From dithering over what to order in a restaurant to agonising about whether or not to quit your job, we’ve almost all experienced the paralysing effects of decision anxiety before.
Here, hypnotherapist and anxiety expert Chloe Brotheridge shares five simple coping strategies if you’re struggling to make tough choices.
Stop the chase for perfection
Many of us are prone to believing that if we could only analyse something long and hard enough, then we’ll finally discover the ‘correct’, ‘best’ or even ‘perfect’ answer. But unfortunately, perfectionistas, there are no flawless decisions – and no amount of overthinking and analysing will get you to perfection.
If you are a perfectionist, it’s likely that situations never feel good enough, no matter how good they really are. You move the goal posts constantly, always searching for something ‘better’ to strive for.
Try to recognise and accept ‘good enough’ decisions and know that they are, in fact, good enough.
Mistakes are a good thing
OK, maybe not always. But there are positive aspects to messing up: namely, that mistakes are an inevitable side effect of ‘doing stuff’. If you want to live an error-free life, you could simply do nothing – but that’s probably not ideal.
Think about evolution. Natural selection occurs when an inadvertently beneficial mistake is made while DNA is being replicated. In other words, no mistakes = no evolution.
If much the same way, if you make a decision and it doesn’t work out as you’d planned, it’s highly likely that it’s at least teaching you something in the process. Ask yourself: what did you learn through making that decision? How could a mistake have helped you in some way?
It ain’t black and white
Anxiety means we’re often in fight or flight mode. Adrenaline pumping, muscles tensing, heart racing; you know the drill.
There are also no shades of grey when we’re in panic mode, meaning that it can be all too easy to fall into unhelpful black-and-white patterns of thinking. A situation is either good, or a total disaster; acceptable, or the end of the world.
Luckily, this isn’t the way the world works. Reality nearly always occurs in those grey areas. Recognise that it’s like this with decisions too.
You can nearly always change your mind
Sometimes, it’s impossible to know what the result of a decision will be until you make it. Once you’ve done that, more information about the decision becomes available.
But rarely is a decision irreversible and if things don’t work out as you’d hoped, you can nearly always change your mind. That fringe will grow out (eventually), you can change jobs if you hate your new boss, and you can find somewhere else to live if your housemate turns out to be a kleptomaniac.
Most decisions aren’t permanent, and nothing blitzes anxiety faster than action.
Watch: Career advice from inspirational women
Turn your decisions into good ones
Don’t beat yourself up for making a ‘wrong’ decision. Remind yourself that you did the best you could, with the information you had at the time – and if you’d known better, you would have done better. Lesson learned. End of story.
Rather than giving yourself a hard time, ask yourself how you can make the best of the decision you did make. Being negative will only make you feel bad, and something magical happens when we accept and embrace things as they are. A situation can start to feel really good – even, dare I say, perfect.
Chloe Brotheridge is a hypnotherapist, anxiety expert and author of The Anxiety Solution: A Quieter Mind, A Calmer You (Michael Joseph, £12.99).