How to Deal With Anxiety-Style Decision and Indecision
Anxiety affects so many areas of our lives, mostly because it negatively affects decision-making. When you think about it, your ability to make a decision, any decision, affects everything you do. Anxiety infuses confusion into our decision-making, and that makes all areas of life more difficult (Anxiety and Over-Thinking Everything).
Are You Having Trouble Making Decisions Due to Anxiety?
What should I do? How should I think about this? What would be the best possible_____? What does this mean? What should I use my time for? Who should I talk to? What is the best way to____?
Trying to answer these can drive people crazy because anxiety is at play. Anxiety makes us not trust ourselves so it disconnects us with our decision making abilities. Even if we have made good, solid decisions in the past, we remember that one decision that went wrong. That is all we see! So we avoid the decision or we drive ourselves crazy with pros and cons.
The Innate Anxiety of Decision-Making
This post is inspired by a conversation I had with a young man about his intense worry before, during, and after making decisions. More specifically, he worried about making the wrong decision. The ability to make decisions seems to elude some people. But they only think the skill eludes them. This young man only thought he couldn't make decisions.
We looked closer at the decisions that he was making. There were many easy decisions most of the day. Should I brush my teeth? Should I go to work/class? Should I wear clothes or go naked? Should I take a really great opportunity? He did fine with these but didn't see these as successful decision-making.
I did. Why do people barely acknowledge these as decisions? They are decisions and good ones, too! It is just that we are so clear about the choice. In other words, the option we are not choosing is undesirable enough that it does not feel like an option. But it actually might be an option someone else would take (i.e. some kids have no trouble missing school for the day).
The decisions that were hard for this young man to make are ones where both or multiples options are feasible. There are benefits and risks to each option: Should I work out or watch TV? Which concurrent meeting should I attend? Most of these kinds of decisions have very little risk. But to him they were monumental. (It is not as if we are dismantling a bomb and have to pick the right color wire, or we'll be blown to smithereens.)
Remember That Decisions Are Just Decisions
Anxiety and worry had him seeing the risk as higher than it was. We have to stop taking ourselves so seriously. We have to see that sometimes our decision is arbitrary. Most of them won't make or break our life. And, often, the next day or the next week, we will have opportunity to make the decision again and can change it if we so choose.
Big Decisions and Their Impact On Anxiety
The word decision means "to kill" as we are killing the choice not taken. Sometimes we feel grief for what we pass up even though the decision is clear. It is a loss. But it also frees us. Once we make the choice we can now commit to the option we pick. There is no right choice, we pick something and then make it the right choice. A freedom comes out of it. If any of you have been stuck making a decision, you know what I am talking about.
Anxiety about decision-making enters when he ruminates over decisions from the past that did not seem to pan out. This regret serves us only to decide differently the next time. Holding onto that guilt just causes self doubt. The point of the guilt is to bring awareness to the next decision. To act. Staying in the guilt is immobilizing. It causes unnecessary, but all too common, torment.
Let it go.
Even allowing regret and worry to torment you is a choice. You can make a decision to look forward from all decisions always knowing there is another chance to chose something else next time. Deciding not to let worry and regret get under your skin can be the most freeing decision yet!
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Lobozzo, J. (2012, December 5). How to Deal With Anxiety-Style Decision and Indecision, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, March 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2012/12/decisions-made-or-not-made-anxiety-style
Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R
Decision making is mostly effected by anxiety. bad decision making can be dangerous and even deadly when you think about it. making a split decision to turn the vehicle or cross the road at a bad moment. Think about it.
Our sympathetic nervous system makes our reflexes sharper for just this kind of situation. I agree. The problem usually lies when there is not this level of danger but our body and mind are responding like there is!
It feels like whatever decision I make will cause undo stress and hardship not just for me but for my immediate family (including my pets). I don't make the tough decision because I feel the result of it will cause more pain/damage than just letting it go into rumination!
Great post, Jodi! You're so right--most decisions are not monumental. I tend to forget that and stress out over things that don't warrant it.
It is helpful not to take ourselves so seriously.