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XP-- Anxiety ... and procrastination


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#1 Pen

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 02:46 PM

We are having troubles with what seems to be a negative loop, where 

 

anxiety

leads to avoidance / procrastination

leads to more anxiety / depression

 

 

Example: Anxiety leads to not doing homework (ds started into brick and mortar school and is now a 15yo 9th grader) till last minute or beyond. This creates stress, depression, more anxiety, and less good performance, which leads to more anxiety...

 

(this was ds's own analysis of the problem, and it seems accurate to me)

 

 

 

How can I help my 15yo ds break this cycle?  (eta. and myself too)

 

 

---------------------------

 

More Info and example details: 

 

I myself have similar problems with anxiety / procrastination negative feedback loops, and so am not the best to have answers to this.  But maybe I could help, if I got some answers for myself, to model better approaches.

 

specific example:

 

This weekend I got ds to do his geometry homework (which I thought was his only homework) on Friday. I tried to get him to put in some more study time over weekend, but he refused.

 

Last night, it turned out, revealed to me at 10PMish, that he had science homework too.  Which he had not mentioned because he didn't know how to do it.  He showed it to me, and it turned out the "how to do it" directions were right there with the assignment if only he could relax enough to see that.

 

By then though everyone was tired. And ds was feeling hopeless and catastrophizing about much beyond the one assignment.  

 

This morning he got up at 5:30AM (his own idea), and, did get the science homework done, with some help from me. So he sort of emerged from downcast dejection and hopelessness. But the rapid attack on the homework to get it done before rushing off to school is not a good plan for mastery.

 

 

This was only week one. We need a better plan!

 

 In theory, I know, and I think he does too, the idea of setting a time to study/do homework, and doing it.  But. It. Is. Not. Happening.

 

In reality, there seems to be anxiety almost to the point of shut down, like when looking for an important document and being so nervous one goes right past it in the file without seeing it--if you have ever had, as I have, that experience.



#2 Arcadia

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 02:58 PM

Some of my friends need handholding for procrastination due to performance anxiety even in college. So I would continue to handhold on homework management until he is ready.

For homework can he write in a big whiteboard so both of you can see what are the homework and deadlines? What we did for a girl friend with anxiety was to do our college homework with her so she has companionship while doing her homework as well as to "cheerlead" her on. Imagine how many times a day we hear her say she is going to fail. We were not taking the same college courses so just providing emotional support.

Is he an early morning person? How about for example doing homework due on Tuesday on Monday early morning before school?
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#3 happi duck

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 04:05 PM

I deal with that anxiety/procrastination loop. It feels awful!

I saw a diagram that summed it up accurately, imo.

Four phrases are in an ongoing circle:
Do nothing==> Feel guilty==> Panic about future==> Feel powerless==>Do nothing==> Feel guilty==> etc. etc.

The place I can break this cycle is to *do something*. Sometimes it's hard to even do the very first tiny step but, ime, doing something, anything helps.
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#4 perkybunch

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 04:25 PM

Is he a morning person or a night person?  If he's a morning person, getting up early to finish homework is a legitimate choice.  Just make sure to get up early enough.  We did this several times when my dd was at a rigorous b&m school.  Also, on weekends, she would do homework on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  Again, valid choices that worked with her personality.  When she worked in the mornings, she was more alert and worked faster.  

 

You'll work it out.  I know it's hard.


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#5 Storygirl

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 04:56 PM

I have this same perfectionism / anxiety / panic / shut-down loop myself. When I was in school, my drive to get good grades helped me get classwork done. But now the cycle is a menace in my personal life, specifically with organization of papers and other clutter, and with making phone calls. Unfortunately, those two categories comprise a lot of my "job" as a mom.  It is paralyzing for me.

 

I agree with other posters' suggestions.

 

1) Do something. Break the big task into smaller chunks and do one small thing at a time. (This is effective but also hard for me, because the whole project looms in my mind, even as I try to break it into smaller bits.)

 

2) Have a supportive partner. I have asked DH to help me with organization projects, because, alone, I can't even start. Having him working there beside me helps. I still panic. Sometimes I cry and have to take a break, but knowing I don't have to do it alone makes a big difference. It helps me be able to start.

 

For helping with homework, I agree that having a set time to sit down and tackle it may help, if you can get him to agree to that. Doing it right after school may help, because having something loom over one just becomes more burdensome as time goes on.

 

Having you sit at the table with him might help. Don't just rely on him to tell you what his assignments are. Look at his planner -- or wherever his assignments are listed -- together. Talk about how much time each thing will take, and when he will do it. You don't have to hover over and help him with his work (unless he wants your help), but if you could sit at the table and do something of your own (read, search the internet, do your own schedule planning, do a crossword, etc.), it may make him feel supported.

 

My kids don't like it when I check their planners and give homework guidance, but it makes a big difference. They don't have the same kind of can't-get-started anxiety that I do, but they do have executive function weaknesses, and they need my help, even if their classmates no longer have this kind of oversight from parents.

 

This part of executive functioning is called task initiation.


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#6 AK_Mom4

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 05:45 PM

At that age for my Anxiety Kid, we had the Friday Homework Meeting. After school on Friday, we went thru class by class and wrote down what had to get done that weeekend. And then we ate cookies. Well not always cookies, but whatever I could scare up, even if it meant a trip out for ice cream before dinner.

Break Down Can't Get Started anxiety into two pieces (Fact Finding and Initiation) and Associate it with a positive idea rather than the normal Impending Doom.

Anxiety Kid still does this with his college work and it helps.
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#7 eternalsummer

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 08:01 PM

I suffer from this problem, along with executive function deficits and generally high anxiety.

