Making Thoughtful Decisions
- August 11, 2022
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My husband and I are in the middle of a home renovation. We are adding a bathroom. There are so many decisions to be made. There are major decisions about placement of the toilet and minor decisions about how many electrical outlets to install. I recently realized how anxiety-inducing this process can become.
I felt completely overwhelmed when it came to picking out tile for the shower. There are so many options...thousands of options. How do I know if I picked the “right” one? My anxiety skyrocketed when I was in the middle of the home improvement store and under time pressure to pick out tile. I said to my husband..”this would be so much easier if there were only two options”. Then it hit me...
We live in a world where we have so many choices for everything. It’s wonderful to have access to the specific type of Chicken Satay seasoning for my favorite Thai recipe. I love that I can purchase the perfect light bulb to make my house feel cozy. Our options are endless.
The problem arises when so many options paralyze our ability to make a decision. If you are a young person trying to pick a career or a college, it may not be helpful to have the sky be the limit. Don’t get me wrong, dream big, but also help yourself by narrowing decisions down to factors which are most important to you.
It’s important to note, the more anxious you feel, the less able you are to access the parts of your brain which help you make decisions. When we are stressed the brain dumps Cortisol and Adrenalne to help us...it does not however, help us make thoughtful decisions. If your heart is racing, hands are sweating or your brain feels clouded...chances are good your nervous system is acting up. Here are some tips to keep in mind about decision making.
1: Assess whether you are in a calm state of mind. If not, then try a deep breathing technique to calm down your nervous system. This will slow the dump of stress-related hormones. When we calm our nervous system then we can access our good thinking parts of our brain.
2: Try to pare down your options. Identifying what is not a good choice can help bring you clarity. For instance, if you axe out of state colleges off the list then you can focus on in-state options.
3: Whenever possible, try not to make big decisions under time pressure. Sleep on it and make sure you are not making a decision from an anxious state. 4: Seek a trusted person to help you. This would likely be someone you know has your best interest in mind.
5: Try to write out pros and cons of a decision. When we can see a situation on paper or on a screen, sometimes it can bring clarity. It also helps get the information out of your head!
Sara Hoekstra, MA, LPC