At the risk of stating the obvious, we are going through rough times. Some days, it’s hard to stay focused on tasks like finishing your dissertation when the world feels like it’s being pulled apart at the seams. But guess what? This is exactly the time to keep your focus and get things done. Mental tasks like completing your dissertation are grounding and help dispel worry.

Let’s reflect on worry for a moment. Has chronic worry ever amounted to any meaningful change in your life? For most of us, the amount of worry considerably exceeds any real action or change. Like biting nails or chewing on a pencil, worry is a largely useless habit.

But we’ve become so accustomed to pervasive worry that we forget how…well, fruitless it is.

Mental tasks like writing your dissertation help you relax and focus. 

Mental tasks like researching, writing and editing your dissertation can contribute to relaxation and sharpen focus—the very quality we lose when chronically anxious and worried.

Like focusing on breath when we meditate, our mind is occupied in a healthy and productive manner. At least some of our worry falls by the wayside in the process.

Productivity feels fabulous! When you work on your dissertation, even just a page or paragraph, you are producing…and being in action mode feels good. Humans, after all, innately like to accomplish tasks.

According to psychologist and author Dr. David Cohen:

Completing tasks can dampen anxiety about the chaos of life: goals give us a structure and a plan that we can stick to. Checking off completed tasks provides proof of what we have achieved that day, week or month.

Reading is particularly relaxing and lessens stress. Who doesn’t appreciate the calming, self-soothing aspect of reading an intriguing article or that “aha” moment when we finally understand a difficult concept? Other studies have found that the more immediate benefits of reading include an increased tolerance for uncertainty.

Remember: worry in and of itself is not very useful. It erodes quality of life and stifles momentum. Productivity, even in small doses, bolsters our mental state and relaxes us.

So dare to work through your worry. Take a stab at one dissertation-related item today. It’s more than just a productive act; it helps you relax and clear your mind. Best of all, it brings you one step closer to that so-satisfying goal: finishing that dissertation once and for all!