How Does Anxiety Affect Decision Making? | What To Do To Overcome Decision Anxiety
Is this good for me? Should I ask others to make my decisions? Why can’t I make decisions anymore?
Do these questions plague your mind often? Do you also face difficulty in making smart decisions? Well, there is a reason for it!
The indecision people often face in their lives is a direct result of anxiety. We’ve read in previous articles how anxiety and stress can cause us to overthink simple and minor situations. Some studies reported that people with anxiety or anxiety-related issues had a stronger desire to prevent negative outcomes.
But how does anxiety play into our decision-making?
In this article, I’ll be helping you find the answer to this question and how you can overcome your decision anxiety!
Anxiety manifests in different little ways. It arises when our body senses a threat in our environment. In more recent times, especially since the pandemic hit, anxiety and depression have become more and more common.
Anxiety is an emotion that can be described by feelings of worry, fear, and tension. Not only anxiety can wreak havoc on your mental and emotional health but it can also affect your physical health. Physical changes during anxiety mean increased blood pressure, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, etc.
While anxiety can be different from depression, it is possible to experience both disorders at the same time. The symptoms of anxiety are distressing, sure, but it is also helpful. Anxiety is our body’s natural response. It causes us to respond to the stress response – fight-or-flight.
And while this heightened state of alertness and awareness can be good, it can also take away our ability to make decisions or rational choices. This inability to make decisions stem from anxiety and too much stress.
Because our brains are already engaged in responding to the stress response, it is unable to make smart decisions.
Why Decision-Making Is Hard?
When we’re anxious, our brain activates the limbic system, the part involved in our behavioral and emotional responses. However, our decision-making ability along with other cognitive control functions comes from the prefrontal cortex (PFC) or the “thinking brain”.
When we are in fight-or-flight mode, our limbic system creates thousands of worst-case scenarios. This is what psychologists refer to as “amygdala hijack”. This amygdala hijack, part of the limbic system, causes our prefrontal cortex to lose its control.
This hijack can cause us to think about the worst possibilities for a minor situation that can make anxiety even worse. This kind of downward spiral can be paralyzing and take away your ability to make decisions.
The limbic system is driven by emotions and any decision driven by emotions may not always be the best for you or the situation you’re in.
How To Take Back Control?
The best way to take your control back is to calm your mind before making any decision. Practicing techniques, especially ones that come from cognitive behavioral therapy, can help you identify and see the source of your feelings and thoughts clearly.
Practicing such strategies can help you control your anxiety and put your prefrontal cortex back in control.
You can practice the following exercises before you make any decision under the influence of stress or anxiety:
- Taking a walk
- Making a plan
- Drinking a soothing cup of tea
- Calling a friend for support
- Asking for professional help, if and when needed
You can also contact these anxiety helpline numbers for help:
- SAMHSA Helpline: 1-800-662-4357
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- iCall Helpline: +91-9152987821
- Vandrevala Foundation: +91-9999-666-555
Also Read: Best Anxiety Support Groups To Join
Once you’re back in control of your rational, thinking mind, you can try to remind yourself that you don’t always have to be in charge. Some things may be out of control and trying to manage things you can’t always control can worsen your anxiety.
Feeling uncertain, especially these days, is okay. Accept that you can’t control some things. Instead of focusing on what you can’t control, focus on what you can! Let go of the other things.
Some decisions are not yours to make. Some decisions you need to let others make. If your coworker’s messy, it’s not a decision you can make, can you? It is the other person’s.
To make things easier, you can make a list of decisions you can make and can’t. Once you’ve listed the pros and cons, it’ll be easier to put things into perspective. You can also consider setting a time frame. For example, you will spend one hour each day reading and watching the news – distressing or not.
Imperfect Can Be Perfect…
There may be times where you just can’t make a smart decision but that’s okay too! You are deciding on a situation with what you have. What you can do to overcome your decision anxiety is to create the self-care plan that is best for you!
Does yoga or meditation help you calm your mind? Does exercising help?
Anxiety is not as easily curable. It stays with you no matter where you go or what you do but in the end, to prevent decision anxiety from creeping up, you can learn to take back control and calm down before you make a decision you would or might regret.
You know, anxiety is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it may feel overwhelming and intense but when you know what your anxiety is and what works for you to control your anxiety, you can eventually learn not to fear it but embrace it as it is meant to be.
I hope this article helped answer the question, “How does anxiety affect decision-making?” If you have any concerns, you can write to us at email@example.com or DM us on social media.
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