Many people who are faced with making decisions become paralyzed by the “what ifs” and possible negative outcomes, and as a result, feel stuck and are unable to move forward. Making a big decision such as starting a new job, moving to a new city, or being in a new relationship often brings up both excitement and feelings of anxiety, doubt, or uncertainty. These decisions involve risk because we often do not know exactly what to expect or what will happen after the decision is made months or years down the line.
Unfortunately, we cannot predict the future or make the “perfect” decision. All choices will result in both positive and negative outcomes. When dealing with decision-making anxiety, it can be important to consider the following:
Take a few deep breaths
When we feel anxious, it is often challenging to think clearly, which is important for decision making. So, try finding a quiet place to pause, take some deep breaths, and not think about anything in particular. Listening to a guided meditation or mindfulness activity may be helpful.
What are your values? Will this decision move you towards or away from your values?
Reflect on your values, what is truly important to you. Our values are like the arrows on a compass, guiding us in the direction that would best serve us. If your decision will have an impact on another or others, having a mutual discussion about shared values and clarifying consequences would support everyone in deciding what is best for all of you.
Develop a timeline/deadline for the decision
If you have been overthinking a decision, it can be helpful to set a deadline, if there is not an external one, in order to ensure you do not stay in the decision-making process for a lengthy period of time. It can also be helpful to break down your decision into multiple components that may feel more manageable when addressed one at a time.
Complete a Decisional Balance worksheet (https://www.winona.edu/resilience/Media/Decision-Balance-Worksheet.pdf)
The Decisional Balance worksheet can be helpful if you are unsure of making a change to decide which direction to go. Maybe the decision is deciding not to make a change! The worksheet can also be helpful if you are deciding between two choices and can be modified to help you reflect on the pros and cons of each choice.
Talk it out with a trusted confidante
Talking with someone who is unbiased would allow you the opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings about the decision without feeling pressured to decide. Talking with a therapist might also help provide a nonjudgmental space to support you in uncovering the sources of decision-making anxiety, address fears, and make forward movement towards your goals.
The anxiety you are feeling means that this is important to you. Remember that no decision will define the rest of your life. You have time to learn and make changes when necessary. You do not have to get it right or know exactly what you want or need right now. For now, it is enough to take the next step and trust that you will be able to handle whatever comes next.
Dr. Nisha Kumar, Psy.D.