to think before you react, and it also encourages you to respond from a place of rhyme and reason rather than letting your emotions cloud your judgement. You shouldn’t ignore your emotions, but you also shouldn’t act solely on emotion. Balance is necessary! 

“What’s the worst thing that can happen” method

Sometimes, when we are feeling anxious, our brains make things out to be scarier than they really are. This is called catastrophizing–we can get so freaked out and uncomfortable that we feel like we want to run away and hide under the covers all day. This just isn’t realistic, and it’s necessary to learn how to function in the real world despite what your anxiety wants you to believe. To move past this, start by asking yourself these questions: What am I afraid will happen? What possible outcomes give me the most anxiety? What is the worst thing that can possibly happen? Next, you will want to challenge the thoughts that come up by asking yourself additional questions, such as: Has anything this bad ever happened before? Is it likely to happen now? What evidence do I have that supports this thought? What evidence do I have that refutes it?

Then, take what you discovered after you challenged your thoughts, and come up with three truthful and balanced thoughts. Make sure they are accurate and factual representations of the situation.

Benign interpretation 

Benign Interpretation is interpreting situations in the most agreeable way possible. You are seeing things just as they are, descriptively and without inference, interpretation, or judgement. 

Oftentimes, something happens to us in a social situation, like a friend doesn’t greet us the way they normally would, and we assume the worst–they are mad at me, I’ve done something wrong, they now hate me, etc.

Instead of jumping to the worst possible conclusion, benign interpretation is a tool that helps you be less emotionally reactive and helps you give other people  the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t have all the facts, having a benign interpretation helps you avoid unnecessary stress and remain calm. 

Being non-judgemental 

We are so conditioned to judge circumstances as good or bad. Circumstances are neither good nor bad, they just are. What makes things feel positive or negative are the thoughts and emotions that we have about the circumstance. When we observe and open ourselves up to thinking differently, we experience more peace. Pausing to observe and describe what is happening gives you the opportunity to approach your situation without judgement.

Radical acceptance

When we practice being non-judgemental, we are opening the doors for radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is a skill that is used to reduce unnecessary suffering. If you accept reality fully and completely, without judgement, it will be easier for you to move through challenging situations. Instead of giving in to the suffering, you non-judgmentally accept what is happening, allowing the emotions to move through you.  To practice radical acceptance, you can use the DBT skill “turning the mind”, which helps you turn away from what you are resisting and towards acceptance. If you’re still struggling to accept, you can help yourself relax and be more open by acting as if you did radically accept and going from there.

Click here to read last week’s article on how therapy can help your creativity.

 *Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.