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How to Get Through Midterm Procrastination Using Your Body

There are so many articles about procrastination and how to get through it, with tips like breaking tasks into small chunks and working for short bursts of time, but none of that actually stops me from watching TV or scrolling through TikTok until the night before a project is due. The amount of stress procrastination causes me makes my school workload feel unbearable, even though I love the classes I take. But after attending a workshop with Janelle Hardy, Shifting Resistance and Creative Block Using Your Body, I realized that I may have been looking at procrastination in a limited way and that a solution could be held within my body.

Hardy argues that one form of creative resistance is procrastination, and that it’s possible for procrastination to be a flight or freeze response caused by nervous system dysregulation. While such responses are typically associated with trauma, Hardy says that “most people in our current cultures are somewhat dysregulated.” But what does it mean for your nervous system to be dysregulated? In The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk explains that, “Long after the [cause of dysregulation] has passed, the brain may keep sending signals to the body to escape a threat that no longer exists,” triggering the nervous system to “move blood to the muscles for quick action… triggering the adrenal glands to squirt out adrenaline, which speeds up the heart rate and blood pressure.” So if, as Hardy argues, procrastination can be a flight or freeze response, it affects our bodies as much as it does our minds. As Hardy says in her podcast, procrastination held in the body is especially difficult to “out-think.”

While Hardy’s workshop was mainly directed towards people doing creative work after traumatic experiences, I found myself thinking about not only my creative writing practice, but about my seemingly endless stream of English papers, class readings, and the dishes from dinner sitting in my sink. Procrastination as held in the body applies broadly to any type of work, and deconstructing the mind-body binary is arguably a great first step toward beating procrastination. (My brain and thought processes are actually a part of my body—wild that I find that so hard to remember.)

The suggestions for re-regulating your nervous system from Hardy’s workshop were pretty basic mindfulness-type exercises, and if you have one that you really like I’d definitely suggest giving it a try next time you find yourself procrastinating. If you’re new to mindfulness, here’s an exercise that Hardy shared in the workshop that I found helpful:

OMG!! Orient. Mobilize. Ground.

…practice OMG (orient, mobilize, ground.) Orient by looking at your surroundings then letting your eyes land on and notice one tangible thing. Then notice three physical details about that thing. Do this two more times. Mobilize by wiggling fingers and toes. Then ground by sending your attention through your body and down into the earth via your sit bones, feet and tailbone. This will help you re-orient yourself when you get overwhelmed.”

All this information is not intended to equate creative blocks or procrastination to the experience of trauma (although they could be linked), but I do think there are takeaways from trauma-informed practices that can help everyone in dealing with avoidance and procrastination. Using mindfulness to connect to your body has so many benefits, and alleviating some of the blocks that lead to procrastination could be an added bonus. I hope that this exercise and information helps you the next time you find yourself procrastinating!