Staring into emptyness, Sana Randhawa, lies in her bed, uncertain on how to deal with her mother’s constant laments over not completing her daily chores. She pulls her blanket over her head and shut her ears to the endless nagging. A minute later, her livid mother stomps into the room, reprimanding the third year literature student from Delhi University for her increasing display of irresponsibility. Sana is used to the constant chivvying. She turns a deaf ear to her mother’s ranting, once again.
Most of us will identify with the above story of Sana’s innocuous habit, since we’ve all been in her shoes. But, there’s a difference that even Sana and her parents didn’t notice at first. She’s part of the 25-30 per cent world population that are chronic procrastinators, who can’t help but fall into the same patterns of putting off work until tomorrow.
Their habitual hesitation doesn’t relate to lethargy, as Sana’s mother thought at first. It’s more deep rooted, doctors say. Besides recording higher stress levels, they’re also prone to frequent breakdowns, on account of the inability to manage their emotions effectively. The need to voluntarily postpone, or avoid tasks, emanates from unresolved inner conflicts that keep people from being able to predict how they’ll feel in the future. “It could be a result of cognitive distortion.
Over generalising, jumping to conclusions too quickly and exaggerating could be common symptoms. Such people then go on to develop weak defence mechanisms, weak ego mechanisms and psychosomatic disorder, such as blindness, pseudo aphonia, pseudo paralytic attacks and other such problems,” says Dr Challa Venkata Suresh, Consultant Neuropsychiatry at Yashoda Hospital, Telangana.
Considering the above, procrastination is a more complex problem that it’s generally perceived. Researchers and specialists say that it’s dopamine, a neurotransmitter, to be directly related to procrastination, as it’s this chemical that is directly proportional to motivation. “Dopamine’s deficiency leads to procrastination and it has negative psychological consequences in terms of poor performance and negative feedback, further leading to depression, anxiety or phobias that form a vicious cycle and perpetuates problems of procrastination and increases stress levels,” says Dr Preeti Singh, Senior Consultant, Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist, Paras Hospital, Gurgaon.
Doctors add that there could be a large gap between intention and action, when a person is aware of what he needs to do but cannot get himself to do it. Whether this happens because of the inability to regulate moods, manage time or because of persistent laziness, unremitting dawdler will almost always find a way to put off until tomorrow, which in turn is put off endlessly.
On the other hand, a normal person will find a way, sooner or later, to get the work done. “Procrastination is a result of a person’s strong association between their performance and self-worth. It is a self-defence mechanism where a person tries to delay the task at hand for momentary relief, but delaying the task only adds to the pile of unfinished business, creating stress, which in turn affects the person’s health and performance. Hence, once again, confirming their fear of not being good enough, and leading to getting caught in a vicious cycle of procrastination, once again. It therefore, stems from their inability to manage ones emotions,” says psychologist Harsheen K Arora.
All said and done, this behavioural disorder does threaten happiness. Not to mention that it has the potential of drastically altering one’s professional reputation.
Healtheminds, an online psychiatry and counselling service portal, recognises procrastination as one of the leading factors responsible for lowered productivity and life-satisfaction.
However, it can be managed. “One-on-one counselling and coaching sessions can dramatically help an individual come to terms with their traumas and deal with them effectively. We’re also launching a free webinar series for school and college students to address procrastination at a stage when behaviour patterns are shaped,” says Ankita Puri, co-founder and CEO of the portal.
Professional intervention is the first step to change. With the help of therapists, behavioural modification can be achieved, but for that, a healthy level of acceptance of the problem is crucial. Recognise it, look up a doctor, and get helped.
Most importantly, don’t put it off until tomorrow.