Anxiety and Laziness: It's Okay to Be Lazy When You're Anxious

September 19, 2018 TJ DeSalvo

Both anxiety and laziness have a bad reputation. But really, sometimes it's okay to be lazy when you're anxious. Learn more at HealthyPlace.

Anxiety and laziness seem unseemly because social pressure tells us it’s not okay to be lazy -- or anxious. We tend to value productivity and activity – if we don’t get as much out of the day as we can, we can be looked down upon. However, anxiety and laziness can go together, and it's okay to be lazy when you're anxious.

I recently had a lazy weekend, where I didn’t do much, or go anywhere, aside from my bed and my couch. I’ve been unusually busy lately and wanted a weekend where I didn’t do much of anything. Partway into it, I basically started shaming myself – a little voice in the back of my head started telling me I should actually start doing things. But after a while, I decided to ignore that voice, and embrace being lazy, because that’s exactly what I needed at that moment ("Self-Compassion Practices as Self-Care"). Anxiety and laziness can make a good team. Hear more about it here:

See Also:

Maybe I'm Not Lazy: Maybe I'm Just Ill

Understanding the Mentally Ill: Fighting Stereotypes with Facts

When Anxiety Makes You Feel Stupid and Like a Failure

APA Reference
DeSalvo, T. (2018, September 19). Anxiety and Laziness: It's Okay to Be Lazy When You're Anxious, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: TJ DeSalvo

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ashley hoober
September, 20 2018 at 6:35 pm

i absolutely love the commentary on this, its ok to be "lazy" and take time for yourself

Josh Allen
September, 20 2018 at 6:14 pm

Dear TJ,
First, I apologize if you took my insight personally. I was referring to the general population, not just you.
I disagree with you about your hatred for the "work harder" ethic. While it is not always right, there are most times where the answer is to work harder. In life, I have learned that when something doesn't go in my favor, it is best not to sit around for the whole next day. The best way to make it either change to your favor, or have it go in your favor next time, is to, yes, relax for maybe an hour or two in the morning and then get up and start doing anything extra that I can. I will use a real story from my athletics as an example. When I was in high school, I played football. I was supposed to be a starter for our final game of the regular season before the playoffs started. I was told 15 minutes before the game that there was a change of plans and that I would be on the bench. I did not play that game. The next morning, I woke up, relaxed for an hour or so and then went to the field and trained for about two hours, then spent the rest of the day studying and mentally training. I did the same on Sunday. Every week day that week I got up at 5 A.M. to go to the field before school and I trained (in addition to afternoon practice). I did the same all through playoffs and I ended up winning the starting spot every game.
In conclusion, by working hard and not spending all day doing nothing, I got what I wanted. Working that extra bit can make a substantial difference. Although there is a time and place for relaxing, there is a difference (as mentioned in our previous discussion) between relaxation and laziness. Laziness harms both your mental and physical health. While I do agree that people should NOT tell someone to "work harder" to help their anxiety or depression, being lazy is also not effective. The best way is to do something about it, i.e. reaching out to people, talking to professionals, and/or finding what real life activities make you happy.

September, 21 2018 at 10:14 am

Hi Josh,
I really appreciate your thoughtful post. Just to be clear, I didn't take your original post personally - in fact, I feel like I should apologize to you. I've not been feeling well this week and I feel that negative state of mind may have caused me to come across as unduly harsh in my reply.
Honestly, based on how you use the word, I don't think people should be lazy either. My use of "lazy" was meant to be taken in its most colloquial and non-literal sense, in the same way that, if someone says they "did nothing" all weekend, they aren't actually trying to suggest they did nothing. I didn't literally "do nothing" that weekend either - I listened to music, I did some reading, I played with my cat. Those are all activities that make me happy. Had I time, I would have mentioned the importance of finding those activities, or reaching out, as you mentioned. But those could all be given a post of their own - what I was trying to do here, in what little time I have afforded me, is getting people to understand that taking time for yourself, maybe even a lot of time for yourself, maybe somewhat in sacrifice of productivity, is important in certain instances. I apologize if the way I phrased it was misleading.
As for the "work harder" ethic, my hatred for it doesn't stem from hating hard work itself, but because people take that ethic to an unhealthy extreme. Your football example is one where hard work is absolutely worth it, and it paid off. It's when people take that ethic and apply to things it should not be applied to - like mental health, systemic social ills, or things of that sort - is where I have a problem. Obviously, there are a lot of underlying issues in these instances where being told to "work hard" is not just counterproductive, but can be harmful. Extremes in any sense are dangerous, and certain extremes (like this one, I would argue) are so ingrained in culture that they don't seem extreme to most people. To try and combat that, sometimes being provocative can shock people out of complacency and generate discussion.

Paul Francis
September, 20 2018 at 3:15 pm

Interesting post and discussion. In different parts of the world anxiety is treated differently. I wonder if our response to anxiety (and depression) might not be a result of cultural norms. Thank you.

September, 20 2018 at 3:30 pm

Hi Paul,
I do think you're right about our responses to anxiety being, in some way, dictated by cultural norms. I don't know where you're writing from, but here in the US, the cultural response for a lot of problems is basically: "work harder." I find that to be extremely problematic, for if that's your outlook, it's really easy to blame the victim, and by extension, not care when, say, governments or state agencies cut funding for mental health treatment, because the mentally ill brought it on themselves for not working hard.
In a roundabout way, that's the message I've been trying to spread with my latest posts. I want to destroy this cult of "hard work" because it can lead to so much harm. A basic way to do that, as my post suggests, is to embrace "laziness" and tell yourself it's OK to have a day or two that's not very productive. Obviously, I'm only one person and can't do much to change the cultural landscape at large, but if I'm going to be given a platform I'm going to use it.

Josh Allen
September, 19 2018 at 2:51 pm

Although you are correct that you can't always be active, I strongly disagree with your thesis statement. It is not healthy to just lay in bed for days. Your body needs to move and see new things (and no, I don't mean new TV shows) to be able to create a lot of the chemicals that your body needs. The natural sunlight is the best source of vitamin D so it is important to spend time in the natural sunlight (that does not count just sitting next to a window). If you do not get outside and partake in any amount of physical activity it can cause your mind to be bogged down even more, which, by your theory, will make you want to spend more time in bed. This will be a repeating cycle including the addition of anxiety and depression. Therefore, by staying in bed for extended periods of time, you are hurting your mental health.

September, 19 2018 at 3:22 pm

Obviously I understand the benefits of being outside, and I'm not advocating, nor would I advocate, living like a recluse. I ride my bike at least 60 miles every week to and from work - I'm not lacking in either exercise or natural sunlight. So I don't think it's asking too much to take one day where I don't do much in the way of activity, whether that be physical or mental.

Josh Allen
September, 19 2018 at 5:56 pm

While I do agree that that is enough exercise for some, there is a difference between downtime and laziness. Downtime is good to have. Laziness is not great for you. While it is true that video games and TV are relaxing for some people, that does not mean that said people should spend all day doing that. If you want to take a day to do mostly that, that is slightly better and would fall into the category of "downtime," whereas the laziness of spending all day in bed or in front of a screen is not healthy. Your body will be and feel way better if you take about 5 minutes out of every hour to walk around a little bit or go outside and take some deep breaths while admiring the sunshine.

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