Most of us procrastinate. We put off doing things we fear or dislike, stretching a dental checkup from six months to twelve, paying the bills at the last minute, cramming the night before a test. Though procrastinating can keep anxiety at bay for a short while, in the long run, it acts as a catalyst for worry because we cannot dodge our responsibilities forever. Putting them off only increases our fear, making it more potent as the deadline draws near. Still, I can think of at least one instance in which procrastination may be an effective strategy.
Try this: At night, whenever you are tempted to worry, say to yourself, “I’ll worry about it in the morning.”
If you are afraid you will forget about it, write it down. Then leave it until the next day. Why? Because our brains have a way of dramatizing situations at night, letting fear grow out of proportion to reality. Worrying in the middle of the night is like stepping onto a bullet train headed to a future that doesn’t exist. It will only exaggerate our problems and minimize the list of possible solutions, setting us up for more anxiety.
By contrast, daylight can act as a powerful counterbalance to unbridled worry. It can erase or diminish our anxiety, reducing it to more manageable proportions. In the daytime, our brains are less gullible, decreasing the chance that we will embrace high-anxiety scenarios and increasing the chance that we will find positive ways to cope with our problems.
Tonight as you go to sleep, remember, as Philip Gulley has said, that
“fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow.”1
- Philip Gulley, Hometown Tales: Recollections of Kindness, Peace, and Joy (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 161.