Procrastination and cPTSD

Jun 09, 2018

Procrastination - sticking points with cPTSD

Have you ever delayed something for that long that it actually became too late to do? Do you have all these should do's buzzing around in your head? Do you kind of carry them around like a big heavy backpack from one day to the next? And no matter what, you just don't seem to be able to get yourself to do them...

This can leave us feeling bad about ourselves, and adds to the ton of shame and guilt we already carry around with us constantly.

Do you have this toxic inner critic with this really really loud abusive voice? All this horrible hurtful self-talk there... I call them my inner demons. They sure can make your life hell.

It's important to realise that while procrastination is not unique to complex PTSD, our cPTSD does amplify things for us. Today I want to explain how this happens. Most likely you already know or have tried many tools and techniques to help you stop procrastinating, without much success.

Therefore, I think it's really helpful to actually know why procrastination is so difficult to tackle when you have cPTSD. These are some of the reasons:


  • If you've grown up in a chaotic abusive environment including emotional neglect, where no one provided you with a structure. When no one said to you, for example, once you've done your homework you can go out and play. Or when there was no one there for you who, when you completed a task was proud of you, celebrated with you, then you were robbed of feeling worthy and lack that sense of importance of completing tasks.


You're lacking that muscle in your brain - that “I can do things” or “I can get things done” muscle. It is important that we think of our brain as a muscle that we can train. (neuroplasticity) Like when we start training our leg muscles, for example, we start with small weights, or when we start training for a marathon, we start with small distances...

Here's a video on brain function with cPTSD


  • Start working on tasks that are really quick short things to complete. So, it's quick to take them off your "to-do" list. This is important, because another tricky thing with complex PTSD is that we lack the time keeper.


It comes with this strong sense that this activity or task is going to last


Like it was in our childhood - We just went from one abusive situation to the next abusive situation and there was never any support there to help us to make this come to an end. Now to us there is this strong sense that everything is going to last forever.


  • We procrastinate tasks that give us some discomfort, we do not feel at ease with or are fearful of... and this in turn fires up our belief system that says, "I am not good enough", "I will never amount to anything", "I am a failure".... strong heavy painful emotions...

So generally, when we procrastinate, we are not talking about tasks that bring us joy and that we love doing.

Here is an example

When I'm seriously procrastinating, but I really need to write my thesis for my PhD. This is not what I will start working on. Because my thesis is like my marathon. So, when working on tackling procrastination it's really important that we start with small easy tasks. Tasks that can be done really quickly. So, I had a to-do list and on it I had things that I most likely would do anyway or with very little resistance, for example, getting dressed, having a glass of water, etc. Or if you are a student too, try to break things down into little tasks: today I organise my files, or search for papers on a specific topic. 

Crossing things off our list, that sense of completion will strengthen our “I get things done” muscle 😊


But what when I still keep procrastinating????

A simple task I really used to struggle with is, sweeping the floor. This is just something I didn't particularly like doing and it felt like a "forever task". You would agree with me that it most likely would only take ten minutes out of the entire day - ten minutes!!! And I just kept putting it off and putting it off…


I had to keep reminding myself that it is only going to take 10 min and it just FEELS like a forever task.

To help myself to really get that into my head, I timed myself. So, I could see that they are not forever tasks, this is just a hangover feeling/sensation I have from my childhood trauma.

Timing activities helped me remind myself that there's a start and an end to these tasks. Yes, I really used a stop watch to proof this to myself 😊

Please choose tasks that can be completed in ten to fifteen minutes at the beginning. Remember we start training muscles with small weights...

Short tasks to help us train that "I get things done" muscle


In summary

Two important sticking points with cPTSD:

  • weak or lacking "I get things done" muscle and
  • there's that faulty timekeeper that makes us feel like things going to last forever

On top of this we have our faulty programming that comes with:

  • a lack of self-worth
  • that feeling, I am not worthy of being successful
  • the fear that we may not complete this task satisfactorily
  • that fear that it may not be good enough and
  • feeling useless, powerless and helpless


We got to be really clear here that this is just part of that faulty programming, we received in childhood.  They are beliefs and they're not facts about us. Now as adults we must give ourselves permission to change those beliefs!!!!!!! 

You are worthy of success just like anyone else out there.

You're worthy of feeling good just like anyone else out there.

You are good enough and ok just as you are in this moment.


so, let us begin to replace this faulty programming….

You can use guided meditations with affirmation statements, record your own affirmation statements and keep listening to them, or hang up notes all over your house or use reminder that pop up on my phone stating the same thing

"I am person who gets things done" :)


Please be patient with yourself when strengthening your "I can do things" muscle. It takes time, like training for a marathon.

I think it's important to know that we have those additional sticking points with complex PTSD. All that trauma, abuse and lack of support throughout our childhood, really amplifies procrastination. But we can overcome this!!!

Our brain has tremendous capacity to change and we can really train and build those "neuronal" muscles in our brain.


What is the one thing you are going to complete today no matter what?

Remember we don't want to make the mistake and start big and then get overwhelmed and give up... So, what is that one quick and easy to complete task that you are going to commit to today?



Take a long moment to allow yourself to feel good about completing this task.

That you can be a person who gets things done. Even feel good about the shortest of short task - super important :)

You're worthy of feeling good no matter what you were told or how you were made to feel about yourself in childhood.

 Do you feel disconnected from your body? 

Self-awareness and feeling safe in your body are difficult concepts after Childhood trauma. People with complex PTSD often feel disconnected from their body. 

This is a normal coping mechanism to survive the trauma but puts as at great risk of developing burnout and disease in adulthood. This video series is for you to become more aware of all the different ways your body is talking to you and some practices, tips and exercises. You can watch it here


 For more videos hop on over and check out my YouTube Channel 

Until next time, sending you lots and lots of love and rainbows to brighten up those tough times just a little