It was not that I didn’t want to—it was just that I couldn’t. I lost the capacity to get things done. While people strived to achieve the best in their lives, I lied on my bed staring at the ceiling until dusk approached and the first drop of sunlight lit up my room once again.
Feeling unable to concentrate and move forward constantly haunted me over the last two years of online school.
That stressful period, combined with an extra stressful exam season, were the “killer package” for me. I remember opening up the review material before an exam, and then an hour later, still staring at the first page. The overwhelming stress made it almost impossible for me to concentrate at all. Soon enough, I started having difficulties with basic daily tasks, like cooking, or showering. These were the first indications of my nervous breakdowns—I just couldn’t go about my day like I used to.
It is horrifying to look back on how the stress tore me apart and prevented me from functioning. But this year, I began healing and picking up where I left off before I was unable to keep up. As I restored my health and learned more about myself and my habits, I noticed some signs within myself before the severe breakdown.
One of the key signs that often led me down the path of a breakdown was procrastination. Once I started neglecting my responsibilities until the last minute—or until it was too late—I only fell deeper into the endless hole of procrastination. I found myself unconsciously procrastinating during stressful times. In these instances, I would avoid doing things that stressed me out, simply because they brought me negative feelings. For instance, I constantly checked my phone while studying, even though it was not necessary or urgent for me to reply to my messages.
I toxically drowned in moments of escaping the work, but when all the deadlines approached, I panicked and broke down.
Not only did I then have to carry the guilt of not getting my work done, but my pending responsibilities and deadlines only accumulated. The cycle kept repeating itself, and I experienced a sense of helplessness that led me to believe nothing could change my situation—a phenomenon known as learned helplessness.
This self-diagnosis was when I knew I needed to find ways to manage my issue and get back on track.
I knew I had to learn more about stress and implement solutions that would work for me before I could get back to being productive.
There are a couple of tips I found very useful—they were the ones that helped me break out of my slump of procrastination.
First, I found it extremely helpful to divide my work into separate, smaller tasks. By doing this, the amount of pressure each assignment carried was significantly reduced, and I found it much easier to be motivated. Since each task was smaller, I often finished them through to the end, and from each finished task, came a burst of motivation.
The other tip—the one that is often harder for most of us to enforce—was understanding that I shouldn’t push myself too hard. It’s normal to feel exhausted from being overloaded with coursework, or from pulling an all-nighter. In times like these, it’s okay to accept that you cannot be productive and should prioritize yourself over school.
For me, procrastination was more than just a habit—it was a warning sign for my nervous breakdowns. Procrastination should not be dismissed too lightly for this reason. It could lead to a serious situation that could be prevented if we understand why we are procrastinating, and how we can consciously cope with our stress in ways that work for us.
Staff Writer (Volume 49) — Zitong Chen is currently a third-year student at UTM, majoring in Professional Writing & Communication, and minoring in Creative Writing and English Literature. Zitong finds that writing is a way of storytelling—a way to reflect on and extend the meaning of life. Aiming to bring some insights and creativities to The Medium, Zitong hopes to become a mature writer through this journey. During her spare time, Zitong spends a lot of time in cafés, or watching movies.