There is a great deal of false information circulating out there about natural supplements, and this is not a well-regulated area of the health marketplace.) However, the psychotropic medications used to treat anxiety often have side effects. Some of them can also be habit-forming (another way of saying they can be addictive), and they can lose their effectiveness over time, as a patient's body builds up tolerance to their effects, just as a person's energy levels become accustomed to a certain amount of caffeine over time, so that people need to consume more coffee in order to get the same effect. (This happens due to an internal bodily process known as homeostasis, in which the body regulates its own level of various neurochemicals in order to keep them in a state of balance, or equilibrium). Moreover, these medications often merely affect the symptoms without addressing the underlying thought patterns that fuel anxiety and panic. Indeed, many fellow procrastinators have told me that they've stared in amazement at co-workers who not only juggle the demands of a full-time job, but also take care of several children at home before and after work. It's people like that for whom the adage, "If you want something done, give it to the busy person," not just applies, but makes so much sense. Not all procrastinators are the same. Some complain that while they have no problem with procrastination in the workplace, they find themselves immobilized by some of the simplest home-based tasks. They often say things like, "I do whatever is asked of me at work by my superiors. Anything they ask, and I do it. So you'd think I would do for myself at home, now wouldn't you? I mean, if they told me to stand on my head for ten minutes, I'd do it, if I could--so long as they paid me for my time. Still, my home is a mess and sometimes I worry that a co-worker might invite me over for a party at his or her place, especially around the holidays--and that I'd feel obligated to return the favor. What would I do then?" Another sufferer said, "I have a large stack of newspapers sitting in a corner of my kitchen. Every morning I do the same thing: I go in there to make coffee and then, I see it. I tell myself, This weekend, I'm going to tackle that.' But then, when the weekend comes, I say to myself,I'll be dammed if I'm going to deal with that mess on my day off. I've got better things to do. I can't be bothered with that right now.' Of course, Monday morning rolls around again and then I walk into the kitchen to make coffee. The moment I see that pile still sitting there, well--I could cry. Then, I think to myself, `Not again!

Why didn't I take care of that mess over the weekend? What on earth's wrong with me?'" "Overnight successes" don't happen overnight. They spend years behind closed doors ignoring the opinions of others, pushing through resistance and frustration, beating on their craft, and inching closer to perfection. We don't see or think about the thousands of hours they spend behind closed doors doing what most think of as "boring". We only see what they do publicly. We only see their results. The truth is, they're patient during the process and they don't quit. Nothing is too "painful" to handle because the goal is worth enduring whatever is necessary. They don't act like whiny babies because it's "boring". Even the world's biggest rock stars, the ones who have the most awesome lives, have to lock themselves away in studios for hundreds and even thousands of hours writing songs, getting the chords down, and designing the perfect sound for their songs and albums. It's a very long process and it requires patience but the payoff is huge. It's boring but they're patient enough to go through it. They stick with it. When getting your act together and reaching goals, you have a lot of boring moments. No one sees the hours and hours you spend working on your self-control and self-discipline. No one sees the time you spend changing your environment and carefully designing it so it's free of negativity and pushes you in the right direction. No one sees the frustration, pain, and resistance you deal with. No one sees the battles taking place in your mind throughout the day. No one sees the war you're fighting to become the ultimate version of yourself. War with yourself takes patience.

You will have long and difficult days. Be patient with the process. Ignore the boring. Ignore the painful. Ignore the discomfort. Stay focused on what needs to be done and be patient. The payoff is 100 times the amount of effort required. I am certainly not recommending finding a local drug dealer or knocking on the door of your neighborhood university brain researcher to get some LSD, psilocybin, or ketamine. But like many others, I am hoping that what we learn from these drugs might open new pathways to treat some disabling mental conditions; enable some of us to quiet our fears when ill with cancer or close to passing; and help others who are determined, legal sanctions notwithstanding, to alter their consciousness or to add a touch more creativity and flexibility to their individual and collective worlds. Dr. Harvey Milkman, my great friend of over fifty years and an internationally active expert on addictions, likes to talk about the "meaningful engagement of talents." He writes, "Engaging one's talents such as playing a favorite sport, sketching a waterfall, hip hop dancing, playing music, or campaigning for a politician you believe in--especially if the activities are perceived as meaningful--is likely to charge up the reward cascade. Through meaningful engagement of talents, we can orchestrate the natural release of serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine, thereby reducing our reliance on alcohol, drugs, or other false props to improve mental and physical well-being." With his colleague Dr. Kenneth Wanberg, Dr. Milkman notes that we humans derive pleasure by four principal means, or activities. These are physical expression, self-focus, aesthetic discovery, and collective harmony. Physical expression includes exercise and sports (described earlier in this chapter), as well as natural challenges such as wilderness, mountain, and sea adventures. Self-focus includes our attention to our well-being, inner experiences, and calm. Aesthetic discovery includes artistic expression in music, dance, art, theater, writing, painting, photography, and so on, as well as the wonders of nature. Collective harmony, as they describe it, combines the exercise of our minds, intimacy with others, spiritual involvement, and altruism. These four are not mutually exclusive and all build on one another.

