This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Have you been noticing yourself procrastinating or trying to put thoughts of the climate crisis out of mind, even though you care greatly about it? This procrastination of action is a very common response to the crisis, and it’s actually the reason that many people do not take action or work towards change in the world.
Inaction in activism is something that has been discussed for decades when talking about important issues, from climate change to abuse to world hunger. It’s also common in our day-to-day lives, such as in college and school environments.
Read on to learn more about why we procrastinate real change and what you can do to beat it.
What is the Procrastination Response?
The procrastination response is a very human response to stress and overwhelming feelings. When something feels too much for our brains, we shut it off and ignore it. Without something pushing us in a direction, this often becomes overpowering, and we forget our path or simply don’t take action.
You can see examples of this in society. When something huge happens that is all over the news, people start to take action because it’s at the front of their minds. However, as action dies down or things begin to get more difficult, people become stressed and focused on other areas of life. Part of this is an attention span, but part of it is something else.
Why Do We Procrastinate?
This procrastination response happens because of stress, anxiety, and attention. It can also be caused by a trauma response. Here are some regular life examples of ways that procrastination can take hold:
- Maria wants to clean her house. It is a bit dirty. However, she’s feeling super stressed by the mess and doesn’t know where to start. Instead of cleaning, she ignores it and puts it off for a few months until it gets so bad that she has a panic attack due to the mess.
- John has an important project due at school. He wants to do a good job, so he initially does a lot of research. However, after he does the research, his passion isn’t as strong, and he has difficulty putting his thoughts on paper. He crams the project on the last night before it is due, and due to not feeling prepared, he ends up skipping school the next day and getting a 0 on the assignment.
- Alex wants to volunteer abroad. They have done a lot of research and have determined that it is possible. However, they need to save up money for their plane ticket. Alex has never been so good with money, and they become overwhelmed with the financial aspect, causing them to not volunteer.
As you can see in the examples, each person has a desire to complete the objective, whether it’s cleaning, activism, or a project. It’s the same way with climate activism and taking action in our own lives to help the world.
For many people who feel passionately about saving the planet, there is a lot of stress and collective fear that comes along with it. After all, the climate crisis is scary and comes with some scary outcomes if changes are not made. This fear, coupled with the pressure to make changes now, causes many people to give up hope and simply not try.
Other people may continue to tell themselves, “I’ll sign up for the next protest” or “I’ll donate next month,” and then feel shame when they don’t end up doing it. It’s a vicious cycle that can leave people feeling hopeless. The good news is that there are ways to beat it!
How To Beat Procrastination in the Fight for Climate Change
If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your fight to end the climate crisis and help spread the word, here are some ways you can reduce that feeling and start to take action.
1. See a Counselor
First of all, it’s hard to be an advocate for something when you’re dysregulated. Even though the majority of people are going through this crisis together, it’s important to take care of your mind and body so that you can feel healthy and clear-minded when you get back into it.
We see a lot of studies about work-life balance, which means taking care of your body and mind so that you can work hard and be present in your job. This principle applies to the things we’re passionate about, as well.
2. Set a Schedule
Since humans need direction to take action, it’s important to learn how to be your own boss and your own director. Instead of waiting for someone else to plan a demonstration, plan one yourself. Figure out the details as you go.
If you’re not a “leader” personality, you can still plan ways to take action in your own life. Set a schedule for the little things you’d like to do to help the environment, whether that’s taking out the recycling daily or donating glass to a glass recycling factory.
You can also plan to donate to your favorite climate organizations monthly or plan a trip to volunteer in a foreign country, plus a plan for saving up money along the way.
3. Reward Yourself for Action
As reward-motivated creatures, humans also need to feel that their actions make a change. With climate change, it’s pretty common for people to feel that nothing will change from just one person trying to make an effort. It can feel hopeless.
However, with small rewards, you can show yourself the change that you make, even if it’s something tiny. You also want to remind yourself of the reasons you’re fighting for change and know that the true award is knowing you did your best and feeling satisfied with your efforts.
4. Reignite Your Inner Spark
Finally, the best activism comes from that inner spark that inspired you to take action in the first place. Often, this is a wave of rightful anger, which comes from seeing injustices or a lack of action being taken. This wave of anger is healthy, as it prompts you to continue working.
Remind yourself of this feeling by using healthy doses of media, conversations with family, and even a collage of your dreams. Don’t depress yourself by watching tons of traumatic videos. However, do something that makes you want to take action. Write a journal page about your anger and sadness. Scream into a pillow. Write a rant on Facebook that only some close friends can see.
These are healthy ways of releasing emotion, and they’re also healthy ways to be an activist and get your voice out into the world.
If you’d like to learn more about procrastination in any area of life, you can check out this site from BetterHelp today. They’ve also got tons of information on resources for getting help with anxiety, depression, procrastination, and more.