How To Tell When Procrastinating Is Actually Anxiety

Anxiety and procrastination often go hand in hand. When we feel anxious about something, we’ll put it off. When we put things off we know we need to do, our anxiety can grow and manifest into a bigger problem. Sometimes anxious procrastination can be obvious to us.

For example, if we have feelings for someone in yoga class, but are unsure how to act around the person, we may avoid the class to avoid embarrassment. Other examples in our life may not be so obvious to us, so the feeling of anxiety will creep in unexpectedly. 

What Does Anxious Procrastination Look Like?

For me, anxious procrastination tends to show up when I am trying to accomplish my daily tasks or trying to finish my work load, depending on the task at hand or the amount of tasks being asked of me. My anxious procrastination can show up for a few different reasons. I will break down a few of these reasons, although they do not cover all the situations in which anxious procrastination could show up.

When You Feel Anxious About A Task You Have A Lot Of Experience Doing Successfully

Sometimes people get anxious about completing tasks they have a lot of experience with, especially if some time has passed since they last did that task. Sometimes the stakes are higher, or the evaluation of their work could take a different form than it usually does. 

For example, you could be very good at your job and have a great talent doing what you do for a living. The presence of a different superior could change how you complete or do not complete the task, even though you have done it a bunch of times. I am a content creator by trade, and I noticed that when I begin work with a new client, I procrastinate the work sometimes because I am anxious the work I create will not be up to their standards. The brand or business I have a contract with can also be a big one, so the stakes being higher can also cause me to wait until the last minute to do the work. It seems like a recipe for disaster, but it is what I tend to do.

When Anxiety About A Small Part Of A Project Keeps You From Starting At All

It may not be the entire project itself, but maybe a small piece of the puzzle is causing you to come to a halt or not start at all. Some might see this as a “road block” but it is really the anxiety towards a part of your task that is causing you to procrastinate. From my perspective as a content creator, I often find myself having higher expectations than I can produce, leaving me to disapprove of some of the work I do. I will blame the lighting or the subject I am trying to create contact with, and not getting “the perfect shot” will cause me to pause on the project or throw it away altogether.

When You Feel A Strong Resentment About Having To Do The Task At All

Anxiety gets camouflaged when other emotions you’re experiencing are more dominant. If a task simply feels overwhelming or unachievable, your anxiety will build and build. This is the trait I relate to the most.

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I noticed that when I take on too many tasks at once, starting any of them can feel overwhelming because achieving it all feels impossible. I will avoid doing the work until the deadline has reached its due date, and I am trying to frantically put together work that is on par with someone who has been preparing for weeks. It’s a vicious cycle of self-destruction, but something that happens all too often when we take on too much.

When Anxiety Manifests As Perfectionism

Anxious people, like me, sometimes respond to their anxiety with perfectionism. In times where we feel most out of control, we crave the need to control everything around us. With social media being so present in our day and age, the need to look like you have it all together is now more apparent than ever. We want to obtain this perfect image, and sometimes the anxiety of what that takes causes us to freeze in the moment and not do anything at all. Oftentimes, our need to have it all together and control our environment will cause us to exhaust ourselves before even starting the simplest of tasks.  

How Acknowledging Your Anxious Procrastination Can Help

If these sound like traits you may showcase, acknowledging you have anxiety always helps. When we ignore the signs and try to power through, we experience burnout. Burnout can be a total lack of motivation for almost all tasks, and the feeling can last for days or even weeks. Acknowledging your role in your procrastination can be a huge game-changer in helping avoid future issues.




There are many resources available online for anxiety and stress management, and you can start to apply some of those practices right away. Understanding how you personally handle stress will allow you to only grow and improve in that area, so have faith!


Do you recognize any anxious procrastination traits in yourself? What tips do you have for managing procrastination? Please share with us in the comments below.

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