Many patients become very excited, for instance, when they first learn about the existence of fast-acting psychotropic medications such as Xanax, which have proven to be effective in halting the immediate symptoms of a panic attack when such an attack is in progress. Xanax is part of a family of medications known as Benzodiazepines, which operate as tranquilizers. A different but related set of fast-acting medications often prescribed to treat anxiety are those known as Beta Blockers. These drugs operate by blocking the receptor sites for the chemical adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, which we discussed in detail in Chapter 2. Perhaps you have heard of an "EpiPen," used to treat asthma and similar conditions? The name comes from epinephrine because EpiPens are used to inject greater degrees of the chemical adrenaline, or epinephrine, which raises a person's heart rate and causes their throat to expand, reducing the symptoms associated with asthma. Beta-blockers essentially perform the opposite task. By reducing a person's response to the chemical adrenaline, they cause the person's heart rate to slow down - and their respiratory rate as well. This reduces a person's physical sensations of panic, which diminishes, in turn, one's internal emotional feeling of anxiety as well. (Here again, we see how "external" physical and somatic, that is, bodily, responses are directly related to "internal" mental and emotional states. Indeed, the great philosopher William James once argued in a famous essay, called "What is an Emotion?" that emotion simply is a bodily response, and that it is impossible to imagine a feeling in the absence of its physical component. The essay makes a profound argument, and helps us to overcome the false distinction between "mind" and "body" that is still so prevalent in our culture.) Another common home-based scenario happens when a procrastinator worries there isn't enough time to finish everything he wants to accomplish. This in turn can lead to frustration, which can result in the avoidance of all productive activity and essentially, in shutting down. This all-or-nothing reaction is a coping mechanism that can quickly become habitual in nature, occurring whenever the procrastinator finds himself with spare time that otherwise could be put to use. One reason behind this automatic reaction is that many procrastinators have a poor sense of time, most especially, with personal or free time. What the procrastinator is really dealing with is the feeling of panic that results from having some time, because he has never learned how to effectively manage his free time. Not knowing how to cope in a situation that he's been in many times before, he does the only thing he know, he panics, and then attempts to flee from these terrible feelings--substituting action for anything else, which is the act of procrastination. Some readers might find this next procrastination example to be a bit hideous while others will hardly bat an eyelash and say, "Yeah. Been there--done that." During one of my lowest points I stopped dealing with one of life's necessities, the dishes. My kitchen sink was completely filled up with dirty dishes, used knives, forks, spoons, cereal bowls, coffee cups, pots, pans, and plastic food containers.

Shortly thereafter the drain became clogged and stagnant water began accumulating in the sink. It was the weekend, and I got by on fast food while putting off the task of dealing with the dirty dishes. Soon the unpleasant aroma of rotting food and foul water began to make its presence felt whenever I neared the sink, especially after mold had begun growing inside some of the containers. When I came home from work that Monday evening, I faced something that had the look and smell of a science experiment growing in my kitchen sink. If you're making mistakes, regressing, figuring things out, making progress, and then making mistakes again, you're doing it right. Getting your act together doesn't mean you don't make mistakes. It means you're making mistakes, learning from them, and using that lesson to push forward. When you make a mistake, don't feel stupid. You found a weak area you can work on, repair, and make stronger. The path to getting your act together isn't straight. It's dark and tough. Bad things happen. Life sucks once in a while. You go to bed worried. You wake up anxious and depressed. You get angry because nothing seems to be going your way. You want to give up. You feel like it's pointless to keep going. Everyone reaching and fighting for something goes through this. They feel the pain and frustration of the dark moments.