By Haneen Ahmad

So there she sat, on my couch, drowning in a puddle of anxiety over whether or not to move out. Big choice. I get it. Harder choice to make once coupled with anxiety. I think we reviewed the pros and cons list 78 times that day. And of course this is not a one day process, we had already been talking about this for months. A choice someone without anxiety perhaps could have made much quicker. 

It’s hard to stand by and watch someone you care about get derailed by anxiety. You can’t wave a magic wand and make someone’s anxiety go away. Boy do I wish! Sometimes all you can offer is validation and warm hugs. As a therapist, I hear so many first accounts of how anxiety can be debilitating for those already struggling with the decision making process, whether is a big life choice or a small one. 

I get it, anxiety sucks, it makes it harder to make decisions. So many what-ifs…damn you anxiety. You complicate the lives of so many people I know and love. 

These are the words that I offered her… words I have often offered myself.

Get yourself to a place of stillness. A place of quiet and calm. Maybe it’s the beach, or outside in nature somewhere. Maybe a spa or simply your bed. Wherever it is, get there. Take some deep breaths and really tune in to your body. Try to breathe into any areas of tension you feel and begin to notice shifts in your body. Then mindfully engage in compassionate self-talk, and consider repeating these phrases to yourself. (Also feel free to come up with your own that may be more relevant)

“You are capable of making hard decisions”

“You are capable of problem solving”

“You are deserving of peace and clarity”

Once you feel you have reached a mentally calm state shift your attention to the decision making process. Follow these steps below

  1. Fear and doubt are going to show up right away. Like B**** I am here! Don’t be rude, say hello back. Acknowledge them. But let them know they are not welcome to stay long. They are also going to want to invite “I don’t know” over. And that phrase is absolutely not welcome to the party. Point being, acknowledge your feelings and move on.
  2. Listen to your initial gut reaction (kinda like how they tell you to go with your first choice on a multiple choice exam… don’t change your answers. That just confuses you) Go with your first gut feeling. I cannot stress this one enough. Choose and don’t look back. 
  3. Make a pros and cons list. Getting it out of your head and on paper will help.
  4. Talk it out with a friend or family member who has your best interests in mind and knows you well
  5. Journal, include what you are grateful for in the here and now. This will help you operate with a grateful heart that is open and compassionate towards yourself
  6. Decide what it is that you want ultimately? To gain independence?
    Decision & Outcome.
    For example,
    Decision: “Should I move into an apartment on my own?”
    Outcome: “Experiencing independence and allowing myself the opportunity for individual growth”
  7. Set a deadline for the decision. That way you are not overthinking forever. 
  8. Take action towards solidifying your decision. Sign a lease, buy a plane ticket, give your two-week notice at your job etc. 

Feelings have something to teach us. If you are feeling anxious, you have got some work to do. Establish compassionate self-talk, engage in healthy routines, practice grounding techniques and so on. Being anxious doesn’t mean you are incapable of making choices that are good for you. It just means you have to work a little harder. Good decision making takes practice. The more you do it, and go through this process the easier it will become. No decision is a wrong decision… at the end of the day, it’s just a learning opportunity, which is valuable.

Encouraging you always,
Haneen