28 Nov Making difficult decisions
Managing Stress and Life Changes with a Psychologist
Every day without realising it we make hundreds of decisions but have you ever felt a sense of dread so bad that it prevents you from making any decision? Whether it be as simple as what to have for dinner that night or what you will wear to your friend’s birthday dinner, or more complex like whether you quit your job or start an IVF journey?
What we can often see is that when faced with difficult decisions, we become so afraid of making the wrong decision that we can avoid it altogether. However, staying in a cycle of avoidance often only prolongs the anxiety and discomfort which over time can chip away and impact on our mental health, physical health, relationships, work and overall life satisfaction.
Why is decision-making so hard sometimes?
It is understood that making decisions (especially more difficult or life changing ones), is hard because of the time and energy it takes to weigh up your options. Also, depending on the importance we place on the choice or the permanency of the outcome we can often feel stressed, anxious and even paralysed with how to move forward.
Second guessing yourself and feeling indecisive is just part of the process. In a lot of ways, that is healthy because it signifies that you are thinking carefully about your choices instead of acting on impulse or going with the flow. However, due to the neurological basis to decision-making, adults will experience difficulty with decision-making when the potential outcomes of their choice will result in a perceived loss to them or people they are close to, or when their decision is contrary to the norms of their community. The following are types of decisions that adults commonly find challenging:
• Career – leaving a job, starting a new job or considering retirement.
• Intimate relationships – ending a relationship, or taking the next step i.e. moving in together, marriage or having children.
• Other relationships – parenting, caring for elderly parents.
• Self-expression and other life choices – how to express gender, issues around identity/sexual orientation, moving to a new community/moving overseas.
Is my indecisiveness a sign of something else?
Have you ever heard someone say “just hurry up and decide!”. Chronic indecisiveness can be explained by a number of different reasons, some of which are listed below:
- Fear of failure
- Parental influence
- Perfectionistic tendencies
- Being a people pleaser
- Lost sight of the bigger picture
- Lack of confidence
- Not having enough information in front of you
- A symptom of another mental health disorder such as: stress, anxiety, depression and or ADHD
How can a Psychologist help you?
If you’ve already spoken to all your friends and family and feel exhausted after making a pros and cons list, it may be important to consider seeking professional support. In reaching out to a Psychologist, you have the space to explore the emotional meaning and existential concerns related to the decision you are trying to make.
Specific therapeutic approaches set out to explore a person’s values, sense of identity and beliefs about themselves and the world around them. Such therapies may include cognitive, schema-focused, emotion-focused and acceptance and commitment therapy, as well as elements of motivational interviewing that aim to provide insight and strategies for managing the emotional meaning attached to decision-making.
Whilst at the end of the day the decision-making rests with you, a Psychologist is able to provide guided support to reduce the overwhelm, stress and sometimes debilitating process that can come with making difficult decisions.