Making decisions when you have anxiety is hard. I can spend hours thinking over which color socks I want to order from Amazon, this is a little exaggerated because of course I’m gonna choose the ones with dogs. Or maybe the horses would be more fun? Do I even really need new socks right now? Suddenly an hour has gone by and I still haven’t bought any socks. I guess I wasn’t exaggerating at all.
Why do our brains do this? Research has shown that neurons actually inhibit other neurons from firing. It means that when a healthy brain makes a decision it shuts down those nagging thoughts and what-ifs. Neurons in people with anxiety don’t inhibit other neurons, they let them run loose and continue to second, third, fourth, and fifth guess into infinity. (If you happen to be reading this because someone you know doesn’t make decisions very well, or at all, you might be thinking that this sounds exhausting and you would be very right.) When it comes to making big decisions this train-wreck intensifies. More options is more possibilities to choose wrong with possibly worse outcomes.
How can we make important decisions when we have anxiety? There are some antidepressants that do actually help neurons inhibit the firing of others and lead to more decisive actions, talk to a doctor if that’s something you want to pursue. In the meantime, I find that taking control of anxiety is the best way to move forward.
1. Give yourself some space to be anxious and let all those thoughts run through your head. I know this sounds counter-intuitive but fighting to stop them just takes up energy.
2. Try to observe the thoughts without judgement. They are just reactions to feelings. If you can figure out what the fear is then it can be acknowledged and addressed.
3. Breathe deep. Anxiety tends to pull people into their heads. Or perform any activity that helps to ground you and bring you back to focus.
It took a bit of practice to get my brain on board with this process but now I can calm myself down and work out a plan that allows me to make a decision. Learning to listen to the background fears is definitely key. I never would have bought my socks if I hadn’t acknowledged that I was afraid of spending money because I was actually afraid of not having enough money.
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