Have you ever procrastinated about fixing your health?

Perhaps you’ve put off seeing a doctor about a problem, following up with a recommended therapy that you know works well, or even taking your medication.

You aren’t the only one!

It’s easy to say, just do those physiotherapy exercises, see a mental health therapist, go for a walk or to the gym, join a water aerobics class, eat your greens. Much harder to do it!

I struggle with this on a daily basis. I have stretches for my neck, back and toe. Meditation to improve sleep and indirectly reduce pain. I can usually do a few days in a row, before the procrastination demon wins for a day or two.

Walking/strength/core exercises have taken a back seat while I recover from surgery, but I suspect the gynecologist will give me a green light next week.

There’s one exercise I’ve been putting off for months. It’s too scary, confronting, stressful. Yet I know, from past experience, that if I work through it regularly, my head will be in a much better place.

PTSD and procrastination

I had help and prodding from regular psychologist visits, over the course of 15 years or so, and thought I had buried the PTSD. I’d made heaps of progress, and although occasionally I was mildly triggered, I was dealing well with every day life.

Complex PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a difficult beast. It takes a long time to chip away at the edges. And when you think you’ve got it finally under control, something can send you flying backwards.

It’s an expert at triggering procrastination.

Early last year, I had to write a very detailed account (legal affidavit) of the abuse I suffered through my childhood.  It was difficult enough to write it out in such detail - I hadn’t ever gone into such detail in writing before

But for many months (nearly a year) after this, I suffered panic attacks, nightmares, night terrors, and severe depression from the overwhelming terrible memories.

Going outside was difficult, interacting with people was harder, more so, family. Going to sleep was the worst.

Drowning myself in other worlds, single-player computer games with enough depth to last months of playing, helped to crowd out the nightmares, and reduce panic attacks and push the memories away, somewhat.

However, more direct work is needed to get back to the level I was before though.

I have a CBT workbook (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), specifically for self-managing PTSD. I’m confident I can manage this, with a little support, due to the many years of therapy I’ve already gone though. I’ve even done the less threatening exercises at the beginning. I do have access to a therapist as my safety net, if/when the exercises have bad results.

But I’m still putting off the harder, confronting work.

Procrastination hacks

My psych used to say I’m too smart for all the games and tricks you can play on yourself to beat procrastination:

  • rewarding yourself after completion.
  • focusing on how great you'll feel after you finish.
  • setting yourself a deadline.
  • allowing yourself something nice before the nasty task.
  • forbidding something you enjoy until it is done (I didn't eat any chocolate for a month!)
  • focus on starting - just doing a few minutes to prod yourself into continuing.
  • using a timer or the Pomodoro technique.
  • breaking it into baby steps (what do you do when even the baby steps are too confronting?)
  • making your 'work' environment a great place to be, with music, blankets, candles, scent, etc.
  • replacing 'have to' with 'want to' (but you have to believe it!)
  • not striving to be perfect.
  • getting an accountability partner (who is brutal enough to call you on your excuses).
  • throwing 'should' out of your vocabulary, and not feeling guilty.
  • focus on doing only one thing at a time.
  • tracking daily activities, or automatically tracking computer work.
  • blocking out all distractions (removing distracting apps and games, blocking websites, switching access to the internet off).

She said, to borrow a very well known phrase, “Just do it!”

That got me through university, a messy time in my life, full of hard work.

But that simple phrase is failing me now, with this messy, difficult task.

Accountability works

Being held accountable worked for losing 30kg or so, several years ago, when I tracked my steps on WalkerTracker and joined competitions. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep it up past the 3 year mark when my illnesses and pain worsened.

So here I am, committing publicly, to making progress in the PTSD workbook.

To do that next exercise, even though it scares the hell out of me.

What are you putting off?

No tricks, no games.

Just do it.