Making Decisions And Taking Risks When You Have Anxiety
I have ways had a restless heart. I often dream of a nomadic life, trekking an uncommon path. I get antsy when too many days are the same. I have never wanted to do things the way they are typically done.
This branch of my personality is the kindling for my biggest contradiction: my overpowering need for adventure and my mind's anxious fear of risk. When it comes time to make those adventurous leaps, my anxiety kicks in. I gravitate toward the safe choice, the practical option. The terror of 'what if’ overtakes.
If your anxiety effects your decision-making, you know the struggle to balance these two needs. I find so often the practical side wins out until something breaks and I do something rash and impractical.
But how do you balance the risky decision and the safe decision? How do you balance the need for adventure with the desire to feel secure? When you have anxiety, it comes down to practicing making decisions slowly and deliberately.
Do A Values Assessment
Whenever you make a big decision, there are usually several options to choose from. Often, for me, no avenue feels like it's lit up in neon lights saying “OBVIOUS CHOICE”. It is more like each path has flickering lights that alternate saying “ADVENTURE” and “DANGER” or “STABLE” and “BORING”.
The first way to calm your brain is to do a values assessment. I find a values assessment helps me connect with my sense of self. Anxiety often makes even the smallest decision feel like an identity crisis. “What does this pair of hiking shoes say about me AS A PERSON”. Or I make a simple decision overly complex by trying to fix too many problems at once. “I want to find the perfect coat that is waterproof, warm at - 20° C, looks stylish, AND is under $200”.
By doing a quick values check in, you can remind yourself where your heart lies. Somewhere, in the midst of the things you feel you should do and the things your heart wants to do is an idea of what the true value of that thing is.
You can also narrow in on the problem you actually need to solve with this decision. By looking at your goals and values, you can parse out the problem and be clear about what exactly this decision needs to accomplish.
For a different values worksheets, head here.
Find Your Wise Mind
After you have checked in with your values, check in with your Wise Mind. Whether you pray, meditate, or get some exercise to clear your head, assess your options from a place of clarity.
For a Wise Mind refresher, head to my DBT Skills for Parents post here.
Have you options clearly laid out in front of you (budgets and all). Have your values in front of you as well. Then breathe, clear your mind, and watch your thoughts tumble by. When you sit calmly with your options, it is likely one will stand out.
Address Your Anxiety
As I said, when it comes to decisions, anxiety often makes mountains out of molehills. If any of those decisions harbors risk, that can be even worse.
Sitting with your decision is where the mean voices tend to second guess your decision. Be mindful of those thoughts. Write them down and come up with challenges to them. Keep those challenges as mantras. One of my favorites is:
“The walls of your comfort zone are loving decorated with your lifelong collection of favorite excuses.”
- Jen Sicero -
Turn your mind to what you want, to the pros of why you made your decision. And always remember that, for big decisions, there is often not an obvious “right” or “wrong”, but two different paths, either of which would be enjoyable. And once you have picked a path, commit to enjoying it!
For more info on anxiety and decision making, Hey Sigmund has a great article.
What stumps you most when making decisions? How do you come to a place where you are satisfied with your decision?