How To Improve Decision-Making Despite Anxiety
Wednesday, March 23 2016 Whitney Hawkins
Anxiety can affect decision-making. Anxiety is a fact in the lives of many individuals, but for some it is much more present and even crippling (What is Anxiety? Anxiety Definition). For the extremely anxious, making decisions can be both difficult and burdensome.
Think about the last time you made a decision, how did you feel? Were you overwhelmed by the number of possibilities and outcomes? Anxiety can make decisions like what college major you should choose or what to order for dinner feel almost impossible.
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh discovered that anxiety may actually disengage a part of the brain, known as the prefrontal cortex, that is essential for flexible decision-making. In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers report that anxiety during decision-making causes a group of cells specifically coded for choice to become weakened and disengaged in a highly specialized manner.
This means that when anxious individuals are presented with distractions while trying to make a decision, they may make bad decisions or struggle with being decisive.
How to Prevent Distractions and Make Decisions with Anxiety
Like anxiety, distractions are a reality in our lives. We live in a time where stimulation is directed at us constantly, making decisiveness extremely difficult. We have thousands of options to choose from in every arena of our lives, so how do we silence this noise?
- Make a list. Narrowing down your options can be extremely helpful. Make a list of 5-10 options and cross one off until you have arrived at the most desirable and logical choice.
- Explore the pros and cons. This is another type of list that can be used to minimize distractions and prevent faulty decision-making.
- Consult trustworthy sources. Having access to a lot of information does not always mean that you are getting the best information. Examine your sources and use the ones that you really trust.
- Imagine situations. When you are making a difficult decision it can be extremely helpful to imagine what each of them would look and feel like (Visualization Can Conquer Anxiety). Play out different scenarios in your head and decide which feels most comfortable.
- Set a deadline. Give yourself a reasonable and realistic time frame to make your decision. Too much time and you’ll procrastinate, too little time you make feel rushed or unprepared.
Decision-Making with Anxiety
Decision-making can be very anxiety provoking, even for the calmest of individuals. There is always a level of fear that we may not make the right decision. However, indecision is also a decision. When you are too anxious to move, you are making the conscious decision to sit still. There is always the chance that you will fail and there is always a chance that you will succeed. Use these five tactics to help quiet your anxious mind and prevent that essential decision making part of the brain from disengaging and sending you into a tail spin.