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  • Rachel M Hendricks, LCSW

Procrastination, Distress Tolerance, and Task Completion: What a Twisted Web They Weave

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

I have been meaning to write a blog for the website for ages- or at least 2 months. My goal was to do one blog per week, so each week, there would be new information and new resources for y’all available.

But, one week turned into two. Two turned into four, and now we sit at the end of October, and I am just getting this blog posted. (Though, to be fair, it was technically completed in September…. Which just further reinforces my procrastination!)

Originally, I was planning to write about something else (which you will still get to read later on, so do get and stay excited), but I thought maybe it was more important to write about this.

You see, I bet I am not the only person who sets a goal to do something and struggles to follow through.

So, I think it is important for us to talk about distress tolerance.

Distress tolerance is our ability to manage multiple stressors at a given time. My favorite example for distress tolerance is to imagine a cup.

Now, we all get different sized cups. Some people get Big Gulp sized cups, and others get espresso sized cups, and we really don’t get to choose what cup we start with. We also all have different stressors that go in our cup; imagine those stressors as rocks or pebbles that are filling your cup up.

Our emotions are the water in the cup. If we have more stressors, we have less space for water. And, when there is less space, sometimes, it just takes a teeny tiny thing to make our water (or our emotions) spill over outside the cup.

Distress tolerance is the space we have to regulate the water in our cups. Distress tolerance CAN be built and changed. So, we can effectively change the size of our cup, and we can change the size of our stressors.

Coming back to where I started, my cup has been pretty full lately.

I have been adjusting to starting a new business, working at a new job part-time, coping with some outside stressors, dealing with some family stuff, and my cat keeps pooping outside the litter box.

As a result, my distress tolerance has been lower than I would like it to be.

Sometimes I feel more tired (I think I now permanently have a tired look about my eyes); sometimes I snap more easily at the people I love the most, and sometimes I put off doing things I know I need to do because I simply do not have the physical or mental energy to get them done.

Self-care and mindfulness are the most effective strategies for increasing distress tolerance.

Self-care means that you do kind things for yourself. This can look like doing something relatively expensive like getting a massage, but self-care can be much more straight forward and can also be things like reading instead of watching TV, going to bed a little earlier, canceling plans to give yourself time to rest and relax, asking forgiveness of others if you have been snappy (speaking for myself) and sharing your struggles with them.

Mindfulness looks like a lot of different things. Sometimes it looks like grounding- identifying things in the present moment that connect with your 5 senses. Sometimes it looks like meditation- focusing your thoughts on one thing and redirecting your mind back to that one thing when it wanders. Always mindfulness is focused on the here and now. It is about being present in the present moment with intention and without judgment.

Mindfulness is a practice, and it is a skill you develop like playing the piano or doing math. It is a tool that you can use again and again to help redirect your focus, challenge anxious and depressive thoughts, and increase your distress tolerance.

Of course, speaking for myself, I don’t practice mindfulness perfectly just like I don’t play the piano perfectly. It is a skill I am still building. However, in trying to be both mindful and act with self-care, I have given myself permission to take a mini-break from blogging to focus on having energy in other areas.

I hope that is okay, and I want to encourage you to mindfully and with attention to self-care to determine what you need to do in this moment to take good care of you. I encourage you to give yourself permission to do what you can, as you can, when you can without judging yourself harshly for what you cannot do.

For some mindfulness resources, check out:

Notice beauty.

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