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How to make a decision when you are anxious


I have always been a strong decision maker. Until I was diagnosed with anxiety I didn’t really understand how fortunate this trait was. When my head got messy the simplest decisions were debilitating and the big ones were impossible. The Baker took over this process for me. He is a freakishly good decision maker so I’ve combined his tips and my insight to give you six ways to make a decision when you are anxious:

1. Sleep on it :: It’s awesome if you’re a spontaneous decision maker but when anxiety comes in to your life this is one of the worst ways to make a decision. Act now think later can put you in a tricky situation that may increase your anxiety. Taking time and literally sleeping on it is a good approach. Perspective works wonders and it is definitely skewed if you are sleep deprived and stressed.

2. Give yourself time :: Don’t stew over a decision for weeks as that can mess your noisy head more. Instead say, “I’m going to make a decision on x  by the end of the weekend.” If there are still a few details to work out but you are comfortable with 95% of the decision, then you’ll immediately notice a sense of relief.

3. Pros and Cons List :: Get yourself a nice clean piece of paper and grab a cup of tea and sit down. Firstly, divide the paper into quarters – I just draw lines. In the first box {top left hand side} write down all the pros of doing x. Whatever pops into your mind. In the next box {top right hand side} write down the cons of doing x. In the two boxes below {bottom left hand side} write down the pros of not doing x and {bottom right hand side} write the cons of not doing x.

Take your time to fill in the boxes. If it is a joint decision, then do this exercise together. The reasons for any of the decisions can be motivated from any angle – they can be emotional, financial or practical. There isn’t really a right or wrong way to do this exercise.

Before long you will notice a box starts to fill up quickly and that may be all the guidance you need to make your decision. On the other hand there may be one reason that overrides all others and that firms your decision. Once all these reasons are out of your head and on a piece of a paper, decision making becomes a whole lot easier.

4. Don’t ask for too many opinions :: Doing your research is incredibly important but at some point you have to make the decision yourself. People’s opinion will often be from the right place but always with a different agenda to you. For example, if the decision is a big one like buying a house then a friend might tell you what’s worked for them such as open plan living but that particular style doesn’t suit you {I personally find it very hard to live in}. Whilst their opinion is most definitely relevant and genuinely kind it is not necessarily helpful. In fact asking lots of opinions can add to the confusion.

5. Work out your priorities :: Break your decision down. It is easier to make smaller decisions that may make up a whole big decision. For example, if you are planning a holiday then work out the main destinations you want to see. After then you can decided how long you need to stay at each place without adding to the stress of packing and unpacking and moving and exhausted kids {and mumma}. It may be that heading to fewer destinations and staying at each for a slightly longer time will be what enhances your holiday rather than the feeling of ‘missing out’ on a city you would love to go to. If your priority is to see 20 destinations then go for it but if your priority is to have a great holiday with minimal travel anxieties then break your decision down and prioritise your list. 

I did this recently when planning our China trip. Whilst I am super keen to see the Great Wall, dragging the kids up to Beijing wasn’t my idea of holiday fun. The Baker was not keen on it at all so we decided more time in Shanghai was a good compromise. And best of all, the decision was made.

6. Don’t procrastinate :: You will exhaust yourself further. Anxiety + decision making are hard enough but if you shove that decision into the the ‘too hard’ basket then you will make things worse. Take a moment to look at the tips above and get on with it. Your head will thank you for it.

What about you? How do you make a decision? Is decision making one of your strengths?

This post originally appeared on Colour me Anna.


Anna Spurling
Blogger + Writer
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