 

What I did in high school was I had a planner that I took everywhere and wrote everything down in.  This solved the forgetting about things until the last minute.  I didn't try to decide in the moment what I should write down - if it was a hw assignment or quiz or test or practice or lesson or concert or anything, I wrote it down.

 

I often did things at the last minute.  I got very very good at it.  I knew both how fast I could type (50 wpm) if the paper was already written out longhand, and how fast I could compose (10wpm) if I had an outline with quotes and etc. ready to go. Then I'd say, I have a 1500 word paper rough draft due Monday, that will take me 45 min or so if I've written it longhand and I'll wake up at 5 am to do it (or stay up until 12 the night before), or it will take me 2 1/2 hours or so to compose from an outline and I'll wake up at 3 am.  It did help that teachers generally had incremental requirements (outline due 1 week before, rough draft due 3 days before, etc.) and I would wait until the last minute for those but at least that much of the work would be done before I had to do the final paper.  

 

I studied for a 5th period IB Bio test during 2nd period gym (while walking around the track); I did IB History notecards for 6th period in 1st period band; I traded off a highlighted version of the required reading for IB Hist. with someone who had an earlier period during free work time in math.

 

For a reference point, I was an IB Diploma student and part of the requirement was to write a 4000 word paper.  You have almost 2 years to do it.  I wrote it in the last 3 days before it absolutely had to be turned in.  My parents let me skip a day of school to get it done (they were very good about this when necessary).

 

He may get better at functioning this way (and less panicked about it) as he learns his limits, and sees what he can get done and how well he can function on how much sleep, etc.

 

 

 

College was easier than high school.

 

I remember when I was in high school and college, I dreamed of having a job where I just went in and did whatever it was and didn't have to bring home work that I had to worry about for later.

 

But alas, as an adult I run a small business, so all the work is my responsibility (shared with DH) and at home. :(

 

Thus, I've developed some coping strategies.  Mostly, I reward myself for difficult/annoying/boring tasks. Also, if I have something stressful that I am avoiding doing (mostly tricky customer service), I just take it to DH and say hey, I am avoiding doing this because it is stressing me out, how should I resolve it?  He usually has an answer and also pressures me to do it right then, so that helps.


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#8 Pen

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:21 AM

Is he a morning person or a night person? 

 

 

Is he an early morning person? How about for example doing homework due on Tuesday on Monday early morning before school?

 

 

Like many teens he prefers (or has a bio rhythm) that he go to bed late and get up late.  

 

But if he is up in early am, he often seems more alert then.



#9 Arcadia

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:41 AM

If he isn't ready to sleep, maybe he could get ready the homework that needs to be done in a few neat stacks on the dining table? Then when he wakes up at 5:30am, he can pick a stack and get it done while both of you have breakfast together.

My "rooster" kid would not be mentally awake enough to get much useful work done after 8pm. My "night owl" kid has always been a night owl and he eats two suppers because he does work well until 1am if I let him before he is tired enough to call it a day. Completing homework makes him hungry.

My younger boy use post-it tags for homework. He post-it the pages on his textbooks and workbooks and he post it his planner for deadlines that are more than a week away. If he sees post-it tags, he knows he has incomplete homework pending. He thinks visually more so visual reminders works better than written reminders. Also crumpling and throwing post it tags as homework gets completed can be stress relieving for my kids.
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#10 momacacia

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 02:17 AM

Read The 5 Second Rule, then work through it. Success breeds success.
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#11 SKL

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 09:41 AM

I have the same problem, worse than my kids, but here are some things that seem to help here.

 

1) I agree with "do something."  It makes you feel more powerful and less weighed down by the long to-do list.  It helps declutter the brain so you can remember and prioritize the rest of the to-dos.

 

2) Aim to work ahead so that there are significant blocks of time when you / your kids are really free.  Talk about how good that feels as a result of being proactive.

 

3) Read the assignment through first.  A lot of the anxiety comes from the unknown, "how hard is this gonna be, how long is it gonna take, can I even do it??"  Most of the time once you read the questions / requests, you realize it isn't hard and you might as well just do it.  This can also help make the work more efficient - if you know what you are looking for, you are more likely to find it on the first read-through.

 

4) Tell yourself to be courageous.  It takes courage to do #3 sometimes (like when I get an email from certain clients).  Often my self-talk is "I am behind, lazy, not a good worker, bla bla bla" and so I avoid the email because it's probably bad news.  Finally I say "I have the courage to do this" and open the email - and usually it is something neutral or even nice. 

 

5) Your son may be getting old for this approach, but if possible, keep him away from unhelpful distractors until the work is done.  Screens, phones, solitaire games, or even free reading can wait.

 

6) Any chance you have online access to your son's homework assigments?  If so, use it - at least you won't have too many surprises like the science assignment in your OP.


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#12 A Red Color

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 11:10 AM

I posted a similar question about my 17 year old recently. There was some good info in there that sort of got lost with the focus being is it  ADHD or not.


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#13 scrapbookbuzz

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 11:18 AM

I deal with that anxiety/procrastination loop. It feels awful!

I saw a diagram that summed it up accurately, imo.

Four phrases are in an ongoing circle:
Do nothing==> Feel guilty==> Panic about future==> Feel powerless==>Do nothing==> Feel guilty==> etc. etc.

The place I can break this cycle is to *do something*. Sometimes it's hard to even do the very first tiny step but, ime, doing something, anything helps.

 

This is it exactly. Getting yourself to do SOMETHING. I struggle with this, too, and I know how much better I feel (about myself and everything else) when I've

actually accomplished something. Help yourself and your ds to just get to doing the first step of what needs to be done. Even if you don't feel like it.  Just getting there will help immensely!


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