Although many of us would like to admit to ourselves that we are stoic and grounded when making decisions in life, the reality is that for those of us who are anxious, virtually every decision we make is but another attempt to distance ourselves from experiencing painful anxiety.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), roughly 40 million Americans or 18% of the US population suffer from anxiety. To think that every one of those 40 million people are going throughout their day to day lives making only salient and rational decisions is to misunderstand the key symptoms of anxiety.
As someone who has suffered all of his adult life with anxiety, I can admit to making countless trivial and life-altering decisions based solely on my fear of experiencing anxiety. Numerous missed opportunities, unknown experiences, and untapped possibilities only scratch the surface as I look back at how many decisions I’ve made in my life that were based solely on anxiety alone.
It is only when we’re able to remain grounded, mindful, rational, and free of all fallacious thinking when we are able to make sound decisions. Sure, emotions play a role in decision making. There’s no denying that. But the ratio of emotion to rationale when making decisions should lean heavily in favor of rationale.
In lieu of such a ratio, what you will likely experience is a degree of untamed neuroticism which will leave you so exhausted that you may find what is best for you is to just flip a coin so to leave the fate of your decision up to chance, rather than leaving it up to you.
For those of us who are anxious, we may be so used to making decisions based on our anxiety that we don’t even notice when or if we are even doing it. This is the first step to overcoming this problem: Awareness. From this point forward, for each decision you make, albeit trivial or life-changing, try to notice the amount of anxiety you feel as you weigh out your options.
Furthermore, you should question exactly why it is that you’re choosing one option over another. Ask yourself, “Am I choosing this option because I know it is best for me and my future or am I choosing it because I don’t want to experience short-term anxiety?”
With enough introspection it should be clear to you what your true motives are, as well as what you know deep down is best for you. If you’re unsure of this or if your anxiety is so intense that you find it challenging to even think of such things, then it may be in your best interest to find a licensed therapist to help you decipher these conundrums.
Some other ways to help you make decisions based not on anxiety, but on reason, is to practice mindfulness meditation or read up on dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). These two methodologies have helped me insurmountably in my life. Perhaps they can help you too.