Right now you’re procrastinating until the point that it becomes more painful not to finish your assignment than it is to just do it—right now sucks, but honestly, you have to do that assignment. Same thing goes for your workouts this time of year; you have too much homework to get done—too many shows on Netflix to catch up on—so you don’t get to the gym and allow your body and mind to be more productive during this stressful time of year.
Procrastination isn’t just a synonym for laziness; it’s an actual thing evolution has created for us to keep ourselves from becoming too busy—seriously, we were created to chill out. But when you procrastinate too much your stress levels spike, forming a drowsy mind and unhealthy body. According to Fuschia Sirois, Ph.D., University of Sheffield, England, if you’re a frequent procrastinator, your amygdala may keep your body on constant high alert. Your heart rate increases because your thyroid glands pump out thyroid hormones sparking your metabolism—giving you an excuse to eat some food before you study, but then you get tired and that two-hour nap comes along and then holy crap you thought you had eight hours to write your paper, but now you have four.
According to Men’s Health recent article “See what happens inside your body when you procrastinate”, daily exposure to cortisol (the hormone your body releases in response to stress) makes you less sensitive to its effect since your body doesn’t know if it’s tackling a predator or an illness. Fighting white blood cells begin circulating through your blood stream with an equal amount of cortisol to keep their numbers in check, but chronic procrastination may leave you resistant to cortisol, allowing white blood cells to cause damaging inflammation. Your adrenal glades require extra energy to keep pumping out stress hormones, so your body creates a reserve by packing visceral fat on nearby organs. These stores will soon start to release even more inflammatory molecules, which can lead to infection or disease.
Now that you know how procrastination is killing you, get up tomorrow and work out so you don’t die, and then after you don’t die, go and do some homework so you don’t fail school and have to live with your parents for the rest of your life (that sounds worse than dying). Right now, you’re scared out of your mind that the world is going to end, but soon you’ll realize that not screwing up your life and doing the right thing are more important than contemplating your nonexistence.
You may be worried that you’ll fail your upcoming test, so you don’t study for it. You don’t study for it because failing is something that threatens your perceived identity of yourself, and you don’t want to jeopardize that. We procrastinate and prolong doing something because we are scared to fail; we’ve created, and others have created, these narratives for us, expectations that we have to live up to, or some gargoyle will come and eat us in the night.
Drop the ridiculous story. You’re prolonging exercise because you don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of the macho guys in the gym—I get it, but you’re never going to be a macho guy and fit in with that attitude. Move to an alternate universe where steroids come in M&Ms packages and then you can call me an ignorant jerk.
Choose to see yourself as the person you are; stop telling yourself these ridiculous stories that may make your ego feel good, but end up making you fail in real life.
Evaluate the type of athlete you are or the condition you’re in and make a routine and expectations based on the truth. If you’re waiting for your paper to write itself magically because you’re afraid you’re not living up to the 4.0 GPA student you thought you were going to be, tell yourself who you are and what you can accomplish. That other identity is threatening you with nonsense—with threats come avoidance, and with avoidance comes people thinking you’re a procrastinator. This probably wasn’t super motivating in the sense that you’re used to, but it’ll work more than all that other crap on bookshelves. Now that reality has hit you like a ton of bricks—that you aren’t Usain Bolt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Gerard Bulter from 300—you can go to the gym with an easy conscience.