It is very frustrating to feel stuck or behind with our work or life errands. Our clients often label themselves as procrastinators or even as lazy. This negative self reflection tends to exacerbate the situation, compounding negative feelings , and can lead to feelings of defeat.

What are some of the emotional processes that can hijack our ability to get started on our assignment or work?

Fear Response

Our fear response (fight or flight) is deployed whenever we perceive a threat. This is an important distinction: there is often not an actual threat. If we convince ourselves that we don’t know how to do something, or that it is going to overwhelm our free time, we can fear getting started. If our body is in fight or flight mode, we don’t feel safe, which does not promote concentration and productivity.

In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), skills are taught to soothe, and to learn the triggers for your own fight or flight response, so that potentially it can be prevented.


If our standards are set so high that we already perceive there is no way we can meet them, it makes it that much harder to begin. Perfectionism is a very common among driven people, and those who worry. Ironically, it is not laziness that is a play here, but the strong desire to do as well as possible.

In CBT, we focus on reviewing work or life goals to make them more realistic and achievable. It is important to learn how to soothe anxiety about the possibility of disappointing others if work isn’t perfect. Often we can catastrophize these situations, and challenging these thoughts can allow us to develop new beliefs, such as “done is better than good.”

Apathy or Burnout

Another very common emotional barrier to productivity is being overworked or burned out. If the hours you have been putting in at work or in class have knocked your life balance out of whack, this may be something to look at. One of the central signs of burnout is feeling apathy about work we used to feel passionate about.

In CBT, we work to re-introduce stress outlets, such as enjoyable activities into our daily routines. This helps re-set our energy balance and helps us restore our previous passions, knowing that we have had fun outside of work or school.

A CBT Therapist can help build tools that cut through patterns of unproductivity and restore our professional identities.

The content of this blog is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health provider or physician with any questions that you have regarding mental health concerns. If you think you have an emergency, please call 911 or visit your nearest emergency room.